Disappointed that young alumni trustee candidates are being disallowed from campaigning in this year's election, candidate Ira Leeds '06 is collecting signatures from the senior class in an attempt to obtain the right to campaign for the position.
"The primary goal with the petition is to make sure the seniors are fully informed for the primaries," Leeds said in an interview.
Though alumni trustee candidates are not allowed to campaign for the post, young alumni candidates have previously voted on whether to allow a campaign or not. One young alumni candidate from the senior class is elected each year by members of four classes — the junior, senior and two youngest alumni classes — to serve a four-year term on the University Board of Trustees.
Alumni trustee candidates, on the other hand, are announced by the University, and elections are open to all alumni. At any given time, there are four young alumni trustees and 16 alumni trustees sitting on the Board.
In homage to religion professor Cornel West GS '80 and his two books, "Race Matters" and "Democracy Matters," Leeds has dubbed the campaign "Princeton Matters."
Leeds, a former publisher of the Princeton Tory, initially proposed a petition signed by the candidates but received only "lackluster support" from those running, he said in an email.
The candidates' discussion over email of the petition, however, led one candidate whose identity remains unknown to seek a meeting with Associate Director of the Alumni Council Adrienne Rubin '88, the University official who coordinates the election. The candidates will meet with Rubin this afternoon to discuss including short biographies of the candidates on the voting website.
After failing to garner support from other young alumni trustee candidates, Leeds took his campaign to the Street on Saturday, collecting signatures from seniors eating at Quadrangle and Charter clubs.
"It seems from the responses I got that most of [the candidates] aren't interested in discussing it, and those that are willing to discuss it would not seem likely to vote for lifting the ban," Leeds said in an interview.
He said that 100 seniors have signed the petition thus far and that he hopes to have 200 signatures by Wednesday. The petition has received much stronger support from the senior class than it did from the candidates: Leeds estimated that roughly nine out of 10 individuals approached by petitioners signed it.
"This unscientific estimate suggests that over 90% of the class wants to see young alumni trustee candidates campaign in this election," Leeds said in an email. "That's the real question here — not whether we should be allowed to campaign but whether the students have a right to be fully informed on all of the candidates."
Powell Fraser '06, who has assisted Leeds in collecting signatures, estimated that approximately 80 percent of the seniors he approached agreed to sign the petition.
The text of the petition invokes the principles of free speech and free information.
"We, the undersigned members of the Princeton Class of 2006, believe it is a disservice to the University community and an affront to the universally accepted principle of free speech to prohibit campaigning in the election of the Young Alumni Trustee," the text of the petition reads.
It goes on to say: "Campaigning is essential for us to decide who will best represent our class on the Board of Trustees, and we do not believe that the position should serve as a reward for the individual with the most name recognition."
Fraser, who is not a candidate for the position, said he is helping gather signatures because he wants to hear what those running have to say.
"I'm not supporting Ira yet because I don't know what the election's about," Fraser, a Daily Princetonian columnist, said in an interview. "Until I hear some good campaigning about it, I'm undecided."
Jamal Motlagh '06, another candidate and the current president of the ICC, described the effort as "silly."
"They don't let people running for full alumni trustee campaign, so why should we be able to campaign? It's their system and we are trying to be part of it, so I don't think the rules should be changed for us," Motlagh said in an email.
"We also don't know what it's like to be a trustee, so I think making campaign promises for something we have no idea about is somewhat pretentious of anyone wishing to run," Motlagh added.
Candidate Cynthia Akatugba '06 said that while she would not sign the petition unless it established what constitutes campaigning, she would support allowing a limited degree of campaigning to help candidates with lower name recognition.
"I think all of us who came out for this election ... believe we have made an impact on this campus, but not all of us have done so in a public way," she said in a phone interview.
Both Akatugba and Michael Vu '06, another candidate for the position, warned that unrestricted campaigning could be an impediment to the election process.
"Allowing people to campaign opens the election up to a whole different set of evils," Vu said in an email. "Therefore, I will not sign Mr. Leeds' petition."
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