Photo courtesy of Harrilchak Norris 2017

On the night of Sunday, April 24, USG campaign videos, photos, websites, Facebook groups and logos suddenly arrived on the internet without any warning. One logo stood out.

Harrilchak-Norris 2017 is one of three campaigns for USG president and vice president, featuring Drew Harrilchak for president and Brian Norris for vice president. Their platform is simply the letter “u,” with a brief explanation that they will be crowdsourcing their entire platform to put the “yo[u]back in DU.” Staff positions, as listed on their website, include “Chief Alternative Fact Checker,” “Chief of Style,” “Fake News and Meme Expert” as well as others. Clearly this is not the most serious of USG campaigns.

However, while the website and campaign video are full of jokes poking fun at student government campaigns, the logo and a handful of other photos go more than a step too far. The worst photo is one where Harrilchak and Norris are photoshopped into the background of the photo of the flag raising at Iwo Jima in World War II. In the photo, the two candidates are pumping their fists in celebration.

Harrilchak and Norris also had themselves photoshopped into the photo of multiple U.S. leaders, including then President Obama and then Secretary of State Clinton, watching the assault on Osama bin Laden’s compound that would eventually kill bin Laden. Many people celebrated the death of bin Laden, but to use a photo of leaders watching this extremely tense moment that put members of the United States Armed Forces at risk as a campaign shtick is just too far.

Slightly less offensive, but still disrespectful, is the campaign’s use of of the Hillary for America 2016 and the Obama For America logo as the “H” in Harrilchak and the “O” on Norris. It may not seem like much, but these logos represent something more than themselves, including the thousands of people who worked behind these logos to create what they believed to be a better country, not the whims of a couple of college kids. Not only that, but they were used by the first woman to win the nomination of a major American political party and the first black man to become president—this is stating the obvious, but neither Harrilchak nor Norris are either of these things.

The campaign has also photoshopped Harrilchak’s face into the Obama “Hope” posters, the intellectual property of which belongs to artist Shepard Fairey. The logos that the Harrilchak-Norris campaign used are also copyrighted material, and honestly, so might be the pictures. So not only is it insulting, it’s possibly illegal.

I can’t speak to the intent of the candidates, but whether or not the intent was malicious doesn’t really matter. Intent to be offensive doesn’t have to exist for something to be offensive.

And before everyone starts screaming about political correctness, what about the general concept of not using other people’s work and creating something of your own? Whether or not this is a serious campaign doesn’t matter; Harrilchak-Norris is following all of the same rules as every other USG campaign, so they should be treated as such. The rest of the campaigns created their own logos, so what was stopping Harrilchak-Norris? Not to mention the flagrant violation of copyright laws that protect both logos.

For these photos and logos to be used by a pair of white men jokingly running for student body president is disrespectful and offensive. It really makes me question the level of social awareness and respect possessed by both of these candidates, and both of those are qualities that I consider essential for anyone looking to hold any kind of elected office.

It’s most likely too late for this campaign to take this into consideration, but I sincerely hope that any future campaign would be much more respectful than this.