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Saturday, December 03, 2005

why staffing matters

At the beginning of this race, I expected the Voith/Gadgil ticket to run ahead from the beginning. Here you have two likeable people who chair their committees and can call on extensive social networks and Council experience to mobilize a lot of people. I figured Haddock/Riley would have to run a scrappy underdog campaign and hope that the Crimson endorsement would be enough to give them some sort of chance. I was, however, wrong.

At this point in the race, it appears that Haddock/Riley are becoming the marginal front-runners, racking up a long list of important endorsements and exuding a level of competence and organization that I didn't expect. Part of the reason I think I misunderstood their chances was that I underestimated Riley's abilities as a campaigner and viable candidate, which have both proven considerable. More importantly, though, I didn't expect that Haddock and Riley would put together a team, a message and a campaign in general that was so far superior to any of the other tickets. I forgot to think about the staff. (more in expanded post)

It's a strange mistake for me to make considering the fact that, one year ago, I was running the Glazer/Capp campaign and, in the process, ruining my relationship, my school work, and my other extracurricular commitments. I'm confident that at least a few other members of our staff had a similarly difficult time maintaining a life during those two weeks. I specifically remember calling one staff member at 1 AM to make sure people had been rounded up for the Science Center, only to find out later that I had interrupted her in bed with her date to her house formal. She answered the call anyway. That kind of commitment can be the difference between winning and losing. We had a huge number of people with that level of commitment, which is a credit to Glazer and Capp's ability to inspire loyalty and effort, and we probably won the campaign because of it.

Haddock/Riley may be in the process of doing the same thing. There is evidence everywhere of their superior operation, from the gorgeous website to the cute stickers to things of more serious substance. Let me, for a second, note a few of those things:

Message: While I think that it's substantively wrong and ill-conceived, the Haddock/Riley message on social planning is clear, concise and puts the Voith/Gadgil ticket immediately on the defensive: "Get the UC out of social programming so we can spend time on the things we do well." Having spent considerable time watching the race, I can't think of any single sentence that would as easily sum up the Voith/Gadgil campaign while still having some modicum of substance (in other words, "more student voice" is not a message). Without a strong opposing message, Voith/Gadgil are left as the defenders of a failed track record of social programming and their "experience" because tantamount to an endorsement of the oh-so-evil "status quo."

Debate prep: This is more a negative for Voith/Gadgil than it is a positive for Haddock/Riley, but the difference between the two campaigns was quite striking here. How Voith got to the debate without an incredibly good and well-rehearsed answer to the question "how do you reconcile your membership in a Final Club with your support for a Women's Center?", I will never know. Haddock and Riley both came off as knowledgeable and prepared (albeit imperfect in other ways), and while much of that is probably a credit to them, much of it is probably a credit to good staff work and preparation.

Student group outreach: Haddock/Riley is absolutely devastating their opponents when it comes to endorsements (not only do they have 6 to Voith/Gadgil's 4 and Grimeland/Hadfield's 0, they've received all of the biggest endorsements so far made: the Dems, Fuerza, EAC and SAA), and there's evidence that staff work has played a significant part. Take, for example, the third of four paragraphs from Fuerza's endorsement:
Their plans to push for greater diversity in the faculty also resonated with the mission of our organization. Although revising the curriculum is the first step to improving the scope of our education, we believe that having a diverse faculty is the most effective way of ensuring the successful implementation of changes to Harvard's academics.
Did I have any clue that Haddock/Riley were for a more diverse faculty before reading this paragraph? No. Did they even mention it during the debate? No. But did they have good enough staff work and preparation to know who they were talking to and tailor their message accordingly? Absolutely. For another example, consider this extremely telling line from their EAC endorsement:
While all candidates supported the idea for "Green Grants" as incentives for student organizations that "go above and beyond, sustainably," only Haddock and Riley expressed this commitment without prompting.
Now, maybe I'm being overly cynical, but I certainly doubt that this was because Haddock/Riley care so much about environmental issues that they just know them off of the top of their head. They were prepared because they had a staff who probably gave them a cheat sheet so that they would know what to emphasize and how to make it clear that they understand this group's issues. How do I know of such a practice? I designed it last year and had the Haddock/Riley campaign's current Student Group Outreach person (Matt Greenfield) assist our then political director (new Dems President Eric Lesser) make them.

Outsourcing: When I received the Haddock/Riley answer to Question 3 today, it came from their campaign manager Josh Patashnik. He noted that Haddock was out, so he was "sending it off" to me. My ass. I would bet a lot of money that he wrote it, and why shouldn't he? There's no reason that Haddock should spend hours a day sitting in front of a computer writing the same set of responses to email lists and blogs and the Indy and the Crimson over and over and over again. It's simply a waste of his time, so he has staff members do it with his approval. Based on the fact that I spoke to her on the phone as she was finishing writing hers up, I'm pretty confident that Tara wrote the pieces for Voith/Gadgil, and I'd also suspect that Tom wrote each of the pieces for Grimeland/Hadfield. I think it's commendable, but it's also a waste of time that could be spent knocking on doors.

The little stuff: Finally, you can locate the superiority of the Haddock/Riley campaign in little things. Not only is the Haddock/Riley website gorgeous, but it is constantly updated with new news clips (including those from CC). The Grimeland/Hadfield website is still advertising Day 2 of the campaign and the Voith/Gadgil campaign's news section still says "coming soon...". The superior staffing also shows up in little things like the fact that Haddock spent the day yesterday with a red ribbon firmly attached to his chest in honor of World AIDs day. You can see it in the fact that the Haddock/Riley campaign essentially assigned Ben Milder to watch over Cambridge Common and defend their honor whenever it might be threatened. That, my friends, is good staff work.

While I don't think that all of this necessarily means we should be more inclined to vote for the Haddock/Riley ticket, it certainly has been a large part of what has given their ticket a big boost going into the weekend. When a student who is involved in AIDs work sees Haddock's ribbon (although I recently saw Voith with one also...), when students in general percieve Haddock/Riley as more professional because of their website, when student groups feel like the candidates know what matters to them: these are the things that can change a race. When the Haddock/Riley team get the Crimson endorsement tomorrow (yes when, not if; more on this later) the Voith/Gadgil ticket better realize that the only way they're going to win this race is if their field team and get out the vote operation is far better. If this week is any indication, I wouldn't bet on it.

Please remember CC's policy on anonymous comments.

10 Comments:

At 8:46 PM, Blogger Ben said...

Phenomenal post, Andrew. I wish the Crimson would pen an analysis like this. I'd like to comment on a few points.

You're right that John Haddock's staff is better qualified and organized, and whether or not this attracts your vote, it's why John Haddock and Annie Riley are going to win. In your musings about your own campaign, you noted that the Glazer/Capp campaign benefited from having a staff made up of UC members. The Voith campaign manager, Dan Koh, is his blockmate, but unlike you, has no experience with UC politics. The Haddock campaign manager is Josh Patashnik, a former UC member with an excellent grasp of how the Council works. And Voith's top staff is composed of mostly his friends - Tessa Petrich, etc. With a couple exceptions, the Haddock senior staff is composed of current or former UC members. At our campaign meetings, we have SAC quorum.

Voith's message on social programming is incomprehensible. In some respects, the Haddock team is taking a page from the Bush 2004 playbook: while you may not agree with us, at least you know where we stand.

Voith's "endorsements" are even more minimal than the number 4 conveys. One is from the FYSC, which is statutorily barred from endorsing candidates (see Greg's analysis on Team Zebra). And his other endorsements can pretty much be traced back to a personal connection, so they didn't get the group based on a good performance (I can almost guarantee that E.E. Keenan delivered Voith's Native Americans endorsement, for instance). And if Voith picks up BMF, it's only because of his friendship with Kwame Owusu-Kesse. Haddock's message about student groups resonates with all student groups, and only those with personal reason to support Voith will do so.

The Haddock/Riley campaign is probably including news clips from Cambridge Common and Team Zebra because they recognize that the blogosphere provides more comprehensive coverage than any establishment media outlet. Greg Schmidt's post about social programming is linked from the H-R front page because he did a better job than the Crimson of laying out the stakes.

Also, while I don't dispute that the Haddock staff has helped out with Cambridge Common, you underestimate John's engagement with the site. And you would lose your bet about the authorship of the last post.

We knew the Voith/Gadgil website was going to be pathetic from Day 1, when it was password-protected for 24 hours.

John and Annie's message is resonating with students and student groups, and I personally would like to thank everyone at Cambridge Common for providing such a "tremendous" forum of ideas.

John Voith is fusing the worst elements of the Glazer and Ty Moore campaigns: having a staff made up of friends, and running as the insider's insider ("8 semesters of Council Experience").

It's pretty clear that John Haddock and Annie Riley are the front-runners in this race. John Voith simply doesn't have enough friends to win, and that's the only card he can play. Of course no one is taking anything for granted, but personally, at this point I'd say a more pertinent question would be not who will prevail, but by how large a margin Haddock/Riley will win.

 
At 9:24 PM, Anonymous E.E. Keenan said...

Before I respond to these comments, I would first like to say that, if one wants to draw comparisons between campaigns, it can be done without using caustic and insulting language. I will not engage in that sort of thing. I hope that members of other campaigns will not, either.

This line of postings has focused on the differences between the style of the campaigns. I agree that the Haddock-Riley campaign has been great at getting their message across. I would expect no less from people like John H., Annie, Josh Patashnik, and Ben Milder, all of whom I respect and count among my personal friends.

What I feel gives Voith and Tara the edge, and why I am supporting them, is their policy experience. Once the voting is done, everyone's been sworn in, etc., what matters more than ability to communicate is ability to get things done. Voith and Tara have constructed all of their platform around things they have proven experience doing--reforming social events with the model of the H/Y Pep Rally, pushing for diversity through being LEAD SPONSOR on the two curricular diversity bills in the UC, and making the UC more democratic by consulting with student groups and other stakeholders.

Theirs is a very straightforward message, and it's one that accurately describes who they are. I feel that voters--and the Crimson--care about a clear vision and proven experience more than anything else.

Let me point out on a final note a factual inaccuracy in an above comment. I did not communicate with any other member of NAHC about the endorsement process. I have been inactive in NAHC this semester because I always have had two reading responses due on Wednesday nights, and thus have not had the time to go to NAHC's Wednesday night meetings. I am very sorry about that, and I plan to be more active next semester. I hope that clears up the facts.

 
At 10:44 PM, Anonymous Daniel Koh, Campaign Manager, Voith/Gadgil said...

The additional comments to Mr. Golis’ editorial are disappointing and show an innate disrespect for the intelligence of those within student groups and for those who support John and Tara’s campaign.

Ben Milder demeans any credibility of both those in the Voith/Gadgil campaign and the membership of student groups themselves. Accusing E.E. of being the sole reason for the NAHC endorsement without any evidence is extremely misleading. It is obvious Ben had no substance for this claim, but yet stated it anyway as an assumption.

This is not the first time in which this has occurred. In a recent response to an e-mail of support over the dems-talk list, Ben accused Greg Bybee of writing a letter of support for John only because he was “Voith’s blockmate,” when in actuality, Greg lived in an entirely different section of J-Entryway and was undecided before campaigning began. It was uniformed, yet stated without reservation despite its lack of truth.

In addition, Ben’s comment that John would only get the endorsement of BMF “only because of his friendship with Kwame Owusu-Kesse” is a blatant insult to the intelligence and competency of the Black Men’s Forum. The BMF is a group who will decide their endorsement based on who they feel would be the best candidate to lead the student body, and through that criteria alone. To suggest that it will be due to personal reasons is a slap in the face and a comment of extreme disrespect.

Suggesting that John’s campaign staff is compiled of non-UC friends is uniformed. John and Tara’s inner circle of support consists of those with UC experience such as FiCom chair Jane Fang, Samson Ayele, Raul Campillo, E.E. Keenan, Nick Huber, Faraz Munaim, Parvinder Thiara, and many more – hence, the accusation that John’s inner circle has no UC experience is a blatant lie.

I also must feel the need to respond to the accusation that I am running this campaign only because I am John’s blockmate and that I am hence unqualified for the role. Interacting with John on a daily basis since freshman year has given me much exposure to UC politics, not to mention my extensive experience in Government studies and in Senatorial and Congressional campaigns. Although I have not served on the UC, I do not believe that criterion is necessary for the ability to run a successful campaign.

Finally, the decision to have Tara and John personally post to the Cambridge Common blog is an action that I see as commendable rather than indefensible. I decided that students should hear the answer straight from the candidates rather than through a third party. When questions arose from the statements, I was in charge of consulting John and Tara and subsequently responding to them; we were also by far the first candidates to address each response question fully and honestly.

The Voith/Gadgil campaign respectfully disagrees with Ben Milder’s comments and only seeks to highlight the misleading elements of his statements. John and Tara will win this election because of the unrelenting dedication of not only their extensive campaign staff and supporters but through their commitment to a clear, feasible plan for social programming and garnering student voice. I welcome the statement brought about by Mr. Milder and I have full faith in myself, my staff, and our constituency. I look forward for all parties involved to focus on planning the future success for their own personal campaigns rather than making uninformed, disrespectful attacks on others.

 
At 10:44 PM, Anonymous Josh Patashnik said...

I'd like to say that while I share Ben's feeling that "Voith's message on social programming is incomprehensible", it is certainly not my intention (nor do I think it is Ben's) to impugn E.E.'s integrity or call into question the legitimacy of the NAHC endorsement. Anyone who has served on the UC with him knows that E.E.'s integrity (not to mention his parliamentary skills) is second to none. I'd also say that while I'm proud of the hard work that everyone on the H-R campaign has put in (for all the reasons Andrew mentioned), we've been constantly impressed with the level of dedication shown by many members of the V-G camp.

I'd like to ask Andrew a question: you say our social programming position is "substantively wrong and ill-conceived". Could you elaborate on why? I for one am very proud of our social programming position and would love to open up a discussion on the subject. See my first post on this subject here.

 
At 10:46 PM, Blogger Ben said...

I was making an assumption about NAHC, and I should've known what happens when I assume! I regret and apologize for the error, E.E. Seems that Andrew and I both would both lose money from this thread ;). My comment about Kwame stands, though. Let me amend my contention: I think that the Haddock/Riley proposal for student groups is so irresistable that all student groups are inclined to endorse them, barring group-specific dynamics like personal connections and and candidate involvement in group-specific legislation (like the NAHC proposal).

The platform points you just brought up are clear. I know you helped craft the platform, so I wouldn't expect any less. My concern is about the social programming proposal specifically. You advocate both a Campus Life Committee and a Student Events Council. Is the SEC funded through the termbill fees, or from the administration, or both?

When people bring up problems with CLC like the failed booze cruise, Voith's response is always the pep rally. I question whether this is a sustainable model, because the Harvard-Yale pep rally, by its very nature, can only occur annually. Harvard cannot possibly hold monthly pep rallies. Also, I'm unclear as to what role Voith himself had in the planning; a friend on CLC told me that the CLC leadership was actually upset about their lack of control during the planning process. Personally, I don't think the pep rally was so great: I couldn't hear any of the program. Also, I know that CLC has had successes; my problem is that their track record has been decidedly mixed. I'm not so sure I'm willing to declare the problem fixed because of one event that went off without a hitch; it doesn't erase the Springfest afterparty or fallfest.

So what I think Andrew and I are saying is that when John and Annie state, "We want the UC to stop wasting money," Voith doesn't have a succinct and easily understood response. I don't doubt that there *is* a response. John Kerry had a response about his Iraq War votes too ;)

I would disagree that Voith and Tara have more "policy experience." I don't mean to minimize the importance of position papers on diversity, but I think that achieving a 24-hour library and a reform of the blocking process are more impressive and pertinent accomplishments for the UC presidency.

Also, Voith does in fact want social events to be at least somewhat separate from the UC. He has said that reforming social events will be his first priority as president. Once this is done and social events are no longer part of the UC, what relevant experience will Voith bring to the presidency? He has been on CLC this whole time, and specifically as vice chair for social events.

Regarding "caustic language" - I do realize that I have a tendency to use stronger words in online postings than I probably would in real-life. In retrospect, the Voith website isn't actually "pahetic," but is actually more like mediocre ;). This tendency may have been more pronounced here on Cambridge Common because I've largely been the only one commenting, so there's no one to offend. But I won't shy away from pointing out what I believe to be true, even if it may offend people. Also, note that I'm by no means a spokesman for the campaign - only Josh Patashnik can claim that title. Any vitriol I spew is my own ;)

 
At 11:10 PM, Blogger Ben said...

Dan,

I don't mean to impugn the integrity of anyone on the Voith/Gadgil campaign. I have great respect for their dedication and hard work.

Let me clarify my point about Kwame. I think that Kwame could deliver the BMF endorsement in roughly the same way that a governor can "deliver" his state in a presidential election. That's not to say that that the BMF won't conduct a thorough and honest endorsement interview. Rather, because of Kwame's status as the respected past president of the organization, his support would carry a lot of weight with the voting members. And because I'm so confident that the Haddock/Riley plan is the best for student groups, I personally would want to look at the internal politics of a group for reasons why they would reject Haddock's proposal and choose the Voith/Gadgil ticket.

I didn't say you were unqualified, just that you haven't been as involved in UC politics as Patashnik or Golis. I think that's one reason why Josh is running circles around you.

I think it's clear that your campaign is more friend-powered than the Haddock campaign. I don't doubt that you have UC members supporting you, it's just that we have a lot more.

In my conversation with Greg Bybee, Greg made a number of inaccurate statements including asserting that John Haddock never served in a leadership position on the UC. It's the unfortunate nature of instantaneous online discussion that some incorrect assumptions are voiced on all sides, but it's a benefit of the medium that such things can be corrected immediately.

 
At 12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very well-written post... but I'm curious: Andrew, why do you think Haddock/Riley will definitely get the Crimson endorsement tomorrow? I'm awaiting your analysis with bated breath.

-Jannie Tsuei

 
At 1:37 AM, Anonymous John Haddock said...

Andrew and others,

Thank you for starting this thread tonight. I appreciate turning everyone's attention to the many people who are running the show--they are in many ways the heart of a campaign. There is no question that we have a team of individuals who are giving their smarts, their time, and (quite frankly) their hearts to this effort. There will be absolutely no way Annie or I could ever repay the work of our friends and volunteers.

Andrew, you were of course spot on in your dissection of the haddockriley campaign strategy and staff--Josh and our inner circle run an incredibly tight ship. But in your analysis, you overlooked three of the most central aspects of our team: volunteer coordination, house mobilization, and rules/budgeting.

At any point during the week (rain, shine, or downpour), you could find at least several volunteers wielding an enormous fixtheuc sign, endorsement banners, and fishy stickers outside the science center. At any point during the week, you have members in every house and dorm checking up on posters, lists, and d-hall chatter. I only wanted to note the incredibly hard work of a number of people who are close to the center of what we do. They mean a tremendous amount to Annie and me, and I know they recognize how critical their effort has been. They deserve as much credit (and of course critique) as anyone else involved.

Anyways, Goodnight,
John

 
At 1:50 AM, Blogger Ben said...

John,

Thanks for taking the time to come and personally comment. I believe you are now the second candidate to make such such a real effort to reach out to the Harvard blogosphere (after Tom), and I'm sure everyone at Cambridge Common appreciates it!

The bottom line is that all the candidates have a dedicated campaign team.

Please get some sleep now if possible! :)

 
At 11:47 PM, Anonymous Connor Wilson said...

"John Voith is fusing the worst elements of the Glazer and Ty Moore campaigns: having a staff made up of friends, and running as the insider's insider..." - Ben Milder

Mr. Milder, I do protest. Having a staff made up of friends is never a poor choice - they can vouch for the candidate's character, they understand what is at stake, and they're often willing to work harder for the campaign than a complete stranger. I know for a fact that quality campaigners such as Andy Bestwick, all of Haddock's crazy blockmates, and even Annie Riley herself are good friends of John Haddock. Who are we kidding?

There's nothing inherently with having friends on your side. In life as in politics, the people you surround yourself with are often the difference between success and failure. It was exactly the reason why Ty and Ian were able to make such an impact last year and ultimately take the second spot - they had friends who believed in them. It was also why a campaign that no one took seriously was able to raise turnout to almost 2/3 of the campus and create the first split ticket in history.

And on that note, Mr. Golis, I also respectfully disagree with your assertion that "we... won the campaign [last year]" Matt won, but then so did Ian. I consider it a draw.

-Connor

 

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