Let me begin by stating a few things. First, I want to congratulate Team Yellow – at the end of the day, they are a good team, and they have been democratically elected by the student body’s popular vote. Second, I admit that as a former candidate for Team White, I may hold some biases. My views are my own, however, and do not reflect that of my team. Third and finally, while Team Yellow was sanctioned for cheating – and I do hold them accountable for those actions that caused their sanctioning – I do not challenge their other decisions and actions, as they were either outright approved or permitted by the university. My disappoint, then, lies with the university, who I believed failed to faithfully enforce the rules of the election, and who has proven how little it truly cares about the Student Government as a whole.
With that being said, let’s first review some of the relevant rules and decisions that were explicitly made regarding the election.
- Election Campaigning would be held between April 15 to the 22.
- “Any sort of bribery will result in the team’s expulsion of the campaign.”
- “[Teams] are not allowed to negotiate, promise, merge, or anything similar with any IEU Athletics or Campus Life clubs, neither ask them to use their WhatsApp groups nor Instagram accounts, or any other communication tool to cheer for their team.”
- “No ads are allowed on social media.”
- “Outside-campus acts cannot be paid with the university contribution.”
- Following a meeting between the presidential candidates and administration, the decision to form a large, 30-person student government was voted down in favor of holding the elections.
It should be stated that the rules for this election were extremely short and lacking in scope. They were also written in such a way that all but guaranteed a great deal of interpretation – this opinion has been echoed by many of the Team Presidential Candidates. Nonetheless, as some explicit rules were broken and Teams received no punishments, I stand by my statement that the university did not enforce the rules faithfully.
From the beginning, the election was rife with cheating. Before it had even begun, Teams Black and Yellow were caught contacting numerous Athletics Teams and Clubs in an attempt to secure votes and endorsements in return for promised equipment and future support, according to various anonymous sources. Though the rules explicitly stated campaigning could not begin until April 15, and that bribery would “result in expulsion,” both Teams were ‘sanctioned’ – effectively, they were warned: should either cheat again, in any way, they would be barred from running and from future elections. A hollow threat, given what was to come.
Even once they had sanctioned the Teams for cheating, the university never wanted to communicate that publicly to students – despite the election being over, I am still barred by the university from publishing the email they sent to the Teams declaring Black and Yellow sanctioned. Likewise, they never informed the Stork to question these teams during the Debates. Only after some Teams had forwarded the information to the Stork and Debate Clubs, and the Stork had questioned one of the two teams (Black) during the first Debate, was any of this made public knowledge. I will also acknowledge here my despondency with the Stork’s election coverage team. Friends or not, they failed to uphold their own critical promise of informing the student body of election affairs without bias by not questioning both of the sanctioned teams.
Once campaigning officially began, the growing grey area and leniency allowed for more teams to act with impunity, especially towards Clubs. When Teams such as Black and Yellow began stating they would expand or had already started working with various individual Clubs and Organizations without the those club’s approval, such as the IE Law Society and IE Think Podcasts, the university took no responsibility in correcting these measures. Instead, it stated that other Teams should try to better “understand the situation” of their competitors, and it is up to the clubs to “officially refute” any team’s claim to have worked with them without actually having done so.
Then came the infamous Sean Paul Cameo IGTV post. As the university responded when asked why they had paid for the rapper’s endorsement, its administration stated it viewed the act not as paid online advertising, but as “content,” as it doesn’t “advertise or provides more visibility to their clients, it is not a social media channel, and [cameos] don’t allow anyone to reach more followers or give an extra advantage by using them.” When I personally pointed out that 84% of students polled viewed it as paid online advertising, and that the post had received over 4700 views in one day on an account with 850 followers, as compared to Team Red’s IGTV post barely reaching 300 on an account with over 1100 followers in the same time period, I received the following response: “we will study your request.” The next email I received was that Yellow had won the election – funnily enough, they won with 447 votes. The exact number of likes this post had at the time of this piece’s writing.
I should clarify: the reason the post remains integral to understanding the election results is because of its irregularity and impact. Team Yellows post could often reach between 50 to 100 likes or more, in no small part due to their proposals, work ethic, and character. To quote Laura Ortega, the Stork’s Social Media Manager, “[Yellow’s] IG page and strategy was the best by far,” and there is no denying they marketed themselves well. However, the Sean Paul post received over four times the amount of likes and well over ten times the amount of views as compared to most other posts on the account. Because of those facts, I would say it becomes a very important post in the online campaign. A post that, as I and others understood it, broke the rules but was allowed regardless.
Now, I will also admit, I may not have all of the information. Other teams could have acted unethically in other ways as well without my knowledge, and I by no means condone or excuse such actions by not listing them here. Without proof, I will not accuse anyone of cheating, and in some cases, even some proof I do have of further permitted cheating cannot enter the public sphere due to legal and ethical considerations.
Furthermore, I am not trying to single out Black and Yellow as the sole “cheaters” in this election. There were also other cases that fell into the grey area and were considered minor infractions, permissible mistakes, or at no fault of the other Teams. In my own Team White’s case, one club began to endorse us, and we had to explain to the other teams that we had not asked them to do so, and kindly asked the club to take down their supporting posts. In Team Red’s case, there was their official account being derived from their president’s, retaining all its followers. This was excused by the committee and teams as their official account had been reported and blocked prior to campaigning. Additionally, they mistakenly campaigned after the campaign period ended by informing students they had donated. As the post was only up for 15 minutes though, and the election was already underway, it was considered a minor infraction. To their credit, I did not hear or see any evidence of Team Gold dealing with any infractions – and if such is the case, I commend them for being able to handle their campaign as well as they did.
Lastly, I don’t mean to act as the sole authority on what is and isn’t ethical of a team to do. I am no dean and I’m only so familiar with the works of John Rawls and Immanuel Kant and the like. What I do mean to do is show students what happened, and give support to my belief that the university had – in my eyes – blatantly neglected their role in overseeing the election by refusing at every level to punish teams for cheating, conspiring, or otherwise attempting to gain an unfair advantage in the elections.
The election themselves perhaps mirrored the same lack of concern in the student body as well. Had one only paid attention to the Stork’s debate poll results, Yellow’s victory would have seemed a long shot. In the first round, Gold had outpaced them by more than five to one, and maintained a considerable lead over them in the subsequent debate. Now, granted, only about 120 people voted in the first debate, and an even more pitiful 60 in the second; this, of course, is a mere fraction of the total voting body. But the results suggest the debates have been only useful in projecting the runner-ups, rather than the winners themselves.
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These are the results from the poll we took after The Big Debate. Don’t forget to tune in to the FINAL DEBATE, Tuesday 21st , 19.30 CEST. . . Take into consideration this was a small sample of people and that one of the team had technical problems connecting with the debate. This poll answers the question “Who won the debate” not “Who are you going to vote” . Regardless interesting numbers 😊 . . [ Around 150 people watched The Big Debate Live ] #OnlineSGElections
I hope that after reading this, the new Student Government, and the student body, will understand what they face. There are two options; either a university that is so spineless and so absorbed in its reputation it refuses to enforce the rules and get blood on its hands; or worse, a university that couldn’t care less about who won the elections, or how. In the end, if the university pays as little attention to the Student Government as it did to these elections, then the matter becomes rather pointless. This new Student Government – regardless of whether it would have been Yellow or Gold or White that was elected – won’t make any more difference than last year’s; they’ll help to organize Fresher’s Week, they’ll plan a Spring Ball, they’ll invite students to a celebratory party. But as for change, real change, given all that has and hasn’t happened in this election … change is something I do not anticipate.
Editor’s Note: At this time, Mr. Rose has not yet notified the Stork if or when he will be returning from his leave-of-absence.