Election Allegations False; Driskell-Burton Campaign Run Cleanly
To the editors:
I am writing to respond to the cloud of confusion surrounding the outcome of the recent Undergraduate Council presidential and vice-presidential elections. My partner, John A. Burton '01, and I are grateful for the opportunity to clear the air now.
At no time did our expenses exceed the campaign limit of $100 per candidate. When other opponents raised questions about our campaign practices, the election commission decided to audit our expense report. The audit was something that I had never seen done in an election before and was a proactive and thorough way for the election commission to address the concerns of other candidates. In a meeting that lasted more than an hour and a half, the election commission went through a laundry list of allegations and picked our expense report apart, point by point.
When John and I walked into the meeting, our expenses totaled $95.95. This amount included an earlier violation assessed by the election commission after they ruled that buttons used in our campaign should have been accounted for in our expense report. The buttons were acquired from the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters' Alliance (BGLTSA) Resource Center. John understood that the buttons were a "freely available resource," a free resource available to any student who requested them. Michael A. Hill '02, a BGLTSA co-chair, knew that we had some buttons, but was unaware of how many. Hill was the only BGLTSA board member contacted, and a misunderstanding ensued when other board members were informed after the buttons had already been used. BGLTSA co-chair Michael K.T. Tan '00 would have preferred for John to notify the entire board. The misunderstanding has been clarified with both co-chairs Tan and Hill, and the buttons have been returned to the BGLTSA.
During the meeting, we were also questioned about lemonade that we passed out while campaigning earlier that day. We explained that lemonade mix was acquired from Quincy House (not Mather) dining hall and that any candidate could get mix and water for free. However, the cost of the lemonade mix was added before submitting our final expense report. The commission then decided that everything was accounted for and that we had not overspent, as our total expenses amounted to $97.95.
Election rules plainly state that permission from proper authorities is required for campaign practices such as mail drops. We went to the manager of the Harvard Yard Mail Center (HYMC) and inquired about the procedure for distributing mass flyers. We were assured that we did not need to take any further steps or to request any other permission for the fliers to be put in mailboxes. Other candidates raised questions after first years received letters from us in their mail. We then contacted Dean of Freshmen Elizabeth Studley Nathans, via e-mail. We detailed our campaign practices to Nathans, explaining that we had spoken with the head of the HYMC about the proper procedure for mail drops. Nathans remained neutral on the matter. Nathans said that she would not speak personally with anyone who contacted her over the matter and that she would speak to the Harvard Yard Mail Center staff.
In summary, the Driskell-Burton campaign never overspent, everything was accounted for in our expense reports, and we remained within the rules of the election at all times.
So where does the confusion come from? My best explanation is that the confusion stems from misunderstanding and the saturation of one-sided arguments that were quoted in previous issues of campus publications. Secondly, wrong or incomplete information has created the illusion of violations where none ever existed. The purpose of the audit was not to vindicate us, nor to punish us. The intent of the audit was to truthfully get to the bottom of all of the allegations. In previous pieces published in The Crimson, opposing campaign members have lost the "truth-seeking" spirit. There was a reference to the Harvard University Mail Service (HUMS) Web site. The Web site also says that mail services are decentralized and that authority rests with the heads of the individual mail centers, and not with HUMS, which is in Allston. We did not personally stuff first-year mailboxes. The HYMC staff placed the letters in the mailboxes for us. Another source of confusion was the varied responses given by members of the commission, due in part to the hastiness of the final night of elections. Election Commissioner David I. Levy '00, who initially reported to The Crimson that we overspent, corrected his statement the next day.
As we approach a new semester, we are ready to hit the ground running and to hold true to our campaign promises. In the months to come, expect to see a more visible council. Even though our first meeting is not until Feb. 6, 2000, all council members have already signed up to work on specific projects that interest them. This is something that has never been done before and will create the new level of accountability that will help us prepare for the future, smaller council. Big projects lined up throughout the spring will furnish better services for the student body. The Harvard Census 2000 will allow us to assess what students really think about Harvard and will provide leverage when addressing those concerns with the administration. A new on-line book-ordering program will potentially save the student body thousands of dollars this semester. The First-Year Formal will be absolutely exquisite. And creative, new campus-wide social events promise to spice up campus life and to boost school spirit.
A new semester brings many new beginnings, particularly a newly elected administration. We, as a council, must begin the spring term with a commitment to work together, pressing on toward future goals. The student body has overwhelmingly supported a vision and the two candidates that will take the council in a new direction. Let us embrace that vision together and take this college to the next level.
Fentrice D. Driskell '01
Jan. 20, 2000
The writer is the newly elected president of the Undergraduate Council.
Primal Scream Prank Shameful
To the editors:
I was disappointed to read in "Cold Barely Affects 'Primal' Tradition" (News, Jan. 19) that the path of primal scream had been intentionally iced over by Harvard students.
Christina S. Lewis' column "Necessary Nakeness" (Jan. 19) offered a great explanation of the important role that frivolous social traditions like primal scream can play at Harvard. As an enthusiastic primal screamer, I was lucky to follow the runners ahead of me who chose to cut through the grass rather than brave the "booby-trapped corner." The prank was shameful; I only hope that no one will be discouraged from running next winter.
Luke C.D. Stein '02
Jan. 20, 2000