It’s not a stretch to say that things didn’t necessarily go as planned during this past Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) presidential election cycle.
“It was definitely the most hectic elections season I’ve had during my time here,” said Casey Doyle, incoming co-chair on the EC and CSOM ’17.
Hectic might even be an understatement—the election pack seemed constantly in flux, jumping from four teams down to two, then down to one “satirical” team, and eventually back up to six, all over the course of a few.
Sweating it out at the center of this madness was the EC, a group that operates independently of UGBC to organize and execute undergraduate elections—most notably the presidential election. Consisting of 15 students and one graduate assistant, the EC’s agenda fills up quickly during the election each spring, featuring responsibilities ranging from managing debates, overseeing campaigning activities, and, of course, presiding over the voting process.
After some discussion of all the responsibilities the EC takes on every year, it was pretty surprising to see about how little is truly known about it—particularly that it was an independent body from UGBC. A somewhat unostentatious group , its members insisted that they get that all the time.
“Yeah, nobody knows that,” said Rachel Mills, a current co-chair of the committee alongside Adam Rosenbloom, both MCAS ’16, visibly not shocked by my own surprise at hearing that the EC operates independently of UGBC. “It’s kind of important to have an organization outside of UGBC to run the UGBC elections, just to prevent any conflict of interest issues. So us being kind of the rule makers, we can’t be a part of UGBC.”
“It’s not that we don’t like them or anything,” assured Tyler Waddell, an EC member and CSOM ’17. “We just feel it’s safer and makes for a more fair election.”
The EC likes the UGBC so much, in fact, that its coordinating goes well beyond that of the centerpiece president/EVP elections. The fall brings freshman elections, and in the spring, along with presidential elections, the annual caucus elections require a large amount of organization.
For those unfamiliar, the caucus elections are set in place to designate a student representative for each category—from academic, to cultural, to social, and beyond—of student organization. Unlike the presidential elections, which are decided by a popular vote, the caucuses are a different kind of referendum.
“We have these little town hall debates where people who want to run for those positions will meet in a classroom, along with the presidents and vice presidents of those clubs [in each category],” explained Mills said of the caucus system. “The presidents and vice presidents then choose the candidate that they feel will best represent those interests in UGBC.”
More than anything else, however, the primary function of the EC is to serve as a vehicle for fair elections and the processes that surround those elections. Not least among these is monitoring the residence hall campaigning which, done in excess, had been deemed a bit of a nuisance in the past. In other words, its around to make sure everyone plays fair.
Which is exactly what made this last election so interesting.
On the eve of the election this semester, the news broke to the EC that one of the teams had been widely soliciting votes using social media—a blatant transgression against the code all candidates had been informed of prior to campaigning began. When this news broke—or, fell on the lap of an EC member who was solicited—the Committee sprung into action. The team of Nikita Patel, CSOM ’17, and Joseph Arquillo, LSOE ’17, was docked 70 points for soliciting votes through Facebook messages—including to one of the members of the EC.
“We met and determined it was falling in a certain tier, which is negative votes,” explained Tyler Waddell, a committee member of the EC and CSOM ’17.
The reason why the controversial negative rules are a thing? You can thank past candidates for that.
“People campaigning would just break all of the rules on Friday at the very end, because the only things that we had to work with were taking away ResHall campaigning, confiscating T-shirts, taking down banners,” Mills said. “By the last day, it doesn’t really matter anymore. It’s definitely a last resort.”
Fortunately, precedent saved the day on this occasion—built into the candidate campaigning code, a sanction pyramid was recently written that evaluates the basis for punishment based upon levels within the framework. The punishments themselves, however, are strictly matters of discretion—and for good reason. Evaluation of degree of sanction prevents a certain “gaming” of the sanction system by candidates.
“Obviously we’re not trying to decide an election on taking away votes,” Waddell said. “But at the same time, you could think, ‘oh, if I send 1,000 Facebook messages and 200 of them actually vote for me, and the Elections Committee takes away 25 votes, that’s worth it.’ So, it has to be enough to make it kind of hurt.”
The committee had flirted with the idea of assigning certain vote penalties to certain actions, but decided against it in the interest of avoiding this potential for “calculated” cheating.
“You’d have teams saying, ‘Oh, I think it’s worth 60 votes to do this or that,’” Mills explained.
With this need for discretion in mind, the EC decided to take a poll of the committee as to how many votes should be detracted. From here, an average was taken, and the magnitude of the sanction was determined.
All high-stress decisions aside, the EC undoubtedly handled past election cycle gracefully—an accomplishment that it attributes to the precedent of prior years. Between the 15 of them, their allocation of responsibilities, along with the thoroughness of their work, lends itself to a strong track record of success. This track record, however, also lends itself beyond University politics. The team prides itself on the food selection it has been known to provide.
“Yeah, that’s my job,” Waddell said, taking credit for the exquisite roast beef sandwiches featured at this year’s UGBC kickoff event.
Other keys to success?
“We had good leadership this year,” Romano said with a glance in the direction of Rachel and Rosenbloom, eliciting a smile and blush from the graduating duo.
“Thank you,” Mills responded—and rightfully so, after the longest and most confusing election period in recent history.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor