The CU Elections Board has announced not one, but two rules violations during the recent elections cycle. Sean Ryan of Refresh and Andrew Ren of TAP sent unsolicited mass emails in the process of campaigning. In response, the elections board deducted one vote for every 10 students who received the spam. This didn’t affect the final outcome of the elections (PDF), but will hopefully make future candidates think twice before hitting send on an email blast.
Here’s the election board’s email to campus media. (All bolding is Bwog’s.)
Page 2 of the CCSC Elections Packet under “Campaign Materials,” it states, “sending unsolicited mass emails not known by the candidate is prohibited.” Furthermore, on Page 3 of the Elections Packet under “Campaigning,” it states, “Unsolicited mass emails are prohibited. A message is unsolicited if the recipient did not initiate the communication.”
One of these emails was sent by Sean Ryan (Refresh). We received evidence that Sean sent a mass email to 119 students, 15 of whom emailed us back confirming that they received the email but did not give any member of Refresh permission to send them this email. Some of these students also claimed to have not given their UNIs to any Refresh candidates.
The other email was sent by Andrew Ren (TAP). Andrew emailed a member of Sig Ep asking him to forward an email encouraging brothers of the fraternity to vote for TAP. The email was unsolicited because each member of the fraternity’s list-serve did not grant Andrew permission to receive this email. Article 5 of the CCSC Elections Rules and Regulations indicates the only exception to this rule; “a candidate may request to include a message in a student group’s email if said group has endorsed the candidate.” However, because Sig Ep did not endorse Andrew, the email sent to the fraternity was unsolicited and in violation of the rules. The unsolicited email reached 75 CC students.
Columbia Elections Board has deducted 1 vote for every 10 students reached by these unsolicited emails from Sean’s and Andrew’s final vote counts. As a result, 2 votes have been deducted from Sean’s vote total, and 8 votes have been deducted from Andrew’s vote total. These deductions do not change the results of the elections. However, it is the Election Board’s duty to follow up on all reported rules violations and enforce the rules specifically outlined in the Elections Packets and in our Rules and Regulations. We will be standardizing and publicizing these standard penalties before the next fall elections cycle.
In addition, the board included statements from both offenders:
To include their side of the story, here are statements from Sean and Andrew. Because Andrew questioned the Elections Board’s characterization of his email as “unsolicited,” we included a response below to clarify this characterization.
I would like to take the opportunity to apologize for our initial misunderstanding of elections rules regarding the sending of emails. A mistake was made on our end as a result of technical campaign by-laws wording. We respect in the highest degree Columbia Elections Board and the decisions that it makes, and we look forward to working with them going forward.
Most importantly, Adanma, Justin, Marshall, Jeff, and I cannot wait to begin our work as council members! We are very excited to be serving the members of the Class of 2017 in this capacity. Thank you very much to our class and the Columbia community for their continued support.
CCSC 2017 President-Elect
I hope you are all doing well. First of all, thank you for your diligence in investigating every possible campaign violation that was brought to your attention. I just wanted to express my mortification at having accidentally violated a campaign rule as well as clarify exactly what happened.
First, I want to apologize—as a first time candidate in any council election, I thought that I had the consent of all relevant organizations and was not violating any rules under a technicality.
However, I want to make a few clarifications about the nature of the correspondence in question. The email I sent to Alex Fels, President of Sig Ep, which resulted in an email to their list-serve was, in fact, solicited. As you can see on the attached screen shots, I reached out in an effort to schedule an endorsement meeting, which is allowed per the Elections Board’s rules and regulations. When I was informed that Sig Ep would not be endorsing anyone, Alex, of his own volition said “I’ll gladly email the chapter with your platform and what not,” with no prompting from me. I viewed this as an approval for me sending him a personal, solicited email. I also want to stress that I am personally friends with Alex Fels and had no intention of sending out blind emails to members of the Greek Community. Hopefully, this dispels any notion that the email was unsolicited.
Elections this year were especially contested and I applaud all of the work the Elections Board has done as well as the great efforts that were put into campaigning by all candidates. I still cannot wait to give Columbia University all I have to offer and am really excited to serve as your VP Campus Life.
And, clarification from the Elections Board after Andrew Ren’s statement:
As indicated by the attached screenshots, Andrew did not violate any elections rules by reaching out to Alex Fels with the intention of seeking an endorsement. However, the email sent to Alex Fels, which was subsequently sent to the fraternity’s list-serve, is in violation of the rules. We have attached a photo of Andrew’s email to Fels and Fels’ forwarding of this email to the fraternity’s list-serve. While Andrew’s specific correspondence with Fels was solicited, the subsequent forwarding of this email to the fraternity’s list serve was unsolicited. While Andrew did not directly email the list serve, he did explicitly request Fels to do so. Furthermore, on Page 3 of the CCSC Elections Packet under “Campaigning,” it states that, “All candidates are responsible for the conduction of themselves and all others whom support or represent them, regardless of whether the act/support was requested or solicited. Rule violations by supporters will be considered as being committed by the candidate/s. The EB will decide the extent of the connection between the supporter and the campaign if necessary by examining evidence presented by the individual/s reporting the rule violation.” Even if Andrew did not request the forwarding of this email (which he did), the mere sending of this email still would have been a rules violation given the aforementioned rule.
We would like to be clear—we do not believe Andrew or Sean intentionally violated this rule. Nevertheless, we have an obligation to enforce all violations, regardless of the candidates’ intentions. We hope everyone can respect the Election Boards’ right to enforce its rules.
Finally, Bwog received this parody of a Refresh campaign video from a tipster who only identified themselves as “Bwog Informant.”