March 10, 2003

Koppell '05 Wins Trustee Election

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After deliberating for about an hour and a half, the trustee nominating committee unofficially announced Jackie Koppell ’05 the winner of the student trustee race at 7 p.m. on Friday. Also on Friday evening, the University Ombudsman ruled as improper an elections committee appointment by Leslie Barkemeyer ’03.

The trustee nominating committee, which convened at 5:30 p.m., consisted of three undergraduate students, two graduate students, and the chair, Prof. Peter Stein, physics. According to Stein, one of the graduate students was added on Friday to improve the balance of the committee when a fourth undergraduate member, Stephanie Adams ’04 was late. Two of the candidates, Gayraud Townsend ’05 and Jennifer Lee ’05, were also present at the meeting.

The committee deliberated over more than ten challenges to the election results, eliminating overlapping challenges to group them in four substantive categories. Before discussing the challenges, four committee members voted on whether the other two, Tim Lim ’06 and Ben Lowe ’04, had a conflict of interest. Lim and Lowe had just finished their campaigns for international and arts and sciences representative, respectively, running on the Democratic ticket, the same ticket as Koppell.

“I felt, personally, that there was a little bit of conflict of interest because I was running on the same ticket as Jackie,” Lim said. The committee ruled that Lim and Lowe would abstain from discussion and vote on one prominent challenge involving the use of a pop-up ad by members of their ticket. However, the committee found it acceptable for them to be involved in voting on the other challenges.

“You’re not going to find a person that doesn’t have any connection with any candidate,” Lim added, expressing his confidence in all decisions made by the committee.

“The committee was made to be as objective as possible,” Koppell said.

Townsend, though accepting of the committee’s decision felt less positively about the election process. “The election process has too many holes and there aren’t enough checks and balances,” he said. “So the majority does have an advantage, I feel. I sit down to talk to the elections committee and there are three students who ran against me on the Democratic ticket. Isn’t there a conflict of interest there?”

The four major challenges discussed and eventually thrown out by the committee included the issues of the pop-up ad — an ad endorsing candidates on the Democratic ticket sent to students via an e-mail from the Cornell Democrats with a link to the voting site, an alleged e-mail forgery of a challenge by one candidate, illegal postering in residence halls, and a candidate who did not report all campaign expenses. Stein expressed the importance of the fact that “[the committee] listened to these disputes before knowing the results of the elections.”

Although the committee did not find any of the challenges to be substantial enough to disqualify any candidates, they discussed at length the issue of the pop-up ad. Townsend stood by his motivation for issuing the challenge.

“There’s no campaigning within 50 feet of a polling place. Now that we’re in a technological age, the situation is different, and this seems like the equivalent of that. I just think that’s wrong and illegal. But it’s hard to convince people it’s wrong when they’re the ones who put [the ad] up,” he said.

“The first question you have to ask when ruling on a challenge is what rule it violates and whether it is grounds to disqualify a candidate,” Stein said, adding that the committee did not find this to be the case for any of the challenges.

Although Townsend felt that the election process needed to be perfected to prevent bias on the committee, he said “I’m happy I started Students for Students with Steve Blake. Even though I didn’t win my race, we got a majority of the S.A. [Student Assembly] seats. It’s kind of like having a Republican president and a Democratic senate. Everyone said there’s this Democratic machine and they can’t be beaten, but we got a majority of the seats … Jackie won, and I wish her the best of luck.”

“I am very pleased with the outcome and look forward to serving Cornell,” Koppell said.

Although the results of the S.A. election were unofficially announced on Wednesday, they are still being contested. At the meeting to discuss contested elections on Thursday, Barkemeyer appointed a fifth member to the elections committee, Michael Sellman ’04.

According to Nick Linder ’05, quoted in a recent Sun article, Sellman has traditionally voted with Democrats. Linder also felt that Barkemeyer made a poor decision in appointing him.

According to Sun sources at the Friday meeting, the University Ombudsman notified Barkemeyer that her decision was improper and advised her to reverse the decision. However, Barkemeyer felt that she was within her rights, based on committee precedent, and advised anyone contesting the decision to seek an appeal, according to sources.

Archived article by Aliza Wasserman