March 4, 2003

S.A. Campaigns Abuse Listservs

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In a sign that Student Assembly (S.A.) campaigning is hotter than any year in recent memory, The Sun has learned that someone is tailoring messages to voters over e-mail listservs.

One such e-mail addressed to the leaders of campus organizations funded by the Student Activities Funding Commission (SAFC) created the impression that SAFC commissioners favored candidates endorsed by the Cornell Democrats. The e-mail also contained a link to the S.A. voting website with a pop-up ad listing the Democrat-backed candidates.

The SAFC co-chairs quickly responded with an e-mail to the leaders of SAFC-funded groups that read, “the [SAFC] does NOT support any of the named or implied candidates, nor any other candidate running for office.”

The SAFC funds student groups and reiterated that “no group or person should feel pressured … to cast a vote based upon any perception that the Finance Commission will reward or penalize organizations depending upon their political persuasions.”

One member of an SAFC-funded group who received the e-mail and pop-up ad called it “pretty sketchy.”

“They’re trying to make it look like Cornell is endorsing a slate of candidates,” the member said.

In a second targeted e-mailing, students identified as opposing a war on Iraq were encouraged to vote for Jackie Koppell ’05 and others.

“I have no idea who did it,” Koppell said.

The website link that prompts the pop-up ad is vote.html. But that’s not the only website to use the idea: Cornell Hillel also created a similar pop-up ad and link to the actual voting website.

The use of digital tools has not gone unnoticed by Cornell students, including one who did not enjoy receiving a flood of e-mails.

“If I had to think of the three largest groups of politically active students, it’d be the SAFC-funded student organizations, the antiwar groups and the Jewish community,” said Andrew Barber ’05. “It’s a smart strategy.”

Archived article by Sun Staff