On Sept. 15, Wellesley students elected a College Government President (CGP) after two failed attempts last spring. Although we as a student body were finally able to elect a representative, the race was not without controversy. On Sept. 24, a member of one of the candidates’ campaign teams tweeted negatively about another candidate. According to the Elections Committee (EC), the tweet interfered with another candidate’s campaign, which is classified as a Tier 3 violation, resulting in removal from the ballot. Upon finding out this information, we were skeptical about EC’s decision to remove the candidate from the ballot given past controversies with College Government (CG) elections. After reading through the Special Elections handbook, however, we came to the conclusion that in this instance, the candidate’s removal from the ballot was warranted under EC guidelines. As we completed more in-depth research for this piece, we came to realize that we as students should take more time to inform ourselves about institutions such as CG throughout the year rather than hastily pass judgment in the heat of campus-wide controversy.
We have not always agreed with Elections Committee decisions in the past. Often times, campaign violations seem to be arbitrary and don’t take into account students’ lives outside of campaign season. For example, in the College Government 2017 elections a student’s campaign was penalized because a member of the campaign team removed spam of another candidate in their role as an RA. Violations such as that were widely viewed as unfair because they penalized a student for fulfilling their campus job. Inevitably, this experience has left a sour taste in the mouths of students regarding rules of Elections Committee and we were no different. When evaluating EC’s decision to remove the candidate from the ballot, we allowed past experiences with CG and the Elections Committee to cloud our judgment before we had done adequate research.
According to this year’s special elections handbook, candidates or campaign members cannot interfere with another candidate’s campaign, including but not limited to “personal attacks” which warrant a Tier 3 violation and automatic removal from the ballot. The handbook specifies that these rules do not apply only to the candidate, but also to members of their campaign team. These rules were provided to all of the candidates and were accessible online to the entire student body. The member of the campaign team clearly violated the guidelines EC developed for this election and therefore the subsequent removal from the ballot was warranted. Whether or not the structure or “tiering” of the rules by EC is appropriate is another question that can be discussed prior to future elections.
We do not hold the events that took place in this election against the candidate or the member of her campaign team. Mistakes happen, especially in student elections. We doubt the person who sent the tweet intended to break EC’s rules or hurt anyone’s feelings. However, we understand the position of EC as a body that is tasked to ensure fair elections for all students running.
Our main concern is that students, including ourselves, have not given EC the benefit of the doubt when it comes to violations that happen during Wellesley College Government Campaigns. Now that we have done our research, we come to realize that EC has taken into account past controversies –– such as the RA controversy from 2017 –– and revised their standards. We have also accounted for the fact that members of EC are students just like us and are trying their best to run successful, transparent and fair elections.
With that being said, we are not saying that the current process is perfect. For example, EC can definitely revise their “tiering structure” to leave more margin for error. However, in this instance we feel EC did the right thing this special elections given the explicit guidelines they laid out in their handbook. After this experience, we have learned to not base our opinions of institutions like CG on experiences that happened a year ago. Just as we expect EC and CG to cut candidates and campaigns some slack, we should afford them the same courtesy.