Advertisement

John Cooke ’25 Ousted in Harvard Undergraduate Association Recall Vote

{shortcode-9705625ca4d969fef20cc2aaa7376e2165f424e7}

College students voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to oust Harvard Undergraduate Association Co-President John S. Cooke ’25 as unspecified misconduct allegations swirled around him.

The effort to recall Cooke succeeded with 88 percent of voters in favor of removing him from office. The 1549-211 vote to recall Cooke vastly outstripped voter turnout for last week’s HUA election, with 305 more students participating in the recall election on Thursday.

Cooke wrote in a Friday morning statement to The Crimson that “serving the student body has been the honor of a lifetime.”

“I remain proud of the work that my team and I have accomplished, and I’m excited to pass the torch to the next slate of leaders,” Cooke added.

Advertisement

Multimedia

Weather Smith Campus Center

Weather Smith Campus Center

Smith Campus Center Renovations

Smith Campus Center Renovations

The symbolic recall effort, which was promoted by the Harvard Feminist Coalition, came nine days before the end of his tenure and after his successors had already been elected last weekend.

The vote to remove Cooke reflected the student body’s outrage over the misconduct allegations against him and a determination to hold Cooke accountable for his alleged wrongdoing, even though the time he had left in student government was quickly expiring.

Cooke has denied all allegations against him, dismissing them in a Wednesday op-ed as “dirty campaign tricks.” He has not been publicly accused of any specific wrongdoing.

It is not clear how Cooke’s recall from office will impact the HUA’s leadership team in the coming days. According to the HUA’s constitution and bylaws, Cooke’s position as HUA co-president will immediately become vacant.

The constitution states that after the successful recall of a co-president, HUA officers should appoint an acting co-president until the Election Commission holds an election for the vacant position within four weeks. However, the HUA’s next crop of officers will take office in a matter of days on April 20.

The downfall of one of the most ubiquitous student government leaders on campus began in late March, when the Fox Club — a single-gender Harvard final club — expelled Cooke as a member over misconduct allegations.

Over the next two days, members of the HUA’s executive team held emergency meetings with the Dean of Students Office, in which they discussed Cooke’s expulsion from the Fox and the possibility of him resigning from the HUA.

During the talks, Andy Donahue, a DSO administrator who serves as the College’s liaison with the HUA, told the executive officers that Cooke could not be forced to resign. Cooke vowed not to resign from his role at the first meeting with the DSO.

But just three days after Cooke’s expulsion from the Fox, the Harvard Feminist Coalition launched a petition for a vote to recall Cooke from office due to his allegations of misconduct.

Within 24 hours, HFC announced that the petition had garnered 527 signatures among undergraduate students, eclipsing the 391 signatures — 20 percent of votes cast in the spring 2023 HUA elections — required to trigger a recall election.

After denying multiple interview and comment requests, Cooke broke his silence about the misconduct allegations in the op-ed published on Wednesday — just 12 hours into the campaigning period ahead of the recall election.

Cooke’s op-ed marked his first public statement in two weeks.

“I’m not worried, and I’m going to stand strong,” Cooke wrote in the op-ed. “I am confident that the truth will prevail. I am confident that the student body will recognize these rumors as baseless.”

On Thursday, Cooke continued to campaign against the recall and posted a story on his public Instagram account imploring students to vote against the effort.

“Please take 30 seconds to vote NO in my Recall Election. I really appreciate your support,” the story read.

Around 8 p.m. on Thursday, Cooke sent emails to undergraduate students, again encouraging students to vote against his recall. It was not immediately clear how many students received the email from Cooke. Cooke also sent individual text messages to undergraduate students on Thursday with the same request for them to vote against the effort to recall him from office.

Cooke’s email campaign appeared to violate the HUA Election Commission’s rules for the recall election. In an email defining rules for the recall election, the Election Commission wrote that the recall election must follow existing HUA election guidelines, which state that “cold emails to individuals as well as campaign texts to organized group chats will be banned.”

But the final vote margin ultimately rendered any complaints about Cooke’s campaign impropriety moot.

—Staff writer Cam N. Srivastava can be reached at cam.srivastava@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @camsrivastava.

—Staff writer William Y. Tan can be reached at william.tan@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @william_y_tan.

Tags

Advertisement