Sophomore Kris Hart edged out junior Steve Sobel by 91 votes to win the Student Association presidency in a runoff Thursday. Sobel said he is considering whether to file a complaint with Student Court this week regarding what he calls “shady politics” surrounding medical student voting.
Hart took 53 percent of 2,021 student votes to Sobel’s 47 percent. Hart received nearly 34 percent in the general election, not enough to win outright.
“We did it,” Hart said. “We’re going to have a great SA. The SA is coming back to the students.”
But Sobel is disputing the process by which School of Medicine and Health Sciences students were able to vote. SMHS Associate Dean William Schroth signed a waiver enabling more than 650 students to vote absentee via e-mail. He noted in a letter to the Joint Election Committee that the students would not be on campus during voting Wednesday or Thursday.
SMHS students voted overwhelmingly for Hart, who was endorsed by the Medical School Student Council. Sobel barely took the undergraduate votes, beating Hart by four votes and also received support from the Law School.
Sobel contends that SMHS Sen. Vikram Bakhru approached Schroth with the request, taking advantage of a loophole in the JEC charter allowing deans to verify reasons for absentee ballots. Sobel is taking issue with the large number of students who were unable to be “on campus” any time during voting. He also said that an e-mail sent out by the MSSC endorsing Hart and calling on students to vote via e-mail provided an unfair advantage to his opponent.
“I think this is SA politics at its dirtiest … I think students need to understand the improprieties in this election,” Sobel said.
However, Bakhru said he never approached Schroth and does not know who submitted the request.
“I don’t know who approached him … as far as I know, the dean certified however many people were not going to be on campus,” Bakhru said.
JEC Chair Christina Vamvas, who oversees the election, said she has not received an official complaint from Sobel but said the JEC followed all bylaws and she “can’t question the dean’s authority.”
Sobel said he was still considering whether to officially submit a complaint to Student Court because he does not want to “play politics to win the election.”
“I am wondering whether it is worth it … I ran a good, clean campaign and I am not sure I want to win the election through the courts,” Sobel said, adding he plans to make a decision Monday.
Hart said he believes the election ran “by the book” and the e-mail voting was legitimate.
Hart said he held a meeting Friday afternoon to appoint his director and spokesperson for transition, senior Alycia Piontkowski. He also said he plans to begin appointing cabinet positions before spring break.
Hart noted his goal is to make students “look at the (SA) and be proud.”
“A year from now I want to be able to eat at a campus dining venue any time, 24 hours per day, seven days per week,” Hart said. “I want people to be able to have easy access to campus from their residence halls and not have to come from somewhere like Virginia.”
Hart said he is “really looking forward” to working with current SA president Phil Robinson in the next few weeks.
SA Executive Vice President Eric Daleo, who was re-elected last week to serve a second term, said he was pleased with Hart’s victory.
“It’s about accountability,” Daleo said. “Next year the SA will present a unified voice to both the administration and the students. We expect the students to hold us accountable. And there will be reform.”
Though each candidate was surrounded by dozens of supporters, Hart and Sobel seemed distant. Their eyes were fixed on Vamvas as she and the rest of the JEC slowly took the stage.
Vamvas took a breath and began, “First of all, we’d like to thank everyone for an awesome election. And the winner is …”
Fifty people leaned forward, as if they could not hear her words. Vamvas savored the silence before continuing, “Kris Hart!”
It sounded as if a bomb had gone off. Hart supporters swarmed over their leader, completely covering him. Scarcely acknowledging them, Hart crossed the room and embraced his former adversary. Sobel and Hart spoke briefly and then turned to their friends. Daleo was first to reach Hart, picking him up on his shoulders.
Hart seemed nearly overcome by emotion. He yelled, hugged everyone repeatedly and at one point appeared to be sobbing.
The Sobel camp was more muted. There were handshakes and hugs, but disappointment filled the air.
“I don’t feel too bad,” said Sobel, as he began to leave. “Really, my supporters are more disappointed than me.”
Across the room, Hart supporters were still shouting, almost in disbelief, “We did it! We did it!”