A year after its election was marred by widespread campaign violations, the Yale College Council announced Monday that it is amending its campaign rules to cut down on posters and table tents.
While rule changes last year were implemented to keep campaigning from getting out of hand, the restrictions this year are motivated by environmental concerns, the YCC said. But given the complexity of campaign rules and a vow from the YCC to uphold the regulations strictly, veterans of past elections suggested that just as in past years, some candidates will still likely be caught for campaign violations. As in last year’s race, students are not allowed to send unsolicited mass e-mails, either conventionally or using Facebook, and must stay within a $60 spending limit, among other restrictions.
This year’s only change in campaign rules is the reduction of the allowed campaign ephemera from 300 posters and 400 table tents last year to 50 and 100, respectively, for the 2007 election. The change is intended to “kill fewer trees,” YCC Vice President Steve Engler ’07 said, and bring the election into the digital age by encouraging the use of the Internet instead of paper-based campaigning.
“That was an environmentally-guided decision,” Engler said Monday night. “The idea is, we hope people with the election will go more online and with blogs and Web sites — it’s 2007, after all.”
In an e-mail to students on Monday, the YCC released its election guidelines for prospective candidates, who have until 3 p.m. Friday to gather 100 student signatures and file a statement of candidacy. Public campaigning is allowed to begin on April 22, with the election itself running from April 23 to April 25.
In last year’s election, all five candidates for the position of YCC president were cited at least once for campaign violations, which included the misuse of e-mail panlists, illegal postering and the use of more table tents than were allotted. Three of the four YCC presidential candidates in 2005 were cited for violations as well.
The YCC said this year’s election will be run out of a centralized campaign Web site on the YaleStation Web portal — an effort aimed at enabling students to find out about the election in one location. But the use of the Internet in other forms carries its risks. E-mail lists and Facebook have proven to be effective, albeit usually illegal, means of reaching students in past years, and they may factor into this year’s race as well.
Former YCC Vice President Marissa Brittenham ’07, who administered the 2006 election, said many of last year’s violations were the result of new, more restrictive campaign rules and candidates’ unfamiliarity with them. But because mass e-mails can reach so many students with a click of a button, some candidates may feel it is in their best interest to break the rules, Brittenham said. One candidate last year was nabbed using an e-mail list related to the Yale Sustainable Food Project to reach about 1,000 students.
“If you think spamming all of Yale will get you 50 votes versus the five posters you will have to take down if you break the rules, it is almost better to break the rules,” Brittenham said. “We tried to curb that mentality by saying that any violation you make will be publicized, so it hurts your campaign regardless of what the physical penalties are.”
Engler, who heads the YCC Election Committee, said he will be strict on campaign violations this year, although it is difficult to fully monitor Web sites like Facebook that could be used by candidates to campaign illegally. The YCC is in the midst of selecting four other students to serve on the committee charged with overseeing the election, Engler said.
Larry Wise ’08, who lost in last year’s runoff election for YCC president, said he did not find posters or table tents to be very important campaign tools and did not use his entire allotment as a result. Wise — who was cited for several e-mail violations last year and had his campaign severely restricted as a result — said the YCC has larger election problems to reform than the use of posters and table tents.
“I think to say that YCC elections are primarily an environmental problem, I disagree,” Wise said. “What would really help is limiting the number of people who e-mail. I think people on campus get too much e-mail about [the campaign].”
Chris Brusalis ’10 said the YCC’s restrictions on candidates are more trouble than they’re worth. Candidates have more important things to do than count how many signs they have tacked up on bulletin boards, he said.
“You should be able to put up as many as you want,” Brusalis said. “You’d never see them limit the number of signs in a Presidential election … I don’t think Hillary Clinton’s worried about it.”
The offices up for grabs in the election are YCC president, vice president, treasurer and secretary as well as the chairs of the Yale Student Activities Committee and Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee.