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First-pick contest causes controversy

Competition may not return next year

Last week's announcement that Insourced — a group of eight freshmen — won the Residential Life first pick contest led to multiple accusations of illegitimate campaigning and guideline violations, sparking heated debate among students.

The winners were accused of violating campaign guidelines, as well as making their video longer than three minutes and 30 seconds, the maximum length allowed by the rules. Both accusations are false, though, according to members of the Residential Council.

ResCouncil Chair Ben Lowell '10 and Housing Lottery Committee Chair Jillian Robbins '11 both confirmed there were no preexisting regulations on campaigning, and that the actual footage of all videos was within the time limit.

The accusations against Insourced stemmed mainly from the group's campaign strategy. The group gave out candy in exchange for votes, roamed around dining halls and libraries soliciting votes and walked around campus in apparel that advertised the video, said Daniel Lowry '12.

Some first pick contestants exchanged e-mails discussing Insourced's strategies after the group's win was announced, said Anish Sarma '12, another contestant in the first pick contest.

All the teams "could've done the same thing," Sarma said. "The bottom line was that they got the most votes."

Lowry said that he "wasn't surprised" that Insourced won, since the competition is no longer "about the best video, it is about who is most aggressive."

These tactics were not unheard of in previous years, Robbins said, adding that to a degree, every group campaigned, at the very least by creating a group on Facebook. Robbins said it is hard to believe contestants thought "making a Facebook group was sufficient."

She added that Insourced had no way of actually forcing people to vote, because students had to input their usernames and passwords before they could vote. "Voting can be informed or uninformed," Robbins said.

The first pick contest "is a voting competition," Lowell said, and campaigning is expected and allowed. Thus, the debate about the way Insourced campaigned did not worry ResCouncil so much as the general attitude with which contestants approached the competition, he said.

"Over the past few years, this year and last, it's become less fun and friendly," Lowell said. "People have gotten more serious and acrimonious."

The purpose of the contest is to encourage the students to get excited about the housing lottery and "to generate buzz," Robbins said. Because students are losing their focus on the contest's purpose, there is a possibility that the first pick contest may not take place next year, she said.

"The more trouble it gives the Residential Council, the less they'll want to continue the contest," Sarma said.

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