Campaigning, College-Style

The Undergraduate Council (UC) unveiled 24-hour Lamont Library access and fatter grants for student groups early in the fall, but soon infuriated its constituents. It planned a concert featuring ’90s rap artist Wyclef and sank $30,000 into a venture it was soon forced to cancel due to underwhelming student interest—fewer than half the tickets were sold. In the wake of a rained-out Springfest the previous semester, the Wyclef concert and social-life planning became major issues in an unusually contentious race for UC president. Instead of the expected contest of John Voith ’07 and Tara Gadgil ’07 versus John Haddock ’07 and council outsider Anne Riley ’07, the election offered the prospect of significant support swinging to dark-horse candidates Magnus Grimeland ’07 and Thomas Hadfield ’07. 

An overview of the campaign:

• 11/19 — The domain name is purchased with a credit card later discovered to belong to John Voith.

• 11/28 — Campaigning starts at midnight.

• 11/28 — A joke campaign to elect the “Telepathic Chicken” appears in the Harvard Crimson comic strip “Low Table.”

• 12/02 — An e-mail from a Voith-Gadgil staff member appears to bribe Grimeland-Hadfield, offering to “pay you back for all the money you spent in the campaign” and to “make sure magnus [sic] gets back in the UC.” (Grimeland had been suspended for poor attendance; Voith and Gadgil sat on the committee considering his reinstatement.)

• 12/05 — The Crimson endorses the Voith-Gadgil campaign.

• 12/05 — On-line voting begins at noon.

• 12/05 — Entrepreneur Aleksei Boiko ’06 sets up a website to buy and sell UC votes.

• 12/05 — The Harvard Republican Club and the Harvard-Radcliffe Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance publish a joint condemnation of the Voith-Gadgil campaign for apparently contradictory statements regarding the return of ROTC to campus. The groups endorse Grimeland-Hadfield and Haddock-Riley, respectively.

• 12/06 — The UC announces that the 1,812 students who have already voted will not be able to change their votes.

• 12/07 — The Crimson retracts its endorsement of the Voith-Gadgil campaign.

• 12/07 — Boiko’s site closes; more than 30 students offered to sell, but no one bought.

• 12/08 — The Crimson runs an article titled “As Polls Close, Race Still Too Close to Call.”

• 12/09 — Haddock and Riley win 59 percent of the vote, ahead of Grimeland-Hadfield (23 percent) and Voith-Gadgil (17 percent). The “Telepathic Chicken” receives no votes at all, doomed by new electronic voting software that does not allow write-ins.

“I had a fantastic bunch of people working for me,” says new UC president John Haddock, reflecting on the race. “And now that the campaign is over, it’s time to move forward.” Among his goals? Earn back the student body’s respect for the UC.

~John La Rue

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