By its very nature, politics is in a perpetual state of flux as new information is constantly released. In the current Undergraduate Council (UC) presidential and vice-presidential campaign, several events have recently transpired that call into question the conduct and leadership ability of John F. Voith ’07 and Tara Gadgil ’07. In light of these developments, we withdraw our endorsement of their candidacy.
Since we interviewed all of the candidates and decided to endorse Voith and Gadgil, their campaign has been embroiled in two controversies. The first involves an e-mail sent out by a Voith and Gadgil staffer to a campaign staffer for Magnus Grimeland ’07 and Tom D. Hadfield ’08. The e-mail encouraged Grimeland and Hadfield to drop out of the race and offered the ticket reimbursement for all their campaign expenses—as well as lunch—if they threw their support to Voith and Gadgil. Because of this e-mail, the Voith and Gadgil campaign was fined $80 by the UC Election Commission (EC) for violating election rules. While Voith and Gadgil claim they had no knowledge of the e-mail, and the EC agrees, it nevertheless demonstrates a lack of control of their campaign. And this is not the only occasion on which Voith and Gadgil have lost control of their staff—before Thanksgiving break, their campaign registered www.HaddockRiley.com, irritating John S. Haddock ’07, Annie R. Riley ’07, and their supporters, until the domain name was turned over to the Haddock and Riley campaign. Voith and Gadgil also said they were unaware that a campaign staffer did this on their behalf. While we sympathized with this first campaign oversight, this mismanagement has become a trend.
More recently, Voith and Gadgil made contradictory statements to the Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA) and the Harvard Republican Club (HRC). In a written statement to the HRC, Voith and Gadgil voiced their support for returning Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) to the Harvard campus. In a later meeting with the BGLTSA, however, they explicitly contradicted this position when they stated they did not support bringing ROTC back to campus until the military dropped its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Though Voith and Gadgil disagree with the BGLTSA’s account and claim they told the BGLTSA that they personally supported ROTC’s return to campus but wanted campus dialogue about ROTC, the conflicting statements call Voith and Gadgil’s honesty into question. At best, Voith and Gadgil were deceptive in their answers; at worst, they were lying.
Both of these controversies are clear violations of campaign ethics. Even if we accept the explanations of Voith and Gadgil, the events cast serious doubts on the candidates’ conduct and judgment. Though the e-mail was not sent by Voith or Gadgil and they claim to have had no knowledge of its existence, they are ultimately in charge of their campaigns and must take the blame for this egregious act. Furthermore, though Voith and Gadgil may not have deliberately lied to the HRC and BGLSTA, it seems apparent that they made misleading remarks in their attempt to pander to both organizations.
This trend of dubious and deceptive behavior calls into question Voith and Gadgil’s ability to lead. If Voith and Gadgil cannot control the actions of their campaign staff, made up of friends and trusted deputies, we question whether they could successfully lead the UC. Their alienation of the BGLTSA and HRC also introduces doubt as to their ability to work with student groups, which is a central part of their platform.
In response to these developments, several students have asked to recast their already-submitted presidential votes, but are unable to do so given the UC’s current online voting system. Changing the clearly established rules of the election while it is occurring would be unwise. It seems inevitable, however, that another situation will arise in which critical new information breaks during the election week—and students should not be penalized for voting early. In the future, we urge the UC to consider implementing a system that would allow students to change their votes, provided such a system is feasible and reasonably affordable.
Ultimately, an endorsement of a ticket is a holistic judgment based on a variety of factors. While we still believe that Voith and Gadgil have a more realistic and well-developed platform with regards to student events, their recent conduct dramatically alters our overall evaluation of the ticket. As a result, we cannot continue to support their candidacy.