Verbum Ultimum

by THE DARTMOUTH EDITORIAL BOARD | 5/7/04 5:00am

And so end the weeks of feverish campaigning, the hours of impassioned speeches and the closest Student Assembly election in recent memory.

The first observation to make about this election season is that it motivated the largest voter turnout in over a decade. If the candidates were unanimous in anything, it was in their conviction that the Assembly had to be rejuvenated, and that under proper leadership it would be a more effective servant of student interest and agent of student opinion. The message is an empowering one, and the onus now lies with Student Body President-elect Julia Hildreth '05 to capitalize on increased student interest in the Assembly.

While the candidates themselves deserve commendation for their efforts to invest this election with the significance it deserves, those individuals charged with the proper conduct of the campaign deserve criticism for their handling of the incidence of alleged BlitzMail hacking. Unfortunately, the truth may never come to light, and Dartmouth students must learn to move beyond sacrificing their honor for a few votes, a few laughs or possibly both. In the wake of such misconduct, the Elections Planning and Advisory Committee should reexamine its guidelines for intervention. In the closing hours of the campaign, EPAC suspended BlitzMail privileges to the Hildreth campaign. The Committee also extended that sanction to the Baehr and Davies campaigns after unrelated incidents on Tuesday evening. Proscribing BlitzMail use has little effect, since it attracts more attention to a candidate than the routine campaign blitzes the measure is designed to curtail. Moreover, the suspension of BlitzMail privileges only calls attention to an incident, and unfairly punishes one candidate for the actions of alleged hackers.

Yet far more troubling was the extraordinary intervention of Assistant Dean of Student Life Joe Cassidy, who vetoed EPAC's decision before sunrise Tuesday. Nothing short of absolute evidence of electoral fraud could possibly justify the intervention of a College official in an election process designed to be student run. While Cassidy had an advisory role in the election, his unilateral decision represents administrative overreach. It is entirely unacceptable to invent a mandate out of thin air and interrupt the proper functioning of a student-run activity, especially when student authorities have already reacted in accordance with regulations.

In the coming weeks, however, the campus must move on from this election. Given the closeness of the results, and the unusual hijinks of the final two days, Hildreth lacks a strong mandate. While carrying out the platform she elucidated in her campaign, she should bear in mind some of the popular ideas of her former opponents. The other candidates will hopefully continue to serve the interests of the student body, in whatever forum they believe most appropriate.

The new crop of Student Assembly leaders certainly has its work cut out for them. The student body should keep in mind that it too has a civic obligation: to hold elected officials accountable and be prepared to work to achieve communal goals.