Voting Regulations Board reaction

The Ring-tum Phi Staff

Early on Tuesday, March 22, 2016, the Washington and Lee student body received two emails from the Voting Regulations Board regarding the Executive Committee elections that took place the day before. The first email pertained to the results of the elections, naming Wilson Miller as President of the EC, Sonia Borask as Secretary of the EC, Samuel Gibson as Chairman of the SJC, and Emory Cox as Secretary of SJC and a run off for the Vice President between Caroline Bones and Daniel Johnson.

The second email, also from the VRB, addressed a specific email that had been sent out by one of the Presidential Candidates, Steven Yeung, to the Class of 2018. Yeung started his email by including an email he had received from Hunter Ward, a supporter, who was unable to access the emails for the grade himself.

In Ward’s email he urged students to meticulously consider each candidate’s platform and what they plan to do for our community.

He commemorated Yeung for having a plan to “bring change to this community that students want,” but according to Ward, Miller’s only plan was disheartening. Ward said that Miller’s main platform is “to continue to bring Chipotle during final weeks.”

At the end of the article, he includes that he did not mean his statements to be offensive or disrespectful, even stating that he believes Wilson “is a great guy and a great member of the community.”

The VRB decided that although this email from Yeung did not require an official sanction, it did not adhere Rules and Regulations given to the candidates that states that they are expected to act “in a manner consistent with W&L’s traditions of honor and civility,” according to its email.

The Phi believes that the email from the VRB was an unnecessary overcorrection on their part, considering the mass negligence of last year’s committee on a similar manner.

During last year’s election for the same position, the VRB received multiple reports of inappropriate campaigning that lead them to invalidate the results of the run-off election. The violation related to whether or not a candidate had sent a mass email to students that he was unfamiliar with. According to the rules, candidates cannot use technology or social media to contact a group of individuals that he or she does not know personally.  Instead, they can reach out to students that they are unfamiliar with individually.

Conflict arose surrounding the idea of what exactly determines a group of students that are familiar or unfamiliar. In the article, Russell Schmidt to be EC President following an appeal and investigation, which ran last year about this issue Nicole Simpson, the VRB Operations Chair at the time stated that “[The rules] are hazy in some parts in that they can be interpreted by the candidate, the student body, and the VRB potentially in different lights” and that the rules can and would be improved for future elections.

The VRB was not on top of that election to the extent they needed to be, and now are attempting to make up for that lack of oversight, but are taking it too far.

Ward did not mean to offend anyone in his email; he only meant to offer his support to a candidate who he thought had a stronger platform. The few remarks made against Miller were not meant to attack him on a personal level, only to point out flaws that Ward saw in his platform. Instead of chastising Yeung for forwarding this email along, the VRB should make it clear that candidates should only focus on their own ideas, and that questioning another candidate’s ideas could be seen as a personal attack.