EPAC upholds election sanctions

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

Election officials upheld sanctions on the campaign of Julia Hildreth '05 at a meeting Tuesday night in the latest twist in a tumultuous and controversial race for student body president.

Hildreth and her supporters will be prohibited from sending BlitzMail messages, using e-mail auto-replies and distributing new posters or fliers for the remainder of the election, Election Planning and Advisory Committee co-chair Peter Sokol-Hessner '04 said.

EPAC officials said the restrictions were intended to compensate other candidates for the publicity Hildreth received from a wave of allegedly-hacked mass e-mails and the subsequent campus reaction.

"We must consider both your situation and that of the other candidates," EPAC wrote in a final evaluation.

In a poll conducted by The Dartmouth, Hildreth held a very small lead over fellow candidates Ralph Davies '05 and Jim Baehr '05, while Dave Wolkoff '05 and Michael Valmonte '06 trailed behind. Baehr and Davies were also sanctioned for e-mail violations by their campaign teams Tuesday night, EPAC officials said, and both will be ineligible to use BlitzMail for the rest of the election.

Hildreth was originally sanctioned after a close friend alleged that a hacker broke into her BlitzMail account and sent fake endorsement messages for Hildreth to much of the College's senior class on Monday night.

After an early morning appeal by Hildreth, Assistant Dean of Student Life Joe Cassidy overturned the sanctions in a BlitzMail message at 3 a.m. on Tuesday. However, following a meeting with EPAC officials, Cassidy restored the original restrictions on Tuesday afternoon.

Cassidy cited the alleged violation of College policy, namely BlitzMail hacking, as the reason for his initial intervention, but wrote that he believed EPAC had acted "for the best interest of the student body."

"After meeting separately with [Hildreth] and the elections chairs, I found that the EPAC has acted within their bounds," Cassidy said.

Cassidy's decision was particularly divisive because College administrators had not previously intervened in a student-run election and EPAC rules make no provision for such intercession. Cassidy had functioned only in an advisory role in previous elections, EPAC co-chair Stephanie Long '04 said.

Officials involved have almost universally decried the unscrupulous nature of this year's election.

Sokol-Hessner noted that no recent College election has been marred by allegations of unauthorized BlitzMail use, which could be a violation of state or federal law.

Cassidy also acknowledged the doubt that will surely be cast on this election's results.

"Sadly, we will never be certain if the student body president was elected by the will of the student body or through interference of a few corrupt individuals," Cassidy said.

Voting in all student elections ends at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, and EPAC officials said they expect to have results available by 9 p.m.

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