In the most baffling instance yet of misconduct in this year’s Yale College Council elections, a fake e-mail purportedly announcing the Asian American Students Alliance’s candidate endorsements was sent to members of the group and other students early Monday morning.
The e-mail, which backed a different set of candidates than those actually chosen by AASA, has been referred to Yale’s Information Technology Services for investigation, and AASA members said they hope the administration will respond to this incident of unauthorized use of University resources.
In order to correct the confusion, AASA has set up a Web site with a list of the candidates it actually endorsed, Community Outreach Chair Mitchell Ji ’09 said. Ji said he does not think the fake e-mail will cause much confusion amongst members because the group has sent out correction e-mails.
“I’m not very upset about it,” he said. “I just hope that we can sort this out and that the people who do receive the AASA e-mails will actually get to see the real candidates that we endorse … to respect the integrity of this election.”
But AASA co-Moderator Christine Nguyen ’09 said she thinks the fake e-mail may have affected how some students cast their ballots. She said she is not sure whether the e-mail was meant as a prank but said that she thinks it undermines the spirit of the election.
“I just think that it is an authorized message that misrepresents our organization and also violates the fairness and integrity of the election,” she said. “I think that is very unfair to everyone on campus, especially the people who are running in the election.”
The e-mail, which was sent around 3 a.m. on Monday, implored AASA members to “Please Vote!!!” and endorsed Rebecca Taber ’08 for president, David Roosth ’09 for vice president, Harrison Marks ’10 for treasurer, Kristen Ng ’10 for secretary, Michael Chao ’10 for chair of the Yale Student Activities Committee, and Joshua Tan ’09 for chair of the Undergraduate Organization Funding Committee.
According to AASA’s Web site, the organization has actually endorsed Zach Marks ’09 for president, Emily Schofield ’09 for vice president, Carrie Nguyen ’09 for treasurer, David Narotsky ’09 for secretary, Katrina Landeta ’10 for YSAC chair and Vidur Sehgal ’10 for UOFC chair.
AASA has contacted members of ITS, who have told her they are attempting to trace the e-mail, Christine Nguyen said. She said she sent e-mails to Assistant Dean of Yale College Edgar Letriz and Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg to express the group’s concern about the prank e-mail.
Trachtenberg said she has received AASA’s e-mail but has not yet had time to review it carefully. In instances of misuse of e-mail, Trachtenberg said, she usually refers the case to ITS. Earlier this year, ITS traced a hoax e-mail sent out by the National Organization to Gain Acceptance for Your Sins — or N.O.G.A.Y.S. — to the computers of two sophomores in Jonathan Edwards College.
Ji said he is not sure what AASA will do if ITS is able to trace the e-mail. The administration should use this incident to make clear to students that targeting campus groups with fake e-mails is “unacceptable behavior,” Nguyen said.
The Election Committee, which monitors the campaign process, would take action against a candidate if ITS discovers that the e-mail is connected to his or her campaign, YCC Vice President and Election Committee chair Steve Engler ’07 said. But predicting what response the Committee might take would be “superspeculative,” he said.
The fake e-mail is the most prominent act of wrongdoing that has sprung up during this year’s YCC campaign cycle. In recent years, YCC elections have been wrought with cheating and misconduct, and last year’s campaign gained national media attention for candidates’ repeated violations. Last year, all five candidates running for YCC president were cited at least once for campaign violations, including the misuse of e-mail lists and illegal postering, and in 2005, three of the four candidates for YCC president were nabbed for violations as well.
Today, Engler ’07 announced that four students — Taber, Landeta and vice presidential candidates Ryan Russell ’09 and Chetan Tadvalkar ’08 — were penalized for using e-mail mailing lists for campaign purposes. In addition, two students — Harrison Marks and secretary candidate Dan Schechner ’10 — were reprimanded for sending unsolicited e-mails, Engler said.
Last week, Zach Marks was docked 20 percent of his allotted posters for appointing members of his campaign staff at least two days earlier than election rules permitted and for telling a member of his campaign staff that she could not leave to work for another candidate, a charge Marks has disputed. Over the weekend, Marks was stripped of his poster and table tent privileges after the Election Committee cited him for campaigning prematurely, illegally campaigning via an e-mail panlist, and e-mailing someone during the pre-campaign period who does not consider Marks a friend.
Voting for the election, which is held on the YaleStation Web site, closes at 9 p.m. on Wednesday.