University News

BCA’s student DJ vote stirs controversy

The original poll to pick a student DJ for Spring Weekend allowed multiple votes to be cast

By
Staff Writer
Thursday, April 18, 2013

Abe Arambolo ’14 won the most votes in the Brown Concert Agency’s second poll, after the results of the first poll were invalidated due to alleged loopholes that allowed people and programs to cast multiple votes.

Brown Concert Agency’s decision to hold a re-vote for the Spring Weekend student DJ sparked an outcry from some students who alleged the decision was unwarranted and not communicated in a clear and timely manner.

BCA held an initial poll from March 22 to April 5 for students to choose a DJ, who will perform three times during Saturday’s concert. But following what BCA described as “technical difficulties” in tallying the votes, a re-vote was held April 5 through Friday, according to a post on the BCA blog.

Though Nikos Melachrinos ’15 received the most votes in the initial poll, another candidate, Abe Arambolo ’14, won the re-vote to officially become the student DJ, according to results announced by BCA on its blog Sunday. Tristan Rodman ’15 also competed in the poll.

Loopholes in the initial poll allowed voters to cast multiple votes by using multiple IP addresses. The poll also permitted individuals who are not Brown students to vote. These loopholes prompted concerns of vote-tampering in the initial poll, Arambolo and Melachrinos said.

Opponents of BCA’s decision criticized the timing of the agency’s announcement of the re-vote, which was made on the same day that BCA had originally intended to announce the winner. BCA used a Google form for the second vote in order to correct “system deficiencies” from the first vote, BCA announced April 5.

BCA alleged that “scripts,” or programs that automatically cast votes repeatedly for a candidate, may have irreparably skewed the poll, said Omar Ben Halim ’15, who supported Melachrinos and wrote a letter to BCA criticizing the agency’s handling of the vote. Ben Halim disputed the allegation that scripts were used to skew the vote.

Melachrinos said he had already received congratulatory emails from friends after he had taken the lead in the initial poll. Though students could view the vote breakdown between the three candidates during the first poll, BCA did not release the breakdown of support for each candidate in the re-vote.

Arambolo and Melachrinos said they decided to email BCA because friends informed them individuals could vote multiple times in the initial poll, which they said was a departure from the poll’s intent to give students a fair opportunity to select a DJ. The Facebook page for Rodman’s campaign had notified voters they could use multiple IP addresses to cast ballots, Melachrinos said, adding this post compounded his concerns about the accuracy of the poll.

“I thought (BCA) could use people’s Banner IDs, or their Brown emails, to make sure that the votes were being cast by Brown students only,” Arambolo said, criticizing the lack of proper verification in the initial vote.

BCA did not respond to The Herald’s requests for comment.

Melachrinos wrote in an email to The Herald that BCA asked him and Arambolo not to take advantage of the system loopholes that they identified and not to use social media to encourage users to vote multiple times. But BCA did not take any action to modify the initial poll until the agency decided to nullify its results and hold a re-vote, Arambolo and Melachrinos said.

“Once BCA decided not to change the way the system worked, it became clear during spring break that this was not going to be a poll based on the merits of the DJs, but rather who could get more publicity,” Melachrinos said.

As the DJs scrambled to mobilize support and “get out the vote,” the vote count began to rise considerably and reached a total of over 3,000, Arambolo said. This total, roughly half the size of the undergraduate student body, amplified concerns of electoral irregularities, Arambolo said.

“It’s kind of wild to say that basically the whole voting process was complete bogus,” Ben Halim said.