Yale students may have found a way to pick Harvard’s Game T-shirts for them — through online voter fraud.
Late last week, the Harvard College Fund Undergraduate Committee opened online polling intended to allow Harvard students to vote for their favorite “Beat Yale” T-shirt designs. According to the HCF Web site, the shirts are expected to be distributed Nov. 14 — three days before the Harvard-Yale football game — at an event where students will show appreciation for alumni donations.
But as early as Oct. 20, enterprising Elis were sending e-mails to the Yale community, encouraging other students to influence the poll’s results by voting for what one e-mail termed the “lamest” design. The poll was removed from the HCF Web site Thursday morning following inquiries by the News and posts on ivygateblog.com, although it is unclear whether the allotted voting time had simply elapsed.
It remains unclear whether the survey responses submitted before the retraction of the Web site will be used in the selection of an HCF T-shirt design.
The online poll invited Harvard students to choose from 16 T-shirt designs. Featured witticisms — products of Cantab creativity — included the slogans “The Game: This is HARVARD,” “I’ll get you, my pretty … and your little dog, too” and “That’s what Caesar said.”
Although many Yale students said they think the designs will be used for the main Harvard-endorsed Game shirt, several Cantabs said there is no “official T-shirt” for the game. Officially licensed shirts for the Game have already been created, employees from the Coop — one of Harvard’s largest apparel vendors — said.
The HCF, a development organization for Harvard undergraduates, solicits the designs annually to create T-shirts to be distributed to students at an alumni donation “Thankathon” event, according to the fund’s Web site.
Yalies publicized the survey through e-mails forwarded to various panlists, altogether reaching thousands of students. The directions told students to click a link for the HCF Web site and vote for what they believed to be the worst design.
Several HCF officials, including Fund officer Cara Angelopolous, declined to comment or did not return calls from the News.
Yale students said Bulldog solidarity compelled them to join their peers in passing on the chain e-mails. Some students who forwarded the e-mail said they were fulfilling their duty to exploit the “stupidity” of Yale’s biggest rival.
Sean Fraga ’10 said he began sending out mass e-mails as soon as he heard about the publicly-available poll, seizing the opportunity to take advantage of Harvard’s “poor security.” Fraga said the error of leaving the survey open to anyone with Internet access merited a response from Yalies.
“Yale students are definitely trying to have fun with Harvard and screw up their T-shirt competition,” Fraga said. “It’s Harvard’s own fault that they were stupid enough to make the voting public.”
Tech-savvy Eli Jack Qian ’11 said he created a computer program that could vote for his least favorite design every five seconds. The program simulates the mouse reentering the Web site, voting for the worst design and restarting the process, he said.
Qian said he created his program on a whim.
“My suitemate thought it would be pretty funny if I could be able to do this,” he said.
Qian’s computer has been voting for his least favorite option — number three — since early in the week, he said. Number three portrays a newspaper editor who “crumbles up” a story on how Harvard has won the Game and tells the reporter, “That’s nothing new.”
Unfazed by the effort, several Cantabs said these shirts were among many that would be available before the Game.
Harvard senior Katherine Woodman-Maynard said many students on campus are indifferent toward the survey because they knew there would be a variety of different shirts available for purchase.
“At Harvard, this is not a big deal,” she said. “It will be just one of many shirts.”
Yale Student Activities Committee chair Tom Hsieh ’08 said the Yale administration does not endorse specific Game T-shirts.
Natural competition among student shirt vendors always ensures a variety of good designs, he said.
In a prank that gained national attention at the 2004 Harvard-Yale game, a group of Yale students costumed as members of the “Harvard Pep Squad” convinced Harvard fans to hold red and white pieces of paper that collectively spelled “WE SUCK.”
Thomas Koenig ’10 said even though Yale students will not know until the Game whether their e-mail campaigns have been effective, he thinks the effort was worthwhile.
“It didn’t change the subject we’re trying to convey to Harvard,” he said. “They suck and we rule — we didn’t waste our time, and we are ready for the Game now.”