April 10, 2018

EDITORIAL | Really, Elections Committee?

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A meme? Really?

When The Sun first commented on the disqualification of Varun Devatha ’19, it did so with the belief that the Student Assembly elections committee would not have made that decision and upheld it on appeal, on such a triviality.

Clearly, our faith was misplaced.

Regardless of whether the offending image, posted in the Facebook group Cornell: Any Meme, Any Study by a supporter of the Devatha campaign, qualifies as “promotional materials” as defined in the elections rules, the suggestion that the meme in any way “comprised the fairness of the election and constituted a material advantage” for Devatha boggles the mind.

Leaving aside the quandary of determining whether there was material advantage, how does a sensible, impartial arbiter arrive at the conclusion that the logos of the School of Hotel Administration and Hans Bethe House improperly swayed voters? Thousands of students participate in S.A. elections, and in the digital age voters are constantly peppered with campaign materials via their phones, laptops and incessant quarter-carders. Did this one meme strike such a note as to ring out above the cacophony of campaigning, to the point of comprising fairness? Doubtful.

Furthermore, the meme was neither a product of the Devatha campaign nor of coordination with that campaign. Are we to interpret the elections rules so broadly as to encompass the speech of each and every supporter of each candidate? To the 14,000 undergraduates at Cornell? The 21,000 total students?

What if an intrepid digital sailor wished to sabotage a campaign they disliked? The Facebook group has over 27,000 members, many of whom are alumni or never attended Cornell: could any one of them sink a campaign with a well-aimed meme-torpedo?

The ongoing conflagration — may we remind you, sparked by a “Steal his look” post — serves only to embarrass the student body. What a sight: Cornell’s proud tradition of shared governance reduced to a headline ripped from The Onion. Needless to say, episodes like this one do not inspire trust in student government, and only work to weaken the institutions that purport to represent the people.

The fracas has gone on for long enough. Dispense with the challenges, and count the votes.