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Votes in Online Beauty Contest To Be Revealed

By Karoun A. Demirjian, Contributing Writer

The student organizers of an online male beauty contest plan to make participants’ votes public, one of the organizers said yesterday.

Over the past week, 64 senior men have been pitted against one another in a hot-or-not, March Madness-style online competition known as “CrimsonChaos.”

On the website, the 64 men were organized into paired brackets. Anyone willing to register an e-mail address can cast their e-ballot in each of the face-offs and then post their comments on the candidates to the site’s message board. After the first round of voting, the winner of each face-off advanced to the next round, narrowing the candidate pool down to 32 lucky senior men. The elimination process will proceed in this manner—with each voting period lasting 48 hours—through four more rounds until, on May 16, one senior stud will emerge as the champion of CrimsonChaos.

The contest is currently in the “Sweet 16” round of voting.

Many students who have visited the site since it was launched have voted using anonymous e-mail accounts from sites like Yahoo.com or Hotmail.com.

But one student—who said he was one of three student organizers who helped to bring the competition to Harvard—said that the organizers plan to reveal voters’ identities at the end of the competition.

“At the end, we are going to publish which message on the message board came from whom and the names of the people who voted for themselves (and the number of times they have voted for themselves, not kidding, some have been ridiculous),” the student said in an e-mail. “Seriously,...there are some real shockers out there...It will turn Harvard’s social scene upside-down.”

The student—who claimed the organizers fronted a considerable amount of money to start the competition—said they plan to charge $5 to those who want to see the information.

He explained that he and the other organizers obtained the identities of the site’s registered users by tracking the internet protocol (IP) addresses used by the site’s members.

However, the original creator of the concept behind CrimsonChaos said that it is impossible to obtain the information the student has said he is planning to publish without hacking into the system.

“It isn’t possible to trace names unless these people hack into the system,” said David Lekach, who, along with Amit Shah, started the original contest—“MichiganMadness”—at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor last spring. “The point of this whole thing is to be fun, and people should feel safe about what they’re saying. I don’t know why anybody would care who people voted for.”

Lekach—who said he does not charge campus representatives for the service—said that he was approached a single student about bringing the original MichiganMadness concept to Harvard, although he said it was possible his contact could have worked with others.

Lekach’s contact—who would only communicate with The Crimson through Lekach—would not say whether she worked with others.

“The people that set up CrimsonChaos are students that have an intimate knowledge of the social scene that surrounds it,” she said in an e-mail.

Lekach said he came up with the idea for the sports-styled beauty contest after last year’s March Madness basketball tournament.

“We got the idea just after the NCAA March Madness had finished,” he said. “We were sitting at an opening day Tigers game just joking around when I thought, ‘What if we ranked all the girls at Michigan?’”

Lekach, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan Business School, along with Shah, a computer engineering graduate, turned the original idea into a small enterprise.

The venture, which has since surfaced at Penn (PenPreakness), Michigan State (MSU Madness), and most recently, Georgetown (HoyaHysteria, which began its voting yesterday) in various customized forms.

Currently, college brackets like MichiganMadness and CrimsonChaos are administered under one umbrella organization—The Madness Group. Lekach and Shah said they expect similar programs to surface at at least 64 schools by next spring.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Lekach said. “We’re strongly considering sponsors and even tentative projects to make this into a reality TV series.”

Though most at Harvard said they have been amused and entertained by the idea of CrimsonChaos, responses to the candidate pool have been mixed.

“I think it sucks that all [the competitors] belong to two final clubs,” said Hannah Trierweiler ’03. “At least broaden it to include other final clubs.”

Sophia C. Macris ’03 also said she was disappointed with the selection. “They got the seeding all wrong,” she complained. “A lot of attractive guys got overlooked.”

“To critics that say some are left out, we would say of course everyone can’t be included,” Lekach’s Harvard contact said. “We did the best we could to include a wide variety people that most of the campus would know of. We’re confident that people who weren’t included won’t have any hard feelings.”

The men of the senior class have also involved themselves as competitors—and as voters.

“I bet it’s mostly guys voting,” rower Michael J. Skey ’03 guessed. “The guys on the [men’s crew] team find it funny to vote for you...or even against you.”

“I can’t deny that I’ve put in a few votes,” Skey added.

Curran D. Hendry ’03-’04 and Taylor G. Buckley ’03, roommates since freshman year, were pitted against each other in the second round.

“This hasn’t ruined our friendship, it has only made it hotter,” said Hendry, who edged out Buckley in a come-from-behind victory to advance to the Sweet Sixteen round yesterday.

“Where I come from, Canada, it’s dark for months at a time, so when I first came here all I really knew how to do was be pale and ice fish,” Hendry said. “But when I first met Curran he taught me how to unleash my inner bronzed Adonis, and I taught him how to hunt polar bears with a hockey stick. So even though I lost, I believe that everyone here is a winner.”

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