College overrules EPAC's sanctions on Hildreth

by Colin Barry | 5/4/04 5:00am

UPDATED May 4, 11:47 a.m.

In a decision that may add storm to an already controversial student election, Assistant Dean of Student Life Joe Cassidy removed sanctions the student-run Election Planning and Advisory Committee had placed on the presidential campaign of Julia Hildreth '05 in response to an appeal.

The pronouncement represents the first time in recent history that College administrators have directly involved themselves in student elections or overruled an EPAC decision, and it could be a severe blow to the credibility of EPAC and the election as a whole.

Cassidy's judgment may not even be strictly permitted under election guidelines, EPAC Co-chair Stephanie Long '04 said, although such a severe violation of College policy is unprecedented.

"In the past, Cassidy's word hasn't previously overruled what EPAC has said," Long said. "He usually only reviews appeals and, if he thinks there's something awry, he sends it back to EPAC."

Long speculated that the controversy will "definitely further tarnish the whole election process."

Hildreth said the severity of the violation of College rules motivated her quick appeal to Cassidy.

"I just didn't feel that EPAC's decision to sanction me was a fair decision," Hildreth said. "Basically, someone was trying to hurt my chances of winning and that's exactly what EPAC was letting them do by taking away my ability to campaign."

Long said the Student Life decision to remove sanctions would "absolutely" hurt the campaigns of other candidates in the race for student body president.

Hildreth disputed that other candidates would be affected by her campaigning.

"I think the other candidates should feel comforted that the election will be decided based on the candidates and not on EPAC violation sanctions," Hildreth said.

Hildreth's campaign was sanctioned after a BlitzMail hacker allegedly broke into a supporter's account and sent messages endorsing Hildreth to much of the College's senior class. EPAC subsequently imposed restrictions on Hildreth's campaign in order to compensate other candidates for "the blitzes sent to the entire senior class supporting her," EPAC officials wrote.

Hildreth reportedly appealed the sanctions to Cassidy and Dean of Student Life Holly Sateia early Tuesday morning. Cassidy acted to suspend the restrictions in a BlitzMail message shortly after 3 a.m. on Tuesday, only several hours after they were imposed.

Cassidy cited "an alleged violation of College policy" as grounds for the Student Life Department's intercession on Hildreth's behalf. Cassidy acknowledged potential concerns about College involvement, noting in a BlitzMail message that "Student Life prefers not to enter into the student election process."

"I understand the difficult situation that EPAC found itself in and respect the decision that was made," Cassidy wrote. "My decision to suspend the sanctions should not be interpreted as anything less than the full confidence that I have in election chairs and EPAC."

EPAC leaders are scheduled to meet with Cassidy Tuesday afternoon to come to a consensus on the restrictions or lack thereof.

Campus-wide elections are being held Tuesday and Wednesday on the Student Assembly website. In a recent poll conducted by The Dartmouth, Hildreth, formerly vice president of the student body, held a slight lead over fellow juniors Ralph Davies and Jim Baehr, while Dave Wolkoff '05 and Mike Valmonte '06 trailed behind.