Rules are not yet in place for the upcoming Yale College Council officer elections, but the presidential race is already contentious. Three current members of the YCC — R. David Edelman ’07, Alan Kennedy-Shaffer ’06 and Steven Syverud ’06 — have declared their intention to run for president of the council.
The declared candidates have started to build campaign teams in preparation for the period of active campaigning, which begins on April 9, just days before voting is scheduled to start on April 11. But YCC Vice President Chance Carlisle ’05, who is also chair of the Election Commission that supervises the campaign, said the council still needs to approve the tentative election rules and dates.
Carlisle predicted that the race likely will be more competitive this year compared to previous campus-wide elections.
“I think what makes [the election] more contentious this year is that you have three experienced candidates running for president from the YCC,” Carlisle said. “They’ve all run these campaigns before.”
Kennedy-Shaffer and Syverud both ran for YCC president in 2004, but lost in a five-way race to current president Andrew Cedar ’06.
Edelman was elected to the YCC for the first time in January, but he said his experience working with administrators to create a summer academic program for Yale students in Washington, D.C., and as a leader of the Independent Party of the Yale Political Union compensates for his relative lack of experience on the YCC. In his campaign for a council seat from Calhoun College, Edelman focused on dining hall restrictions and helped pass a resolution to lift restrictions temporarily for a four-week trial period.
“Within three weeks of being on the YCC, dining hall restrictions were dead,” he said. “I really feel like there is no substitute for having simply been in charge of things and knowing how to lead a group of people.”
Kennedy-Shaffer, who noted that he recently was elected to an “unprecedented” third term as a Davenport College representative, also claimed some credit for the movement against dining restrictions.
“This semester, it’s become really fashionable for YCC representatives, including my opponents, to become against dining hall restrictions,” he said. “A year ago, or a year and a half ago, I was the only one to talk about it at meetings.”
Syverud, who is currently acting secretary of the YCC and has been a representative from Branford College since his freshman year, said he would like to see the YCC take action on more issues like financial aid reform. He attributed the administration’s recent changes to aid policy to a YCC resolution that he drafted.
“I met with [Dean of Admissions] Richard Shaw and talked to him about the resolution. I know that he took it seriously … I don’t think this is a case of empty rhetoric of the YCC having influence,” said Syverud, who is a former beat reporter for the News.
Both Edelman and Kennedy-Shaffer said they consider Syverud to be their biggest competition. Kennedy-Shaffer described Edelman’s candidacy as a “joke” because of his relative lack of experience on the council.
“I think that if the election were held tomorrow, there would probably be a run-off, with me having a slight edge, between me and Steven,” Kennedy-Shaffer said. “He is my most serious opposition because he has been around for a long time and knows the issues.”
Syverud said he expected both of his opponents to run good campaigns and declared an intention to avoid personal attacks.
“I’ve been very clear to both of them that they’re friends of mine,” Syverud said. “I’m going to stay positive. I’m not going to say anything negative about them.”
Official rules for the election, including the timeline for campaigning and voting, will be decided by the YCC at a meeting Wednesday night.
“The election guidelines will become available, public and enforceable starting Thursday morning,” Carlisle said. “Candidates who have run elections in the past and are familiar with the past election guidelines should be cognizant of the fact that there is a proper way to campaign.”
The guidelines in place for the 2004 election specified the number and size of posters that candidates could use, as well as the amount of money each could spend on campaign activities. This year, the proposed regulations include more specific rules for endorsements and campaign team activities, Carlisle said.
If the rules are approved by the YCC, candidates will name formal campaign teams after they submit signed petitions and campaign statements to the Election Commission. During a four-day endorsement period, candidates may solicit endorsements from various student organizations.
“If [organizations] choose to endorse a candidate, each organization is required to give notice and access to each candidate for the position they wish to endorse,” Carlisle said.
Carlisle said he has already issued three warnings to the YCC about precampaign activities.
“Exploratory conversations with your friends are perfectly acceptable, but that is a far cry from mass e-mails to large numbers of people,” Carlisle said. “The most disturbing activity that I’ve heard about and had confirmed by the potential candidate himself is from Alan Kennedy-Shaffer, who self-reportedly e-mailed several hundred students soliciting campaign help.”
But Kennedy-Shaffer said he only sent campaign e-mails to his 798 friends on thefacebook.com and to his constituents in Davenport College. He said he thinks his potential opponents and Carlisle are using his relatively high friend-count on the online networking site to undercut his campaign.
“Because I happen to have three or four times as many friends, they’re trying to hold that against me,” Kennedy-Shaffer said.
The four members-at-large of the Election Commission, who are selected from the wider student body, will not be chosen until after the YCC approves election guidelines. But Carlisle said the Election Commission will investigate all complaints about activities that happened before the commission was officially established.
“I have absolutely no reservation about disqualifying a candidate for violating election regulations once the regulations are in place based on warnings in a pre-election period,” he said.
Until this week, James Kirchick ’06, an occasional columnist for the News, was widely considered to be a possible fourth candidate for YCC president.
“Most people don’t even vote in YCC elections,” Kirchick said in an interview before he made the decision not to run. “Being an outsider myself, I probably have a good shot of attracting those votes, certainly more than other people.”
In an e-mail Monday, Kirchick said he decided not to compete in the race because of “draconian campaign regulations.”
“[They are] more reminiscent of a Stalinist regime than a campus devoted to free thought and free speech,” he said.
But Carlisle described the election regulations as “progressive reforms that need to happen.”
“I’m anticipating a clean, fair and competitive race,” he said.