Just Community election campaign moves online, but not everybody follows

With traditional campaigning tossed aside due to social isolation, annual officer elections saw less participation than in other years.

BROADCAST%3A+Snapshots+of+candidate+videos+were+posted+by+school+officials+on+Instagram+Tuesday.+The+videos+were+required+by+the+Fairness+Committee%2C+and+for+most+candidates+that+was+their+entire+campaign.

Photos from Instagram.com/shalhevethighschool/

BROADCAST: Snapshots of candidate videos were posted by school officials on Instagram Tuesday. The videos were required by the Fairness Committee, and for most candidates that was their entire campaign.

Benjamin Gamson, Staff Writer

Seventeen candidates are running in Thursday’s election for Just Community offices, but some campaigned much more than others during the official posting period that ended Wednesday at noon.  

As of Wednesday night, only six candidates had posted a campaign poster on Schoology, two had posted TikToks, and several had posted campaign videos that they were required to make as a condition of being on the ballot.

The Fairness Committee — which has overseen Just Community elections since a Town Hall vote last September — required each candidate to make a two-minute campaign video, which it then posted on Schoology.

Poster by Haim Oliel
MOST: Sophomore Haim Oliel was one of two candidates who posted the most virtual ads on Schoology.   Haim and Evan Beller published four virtual posters each, while many candidates posted none.
Poster by Evan Beller
PARODY: Evan Beller satirized the satirical ‘Freezing Point’ in his virtual poster. ‘In these difficult times, we must have faith in Evan Beller,’ he wrote.

The videos were played for students, faculty and administrators at a special election presentation on Tuesday between Block F and lunch break, and viewed by 189 people out of the school’s enrollment of 257 and 60-plus faculty and staff.

Beyond that, only six candidates posted campaign signs on the Student Activities or Just Community Schoology pages. 

All of the juniors up for election are running unopposed, and almost none have used Schoology at all. 

Sophomore Haim Oliel, who is running for SAC Vice Chair and has three opponents, posted four different designs to promote his campaign sometimes repeating previously posted material. 

None of his three opponents posted even one.

“Haim Oliel — Not Short On Ideas,” said one of Haim’s campaign ads.  

“I mean, I think if others know that you’re trying to get their attention, they’re more likely to vote for you,” Haim said in an interview. “That’s why this morning I texted on your grade group chat — to let them know that if they have any questions as to why or what that person does, and why I would be good at it.”

But junior Evy Rosenkranz, running unopposed for Fairness co-chair, said she didn’t think it was necessary. 

“I’m running unopposed, so there wasn’t really much of a need to,” said Evy. “I was more focused on my video and what I wanted to say, because whether or not I would have campaigned it wouldn’t have made that big of a difference.”

Shani Menna, running unopposed for SAC chair, said she didn’t post because a campaign ad on Schoology would be overshadowed by the other posts there. 

“Schoology can be kinda distracting and too many people post, so I didn’t really feel that it was necessary to do that,” said Shani. 

Of the juniors, only Agenda Chair candidate Kate Orlanski posted a poster.  

“Kate 4 Agenda Chair,” says her poster, and then the Aramaic words — in Hebrew font– itaruta dilatata. Kate said she learned it from Judaic Studies teacher Ms. Ilana Wilner, who said it describes effort coming upward from the ground.

“I teach about it when we talk about human intivative versus divine knowledge, or divine intervention,” Ms. Wilner told The Boiling Point. 

Kate used it as an approximation of her campaign theme: “Bottom up,” referring to influence in the Just Community needing to come from the students.

But Kate agreed that posters don’t have the same effect on Schoology as on campus. 

“A poster in the halls of Shalhevet is permanent, and somebody walks past it,” said Kate, who is Agenda’s vice chair this year.

“The same person could walk past it a bunch of times for consecutive days in a row,” she said in an interview. “But a poster on Schoology, you probably see it once and then it’s buried by the [other] Schoology posts.” 

 

Traditional campaigning in the Shalhevet building — with debates, speeches and posters on the wall — was swept aside this year because of social distancing made necessary by the novel coronavirus. That meant Just Community elections had to move online.

I’m running unopposed, so there wasn’t really much of a need to. I was more focused on my video and what I wanted to say, because whether or not I would have campaigned it wouldn’t have made that big of a difference.

— Evy Rosenkranz, running unopposed for Fairness Co-chair

Current Fairness Co-Chair Evan Rubel said having candidates post on Schoology was intended to mimic what would have happened if students were on campus. 

“This is really to replace the in-person posters that were hung up around the school,” Evan said of the poster ad idea. “Those posters were really like a hallmark of the whole Just Community election season, and we wanted to do our best to try and replicate that but in a digital space.” 

In addition to her one poster, Kate also posted a TikTok telling students to vote for her. 

“In the past I would put up posters and done a lot of campaigning, and talk to people in the halls,” said Kate, now Agenda Chair-designate for 2020-21. 

“But this year I did my best to show that I care about my position as Agenda chair, and I did make a poster I did make a TikTok.  I did make a speech. And I posted those all on Schoology.”

The candidates who have done the most campaigning aside from Haim have been candidates for the secretaries of Agenda, Fairness and SAC.  For Agenda Secretary, Keira Beller put up two virtual posters and a TikTok, while her opponent Yael Schechter used one virtual poster.

In the three-way, all-freshman race for SAC Secretary, Evan Beller presented the community with four campaign ads, while Eli Weiss posted one and Noa Talasazan none. Eli and Noa both posted their mandated campaign videos as well. 

Candidates for Fairness co-chair — both running unopposed — did not campaign at all during the scheduled campaign period, which ended yesterday at noon. But Shani Menna and Sophie Handelman posted their video, which they had made together.

For Fairness Secretary, sophomore Talya Kukurudz didn’t post any designed ads but did post the mandatory video on Schoology. She also wrote a brief post early in the campaign telling people to vote for her.

Sophomores Jack Sanders and Anya Mendelson are running against one another for Agenda vice chair, but neither posted anything on Schoology about it.  

Evan said voting Thursday would take place through a Google form accessible through students’, faculty’s and administrators’ Shalhevet emails. 

On Wednesday evening, Evan told the Boiling Point in an email that voting would begin Thursday at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. It said results would be announced at 5:30 p.m. via Schoology.

 

Evan also said that Boiling Point reporters would not be allowed to observe the count. Evan said the Fairness Committee had decided it would not be necessary — not because of social distancing, but because it would be automated.

Due to the automated and highly streamlined voting and data acquisition processes, we feel that it is not necessary for The Boiling Point to be present during the counting of votes,” said Evan’s email.

Boiling Point adviser Mrs. Joelle Keene said it was the first time in 14 years that news media was not allowed to observe.

“Even last year, when the count was entirely by  computer, an editor-in-chief was in Rabbi  Schwarzberg’s office when the computer program was run,” Mrs. Keene said.

Editor-in-Chief Jacob Lefkowitz Brooks said he thought this decision by Fairness should raise concern.

“I really don’t see an issue with us being able to look at the results to see if they are fairly counted,” said Jacob. 

“I know in the past we’ve had multiple of issues at times when there are irregularities in the counting, when it has been very valuable for the Boiling Point to be there to ensure that those errors are corrected,” he said, “and I don’t see that there are any harm could be done by us being at this meeting. So I find this very alarming and confusing.”

Meanwhile, the Fairness Committee will give voters a longer period of time to cast their ballots than just an hour in the middle of the day, according to Evan.

“Because of schedule changes, we are probably going to give a wider window,” Evan said in an interview. “So it’s still technically a limited amount of time, but it will be a bit longer than we anticipated.”

Poster by Keira Beller
POSTER: Keira Beller made two campaign ads and a TikTok to promote her candidacy for Agenda Secretary.

Since April 27 when the campaign period began, candidates running for Fairness and SAC secretary have dropped out.

Isabella Sztuden dropped out of the race for Fairness Secretary, leaving Talya Kukurudz running unopposed for the position. Freshmen Asher Taxon and Miriam Nektalov dropped out of the race for SAC Secretary. 

The Just Community elections are scheduled to take place tomorrow. 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated the total number of candidates for Just Community offices. The correct number is 17, not 20.  There were originally 20, and three dropped out between April 24 and May 5.