The 32 candidates running for Freshman Class Council received a unique email the night of Oct. 1 from Baxter Ingram ’16, the administrator of the Class of 2016 Facebook page.
“Lock in your candidacy with this opportunity!” Ingram’s email read.
Ingram intended for the email to initiate an auction for the Facebook page’s cover photo. Bidding would start at $1, and the highest bidder would gain the rights to the cover photo for the remainder of the election. According to the email, only one candidate’s advertising would be posted.
Candidates who received the email said they felt uncomfortable about the prospect of participating in an auction for advertising space.
“I thought it was a good entrepreneur strategy, but, honestly, it’s not OK,” candidate Jeffrey Yan ’16 said, adding that he initially thought the auction was a joke.
Ingram declined to comment but noted the auction was certainly not a joke. He said he intended to donate the money he raised from the auction to the Native American Heritage Association, a charity he said he supports.
Some candidates were wary of the idea that the race could become more and more about who can spend the most.
“At the time I received the email I imagined every kid bidding higher and higher,” candidate Molly Stoneman ’16 said. “I admire the USG for the way they set up the elections because people have trust funds the size of small countries, and it’s important that the USG issues an allotment for each person.”
Three hours after Ingram sent out the email, chief elections manager Julian Dean ’13 emailed the candidates with a prohibition on the purchase of the cover photo.
Dean is a former operations manager for The Daily Princetonian.
“This is not an acceptable form of campaigning,” Dean wrote in the email. Buying the cover photo picture as advertisement space may result in disqualification from the race, he added.
Though there is no explicit prohibition against auctions such as this one in the Elections Handbook, USG president Bruce Easop ’13 said the auction interfered with the USG’s goal of giving each candidate an equal opportunity to advertise his or her candidacy.
“The USG elections manager has discretion over violations and point values not explicitly stated in the handbook,” Easop said.
Easop added that no penalties were given to any candidates related to this specific incident. Candidates may use Facebook in other ways to promote their campaigns and communicate with voters.
Easop said the USG would continue discussing the incident to prevent potential violations like this in the future.
“We will look to identify places in the candidate handbook to clarify,” Easop said.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/09/31442/