Wilf Election Results: Why the Numbers Should Not Be Made Public
On my first night back from vacation I sat down to face the essays that I had ignored for the past few weeks. Instead of writing the essays, I had a better idea: I was going to procrastinate. I started with checking my long list of sstuds; I opened an email from The Commentator and noticed the news article “Spring 2019 Wilf Campus Undergraduate Student Government Election Results.” Curious to see who won the elections, I clicked on the article and began to read. After the article, there was listed all of the winners of the elections — the breakdown of votes for each race as released by the Wilf Canvassing Committee. Curious to see if I knew anyone who ran, I scrolled on. At first glance, it seemed like a harmless list of all those who ran in the election, but as I skimmed the list I noticed that there were numbers next to the names of each candidate. I was absolutely horrified to see that the number of votes that each candidate received was listed alongside their names!
I internally freaked out, my insides froze and my brain screamed, “THIS IS NOT OK!” I was not willing to believe that the number of votes each candidate who ran received would be so shamelessly posted in such a public forum. I convinced myself I must have missed something, so I took another look at the article still denying the possibility that the number of votes would ever be posted. I was wrong, they were indeed posted.
This begs the question: Was it really necessary to expose these results in such a blatant manner? Is it really essential for the entire Yeshiva University and World Wide Web to be informed of the exact number of votes each candidate received? Does anyone really need to know with how many more votes one candidate became victorious over another?
All of these thoughts were racing through my mind when I realized there may be a larger issue at hand. There can be severe halakhic ramifications for posting these results. The Talmud in tractate Bava Metzia states: “Anyone who humiliates another in public, it is as though he were spilling blood” (58b-59a). A few homiletics were brought to highlight this concept. The Talmud says, “...It is preferable for a person to engage in intercourse with a woman whose married status is uncertain and not humiliate another in public.” This excerpt illustrates the length we are permitted to go to in order not to embarrass another. Furthermore, “One who engages in intercourse with a married woman before witnesses and with forewarning, his death is by strangulation, but he still has a share in the World-to-Come. But one who humiliates another in public has no share in the World-to-Come.” Humiliating someone is so severe that its punishment is even greater than the punishment for committing one of the three cardinal sins. Besides for these homiletics which illustrate the severity of humiliating someone in public, there are many codified halachic sources that bring down laws pertaining to this matter as well. Whether these homiletics are supposed to be taken literally or not, we learn that there is absolutely no excuse for embarrassing another in public.
Still eager to get understand why this was posted, I did my research. Article 3, section 1.8 of the Wilf Campus Constitution states in the third Amendment Regarding Disclosure of Election Results: “Within three days of the election, the Canvassing Committee will disclose the data regarding numbers of voting turnout, the amount of votes cast per race as well as per candidate on the ballot.” This was an amendment voted on by the student body and all candidates were aware of this when they entered the race. The Canvassing Committee sent out an Excel spreadsheet to the students of the YC campus with the information included in the amendment; then, The Commentator chose to publish the voter breakdown as news.
The Canvassing Committee sent out the Excel sheet as a way of disclosing the information they are mandated to disclose. But the amendment does not specify to whom the information needs to be disclosed. Perhaps the committee can disclose the votes to the candidates or to any student who requests to see it. The democratic transparency will still be preserved because the information can be accessed by anyone who chooses to request it. Having these results displayed online where absolutely anyone can access it in any location at any time seems downright wrong. The reasons why each candidate was voted for does not change the fact that some candidates received fewer votes than others. No matter why they were voted for, whether based on popularity, or qualification, etc., these numbers can portray these candidates in a negative light. We learn from the discussion in Bava Metzia the extent to which we must go to protect one’s feelings. Sensitivity toward others is of utmost importance and not something to take lightly, even if it means drafting a new constitution.
This is not our constitution and this does not directly affect us. The Beren Campus Constitution does not mandate the disclosure of the election breakdown. We encourage students on the Wilf Campus to amend their constitution to incorporate these standards of sensitivity. As students at Yeshiva University, showing compassion to others should be a value of ours. Our university should not allow legislation that can potentially cause embarrassment to others.
Photo Caption: Wilf Election Results Published in The Commentator
Photo Credit: The Commentator