Emerging from a heated race, Jeff Gordon ’12 will be next president of the Yale College Council.
Gordon’s election — by a razor-thin margin of just 71 votes — comes after a runoff with Courtney Pannell ’11 on Thursday, a day that also saw clashes between the two candidates’ camps. When all the ballots were cast, though, the members of the new board said there are no hard feelings and that they look forward to working together.
Gordon, who trailed Pannell by just two votes in the first round of voting earlier this week, took 1,596 of the 3,121 runoff votes to Pannell’s 1,525. Turnout remained high — just 280 fewer votes than in the first round.
Gordon ran on a platform advocating certificates of proficiency in foreign language and changing lab classes from half a credit to full credit, along with improving mental health services and Undergraduate Career Services.
But as the minutes ticked away Thursday night, Gordon said he was far from confident.
“I was ready to accept winning or losing,” Gordon said. “I felt like I was in a very calm state.”
Indeed, Gordon’s victory comes after a tense campaign that divided YCC candidates and members-elect as endorsements poured in Tuesday and Wednesday. It began when Pete Croughan ’12, the third candidate for president who was eliminated after the main election, announced his support for Gordon. Shortly thereafter, four members of the incoming YCC executive board — vice president-elect Annie Shi ’12, secretary-elect Lauren Koster ’12, events director-elect Michael Chao ’11 and UOFC Chair-elect Chris LoPresti ’12 — endorsed Pannell, and two — Koster and LoPresti — displayed Pannell’s campaign poster on their Facebook pages. (LoPresti later removed the poster from his page, saying he wanted only to support Pannell privately.)
After these initial endorsements, things began to unravel. Thursday’s spats began when Charlie Jaeger ’12, a friend of Gordon who had been closely tied to the campaign, sent a controversial e-mail in which he compared Pannell to Sarah Palin and Miss South Carolina Teen USA. The e-mail quickly circulated through Yale’s panlists to widespread disapproval, and Gordon asked Jaeger to step down from his campaign.
The incident, along with other instances of negative campaigning Wednesday, led Croughan to rescind his endorsement of Gordon and remove himself from what he called “petty politics.”
“I’m frustrated that the last two days have not been spent talking about the important issues that motivated me to run, but rather who’s endorsing who and political maneuvering,” Croughan said.
Croughan added in a statement that his personal feelings about the candidates had not changed.
Despite these controversies, none of the newly elected executive board members interviewed said they were surprised by the results, and all those who publicly endorsed Pannell said they are eager to work with Gordon. Chao even said he was more surprised at the margin than the result, given Croughan’s support for Gordon.
“I’m excited to work with him,” Shi said. “I think together we can get a lot of things done.”
Shi said she had spoken to Gordon after the results were announced and that the two shared relief that the process was over.
Gordon said the new board members had contacted him privately prior to hearing the results to assure him that whatever the outcome, they would be able to work together as a strong YCC.
“We’re going to be a great team together,” Gordon said. “It’s just a matter of realizing we’re not in this for petty politics — we’re in this to make Yale a better place.”
But the lasting implications of the campaign remain to be seen. Though Shi said she hopes the spats will not reflect poorly on next year’s board, she added that she regrets the way the endorsements were perceived. Koster, too, said she thinks the campaigners went “a bit too far,” but she added that the squabbling could be seen as a manifestation of the passion on both sides of the debate.
YCC Vice President Abigail Cheung ’11 said the events of the past few days may not accurately reflect how the new board members feel about one another.
“I really don’t think that there are that many underlying tensions,” Cheung said.
Pannell, for her part, said that although she probably will not return to her position as a YCC representative from Morse, she will be available for counsel and support.
And though the campaign took a negative tone at times, Pannell said the experience, overall, was a positive one.
“I’m proud of what we did,” said Pannell, who is also a multimedia editor for the News. “I’ve been looking to the quote from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’: ‘No man is a failure who has friends.’ That’s what this campaign has showed me more than anything.”