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Campaign solicitation: taking things too far

Sam Zappa | Tuesday, February 12, 2013

On the afternoon of Monday, Feb. 11, I received an email from the Dominic Romeo-Philip Hootsmans ticket, soliciting my vote in the ongoing student government election. Several of my friends also received text messages from the Alex Coccia-Nancy Joyce ticket. I have a couple issues with the use of our personal information in this manner.
When I contacted Mr. Romeo about some of these concerns, he informed me my email “is public information,” and was even kind enough to provide me with a link to the insideND directory where he acquired said information. In his response, he also felt the need to inform me he had not “broken any rules, and the Judicial Council has already confirmed such a fact.”
I do not believe any student should be allowed to randomly solicit to members of the Notre Dame network in such an unrequested fashion. Mr. Romeo and Mr. Coccia both seem to have found a loophole in the current Student Union Constitution, because it does not specifically ban mass text messages or email blasts, provided they are not over a “listserv.” From this perspective, it seems they indeed have not “broken any rules.” However, I believe they are both in violation of at least two provisions of The Constitution of the Undergraduate Student Body.
Section 17.2-g specifically states that, “Copies of all campaign materials must be submitted to the Election Committee and stamped for approval by the Vice President of Elections or a voting member of the Elections Committee before posting.” Were these emails and text messages submitted for approval, Mr. Romeo? Mr. Coccia? If so, I am disappointed in the Elections Committee for approving such venues of solicitation. I allow my information to be visible on the Notre Dame directory for one reason and one reason only: in the event a classmate, peer or professor needs to contact me concerning a pressing academic concern. While the existence of such a directory without password protection is questionable to me in its own right, I also feel quite strongly that my and my classmates’ information in this directory has been abused.
Section 17.1-h on elections states, “Candidates are expected to behave ethically at all times.” As upstanding individuals of this community, individuals trying to win my vote, I wonder if Mr. Romeo and Mr. Coccia believe their actions are consistent with ethical use of the information in the directory. Ethics are, unfortunately, not just about breaking the rules. Ethics are about acting in accordance with reason and right conscience to make the right choices and decisions. I believe a very poor standard is being set here. Just because a rule has not yet been made to prohibit an action does not make that action appropriate. If the copying and pasting of netIDs, email addresses and phone numbers from the Notre Dame directory into campaign solicitation emails and text messages for student government elections is considered ethical action, then I want no part in such an election. I do not believe that is consistent with proper handling of information, and I believe these candidates should have demonstrated simple common sense in realizing these were not appropriate venues for campaigning.
I am not necessarily calling for the disqualification of the above named candidates; that is not my primary intent. This article is simply a petition for the amendment of the Student Union Constitution to prevent the improper use of students’ personal information in situations such as these and all others. This will hopefully allow our candidates to campaign not only within the rules, but ethically within the rules.
Sam Zappa
Zahm House