Council Race Kicks Off Today

Students brave cold to begin postering in six-way campaign

Braving darkness and the frigid night air, Undergraduate Council presidential and vice-presidential hopefuls led their supporters across campus shortly after the official campaign start time of 12:01 a.m. this morning, covering bulletin boards and kiosks with campaign posters.

With the first round of postering, some of the six tickets kicked off a campaign that council insiders say promises—in contrast to last year’s low-key contest between only two slates of serious candidates—to be a fiercely competitive race.

At least one presidential candidate, Rohit Chopra ’04, appeared to have already been the target of dirty campaign tactics. According to Chopra, the Election Commission investigated posters last week that appeared to support the Chopra campaign and were posted before the official start of campaigning.

Chopra said neither he nor his supporters had hung the posters and called them an “apparent act of sabotage” meant to incur fines against him for premature campaigning.

Members of the Election Commission declined to comment on the alleged infraction last week. The commission’s policy is not to comment on a possible violation until after it has confirmed the infraction and fined a campaign.

“Rohit obviously didn’t do it,” said one supporter of a candidate running against Chopra. “He wouldn’t jeopardize his own campaign like that.”

Chopra said he hoped for “clean campaigns from this point forward.”

“I am flattered, though,” he added.

Chopra and two of his opponents did poster shortly after midnight, though most opted to do so indoors as temperatures dipped into the mid-20s.

Presidential candidate Fred O. Smith ’04 said at a meeting with more than 20 supporters last night that he would limit postering early this morning to the upperclass Houses and first-year dorms, after supporters pointed out that Yard Operations personnel tear down all outdoor posters in the Yard on Monday and Thursday mornings.

Chopra and presidential candidate Jason L. Lurie ’05 both said they would also delay postering in the Yard.

The campaign of David M. Darst ’04 and Shira S. Simon ’04 did poster outside in the Yard early this morning despite the likelihood that their signs will be taken down by the time most students wake up.

Darst and Simon also included both of their names together on a single poster, meaning that each sign will count twice against the campaign’s total $200 budget. The Darst-Simon campaign has already lost $12 of funding due to fines meted out by the Election Commission last week.

Though Simon is vice chair of thecouncil’s Student Affairs Committee (SAC), Darst has no experience on the council and has presented himself as a reformer.

At the other extreme, Chopra, who is SAC chair, and his running mate, Campus Life Committee Co-Chair Jessica Stannard-Friel ’04, are considered the insider candidates.

Smith, who is running on a ticket with Justin R. Chapa ’05, has built up a reputation on the boards of both the Black Students Association and the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters’ Alliance as a progressive campus leader.

Lurie, who is in his first semester on the council, has indicated that he also plans to run as a political activist.

Shortly after 12:01 a.m., Lurie wrote a message to the Harvard Secular Society e-mail list, asking for help postering and handing out flyers.

“One of my major platform points is ending discrimination on campus, including in religious student groups,” Lurie wrote in the e-mail, “and we need your help if we’re to make ending bigotry at Harvard a major issue on campus.”

The remaining two presidential candidates, Albert J. Lim ’04 and Hunter A. Maats ’04, and their running-mates, had not done any campaigning as of early this morning.

—Staff writer Alexander J. Blenkinsopp can be reached at blenkins@fas.harvard.edu.