On what was supposed to be the first full day of campaigning for the Undergraduate Council’s general election, the Election Commission announced sweeping disciplinary action against every candidate running as part of the newly formed Crimson Coalition. According to the Commission, the Coalition violated two campaigning rules by publishing an op-ed in The Crimson Monday morning.
The disciplinary action, which consists of 12- and 24-hour campaign suspensions, came after the Crimson Coalition published an open letter in Monday’s Crimson.
“The rule is you are not allowed to campaign in any form before Monday at noon,” said Election Commission Chair Elston He ’13.
He said that the Commission had warned Samuel F. Wohns ’14, a Crimson Coalition leader, not to publish the letter on Sunday afternoon. “The Crimson op-ed was published this morning, which is a clear violation of the campaign rules.”
According to the letter, the Coalition hopes to use the UC “as a tool to build student empowerment.”
The group, consisting of current and aspiring UC members, plans to implement an issue-based referendum process, expand the Forum for Change, and work for the addition of student members to the Harvard Corporation and other University governing bodies.
“With a renewed mentality, we can align the present role of the UC with Harvard’s storied history of student activism and empowered student government,” reads part of the open letter, entitled “We Are the Crimson Coalition.”
The Commission ordered a 24-hour ban on all campaigning for Wohns and the three authors of the Coalition’s open letter—Chloe G. Veron ’14, Larson C. Ishii ’15, and Zaki Djemal ’15. Nine other Coalition members, who signed an online copy of the letter, were also slapped with 12-hour bans. All suspensions went into effect at 7:00 p.m. Monday night, according to a Monday afternoon email from the Election Commission to the candidates and the UC’s email list.
“We apologize for the violation,” Djemal said. “We were hoping that this article was going to be published later on. We did not try to violate the regulations of the UC Election Commission.”
According to Wohns, when the Coalition found out late Sunday that the op-ed could not be published in the afternoon, the three signatories decided to print in Monday’s paper.
Djemal said that the Coalition had hoped to generate buzz and increase voter engagement on the first day of campaigning.
He did not see the election commission’s punishment as being in any way political.
“I think the [EC] is doing their job professionally in this case,” he said. Djemal declined to comment further until his suspension expires.
This year, a total of 96 candidates are running for 43 open seats. In the most contested race, thirteen freshmen candidates from Oak Yard are battling for only three seats.
The Crimson Coalition had hoped to win a 25-seat majority on the council, but only 13 members had signed the Coalition’s letter Monday.
Voting is open from noon on Wednesday to noon on Friday, with results released later that evening, according to the UC website.
—Staff writer Quinn Hatoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.