As students voted for the next Yale College Council president and vice president on Thursday afternoon, the Council Elections Commission found that Aliesa Bahri ’22 and Reilly Johnson ’22 violated its campaign rules by sending out a mass email to a sorority panlist.
The allegation was reported to the CEC on Thursday by Bahri and Johnson’s opponent ticket Abey Philip ’22 and Matt Murillo ’22, who are also vying for the student council presidency and vice presidency, respectively. Philip and Murillo also informed the News about the allegations and requested that the News rescind its endorsement of Bahri and Johnson, which was announced on Thursday. The commission has instructed Bahri and Johnson to amend their candidacy statements to include an apology and announced that they will lose 55 votes each.
On the morning of Sept. 17, Bahri sent out an email to members of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, of which she is a member. The email, which was obtained by the News, urged Kappa members to vote for Bahri and Johnson and to share graphics on social media and tell others to vote for them. The CEC guidelines state that promotional emails must be sent out in batches of 10, to no more than 100 people total, and that the CEC must be cc’ed on all emails. Bahri’s email was sent out to 55 people all at once and did not copy the CEC.
“Today, I accidentally emailed 55 sorority sisters all at once,” Bahri’s statement reads. “Upon realizing my mistake, I immediately self reported and forwarded it to the CEC. This in no way reflected intentional violation of the rules, but nevertheless we pledge to be more careful in the future about correspondences.”
Current YCC Vice President and CEC chair Grace Kang ’21 verified that Philip and Murillo reported the issue to the CEC first, nearly one hour after the email went out.
Bahri then reported it herself 30 minutes later. She told the News she was unaware it had already been reported when she reported it herself. She also argued that this “slip-up” is not generally reflective of her character or competence.
Still, Kang told the News that as much as Bahri says that “this is accidental rule-breaking,” she is “not entirely sure it is.”
“They definitely know that you’re not allowed to email more than 10 people at a time,” Kang said. “These are rules that they are very aware of, especially Aliesa and Reilly, who have been planning their campaign since probably last year, internally. I think the bad part is … that it does look really bad for Aliesa and Reilly because one, they knew that they were going explicitly against the rules, and they decided to do it anyway. And they framed it as an accident, which I don’t think it was.”
Bahri told the News that she has a lot of respect for Kang is “sad and honestly hurt that she thinks this was intentional,” reiterating that the moment was a “lapse in memory that I had to divide it up in batches of 10 and cc the CEC.”
“Again, candidates can email less than 100 people anyway so I could have emailed all my sorority sisters as long as it was in batches — so there was no advantage I could have gained from this specific incident,” she said.
Bahri and Philip both told the News that they respect the decision and punishment from CEC, which Kang chairs.
Bahri also told the News that she regretted that this would impact Johnson, her running mate, as she said this was “my slip-up.”
Kang told the News that this year has had an unprecedented number of CEC violations but declined to share exact details aside from the fact that Bahri and Johnson are the only officer candidates currently on the ballot who have violated CEC guidelines.
Bahri and Johnson have previously violated the guidelines. Bahri previously violated rules by posting her campaign flier on the YCC’s official Instagram page. The CEC deemed that incident to be an accident, and no disciplinary measures were taken.
“We want to elect leaders, and part of being a leader is understanding that there are rules that you need to follow,” Kang said. “Whether you’re breaking these rules [by] accident or not, at the end of the day, you are still breaking rules. I’m not sure if it was lack of attention or lack of integrity, but it is disappointing to see so many rule violations this year.”
Kang told the News that it is “pretty common” for candidates to report the CEC violations of their opponents. When reporting to the News, Philip and Murillo alleged that Bahri’s email was a violation of mass email guidelines and also a violation of endorsement guidelines. They argued that using the Kappa panlist was tantamount to an endorsement from the sorority. Upon convening, the CEC found that the email did violate mass email guidelines, but it did not count as an improper endorsement, as the email came from Bahri herself, not from Kappa members.
In their note to the News, Philip and Murillo requested that the News “revoke its endorsement” of Aliesa and Reilly to “uphold [the News’] integrity as an ethical publication” and release a statement “acknowledging Aliesa and Reilly’s infraction and notifying the student body of the revocation of the endorsement.” The two also notified the Yale Student Environmental Coalition, which previously released an endorsement of Bahri and of Murillo.
“At the end of the day, it’s making sure that the election has integrity, and making sure that everyone is following the rules and everyone has a fair shot at winning the race,” Philip said, when asked by the News why he chose to report the violation. “Because for far too long, the barriers of entry to the YCC have been extremely high for … Matt and [my] communities, especially high for the intersections with … queer people, low-income students and students of color.”
Voting for YCC officer positions will close on Sept. 18 at 9:00 p.m.
Amelia Davidson | email@example.com
Update, Sept. 18: This article has been updated to include a response from Bahri to Kang’s comment that she was not entirely sure that the email was an accident.