When Cornell students learned that one of the Student Assembly presidential candidates was thrown out of the race, they reacted with the same thing that got him there: memes.
Varun Devatha ’19, one of the two students running for S.A. president, was disqualified by the Student Assembly Elections Committee on March 28 after a student reported that a meme posted by one of Devatha’s supporters violated elections rules by using the logos of Cornell and the Hans Bethe House, The Sun previously reported. Devatha is appealing his disqualification, which he deemed a biased action, delaying the release of the election results.
This decision prompted students to create around two dozen new memes — mostly parodying the elections committee and the two candidates — in the Facebook group, “Cornell: Any Person, Any Meme,” whose membership has grown by roughly 120 people since Sunday night.
Many of the memes taunted the fact that Devatha was disqualified over a meme and the use of the Cornell logo.
One of the memes, posted by Gabe Kaufman ’18, S.A. vice president of finance, borrowed a scene from Game of Thrones, where an executioner, dubbed “Elections Committee,” is about to chop the head off of Ned Stark, dubbed “Varun Devatha,” with a sword bearing Cornell’s logo on it.
“I think we are making memes … because it is ironic,” Kaufman told The Sun. “Because it [comically] portrays a tragic situation, which adds color to our lives.”
In another meme posted by Sasha Frolov ’21, a drawn Cornell logo was put next to the campaign poster of Dale Barbaria ’19, the other presidential candidate. “As a massive supporter of Dale I am posting this meme to give my candidate an unfair leg up in the election by using the Cornell logo,” the caption reads.
Some people also showed indifference towards the S.A. and this election turmoil. One of these memes contains a house on fire — labelled “cornell student assembly and its elections” — and a woman labelled “99% of cornell,” who is pictured walking by the house paying no attention to the fire in the background.
Frolov said that while he did vote for Barbaria in the election last month, he made the meme just to make fun of the situation and that he saw memes as a good way for the S.A. to reach more people.
“I think memes and other kinds of viral marketing should generally be allowed in the S.A. election,” Frolov said. “Although memes have complicated this election … I don’t think this should discount an entire category of campaign advertising.
Brian Gay ’18, who created several of the S.A.-related memes on Monday, concurred that memes will allow more people to participate in the discussions of important topics.
“I think that it is an issue that many people lack knowledge of the S.A. and lack caring about its actions and behaviors,” Gay said. “But I believe that creating memes … opens up a discussion about issues that people should regard as important … in a more interactive, simple format.”
Yuichiro Kakutani ’19 contributed reporting to this article.