RUSSELL: An election comes to Rosenfeld Hall

A Wednesday article about the Ward 7 aldermanic race (“Hausladen fends off Ward 7 challenger,” Sept. 10) did not fully address the effects of Wood’s aggressive campaign tactics on the residents of Rosenfeld Hall, which houses Timothy Dwight juniors. The article presented Mary Jo Medina ’15, a student turned off by Wood’s outreach, as a unique case. But she was far from alone. This past week, I returned home nightly to grumpy suitemates and frustrated hallmates hiding behind hanger-less doors. One friend was particularly irate his four hours of sleep were cut short by a sixth round of Wood canvassers.

These tactics, however, were not new to me. This summer, I had my first encounter with the intense outreach techniques employed by UNITE HERE affiliates when an acquaintance interning for the unions tried to “organize” me for New Haven Rising. After a few weeks of regular phone calls and even one uninvited appearance in my room, he finally took “no” for an answer.

But then I ran into him outside my new room in RH. I walked in to find my suitemate frustrated — she had spent 15 minutes on her way to the shower convincing him that she did not want to switch her registration from Vermont to Connecticut.

Commiseration about the daily canvassers became a regular part of RH conversation. “If I left my room, they would accost me,” said Kristin Dowling ’15. “Literally, I was going to go to the gym, but I heard them knocking, and so I was like, I’ll just wait an hour.”

“I was really uncomfortable just walking around RH,” Jenny Huber ’15 said. “It was as though they weren’t even listening to what I was saying,” added Jeffrey March ’15.

Huber, March and Maddie Klugman ’15 registered to vote when approached by the canvassers, but did not share their phone numbers with the campaign. Nevertheless, they were all texted by around seven people on Election Day. “They must have gotten my number from the voter registration form I gave them,” said Klugman, who ended up using the campaign’s “free shuttle service” to cast a vote for the other candidate. She didn’t tell them that, though — “Otherwise they might have refused me that shuttle.” Other undergraduates in RH describe similar experiences.

Further tension resulted from the questionable appropriateness of a campaign by out-of-towners for a temporary resident candidate. Multiple RH residents said they felt unqualified to vote in an election that would affect other Ward 7 residents far more than it would them.

Yale’s Undergraduate Regulations articulate “a philosophy of mutual tolerance and respect.” When a Yale student knocks on the door to RH, you open it, because you think it’s probably the friend of a friend there to work on a p-set. When a student knocks on the door to your room, you open it, because you expect to see someone who will listen to what you say and have something interesting to offer in return — not someone dedicated to pushing an agenda beyond the boundary of constructive discussion. It’s tricky enough to navigate the college social world without exploitation of trust for political purposes.

I have canvassed for political campaigns since seventh grade, and will be leading New Haven Action canvassers with the ROOF project this Saturday. Canvassing can indeed be a key part of political work, but Yale’s academic-residential environment demands a unique etiquette. In the context of a Yale residential hall, Wood’s campaign strategies were especially inappropriate. “I know canvassing’s hard, but there are tactful ways to do it, and they just weren’t tactful,” said Dowling.

Were these techniques effective? In the end, only 16 RH residents voted — and at least a few voted for Hausladen in protest against Wood’s campaign tactics.

Nina Russell is a junior in Timothy Dwight College and the P resident of New Haven Action. Contact her at nina.russell@yale.edu.

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