Well, it’s the middle of October. By this time in years past, The Review would have usually published some article alleging terrible things about SGA, such as “SGA messed up all the laundry rooms” or “SGA wants to cut newspaper funding” or “SGA President Tom Cocchi eats babies.” I reckon many readers will assume that I am trying to revive the antagonism between The Review and SGA, and I wish it to be known that I am not trying to do that thing. I bear SGA no ill will, despite the fact that while my family was visiting for Fall Family Weekend, Tom Cocchi ate my 4-year-old sister.
I merely wish to call attention to flaws in the Homecoming Court selection process and encourage SGA and the Office of Campus Life to run future Homecomings differently.
On Saturday, October 6, Joelso Ferreira and Mary Kate Kenna were crowned SVC Homecoming King and Queen, respectively (though several SVC alumni argued afterwards that Joelso should have won both crowns). I am pleased with the results, but I am not entirely pleased with the process preceding the results.
Homecoming Court selection was run by the Office of Campus Life and SGA, according to Jeff Mallory, Coordinator of Campus and Multicultural Student Life.
The selection process was conducted in two phases, both online. First, a few weeks ago all the seniors received an email informing us that we could access a SurveyMonkey page on which we would find the names of every person in the senior class, divided by gender. We were allowed to nominate five males and five females each. The second phase was also conducted on SurveyMonkey, after the initial round of voting had narrowed the field to five males and five females.
I saw two main problems.
First, the list of possible nominees in the first round was simply a list of all credit-wise seniors at SVC, which meant that several juniors made the page. Junior Ben Summers earned a lot of AP credits in high school and found himself in the Homecoming Court running. “I was surprised that my name was on the Homecoming Court list,” said Summers. “After all, I am only a junior. If I had known earlier, I would have campaigned! I’d be the first multiple-year king! I was given the chance to establish a monarchy and blew it.”
Second, SurveyMonkey is not the most secure place to run an election. Most elections limit each citizen (or in this case, SVC student) to one vote, but on SurveyMonkey, it is the IP addresses, not students, that are limited to one vote.
I currently have a laptop and an iPad on my desk, each sporting a different IP address: two votes for me. I could walk down the hall to the computer lounge, where another six or seven votes await me, or perhaps I prefer the library, where I could log another dozen votes. I could also email the SurveyMonkey link to non-students and open a whole new world of voter-fraud possibilities.
I heard rumors that other students were committing voter fraud, so I decided to try it out, and yes, I was able to log four different votes just by using different computers.
I spoke with Jeff Mallory after Homecoming Weekend had ended, and he was surprised to hear about the Homecoming Court selection problems. According to Mallory, no one came to him with allegations of voter fraud.
“As you all mature into responsible adults,” said Mallory, “the onus is on [the student body] to come forward if they see something going on.” Since no one reported voter fraud, nothing was done about it.
Mallory made a fair point. The SVC student body owes SGA and the college administration some responsible concern and open communication.
But simply holding paper-based elections could have mitigated the problems of voter fraud. Our pixel-hungry society often imagines technology to magically make everything better, but in some cases old-fashioned methods are better.
So I propose a two-fold solution: students, be more open with the administration when you see problems occurring, rather than just gossiping amongst yourselves, and administration, limit the opportunities that students have to game the system.
Finally, in case anyone was concerned about having a baby-eater represent the student body, I would like to clarify that Tom Cocchi has not actually eaten any babies.