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MacGregor-Dennis ‘outsources’ student email addresses

ASSU Vice President and current Executive candidate Stewart MacGregor-Dennis ‘13, along with a friend whom he declined to name, has paid for over $2,000 of personal and ASSU-related services through an ODesk account, including one task that involved giving access to student names and emails to third-party contractors to aggregate the data.

The account on ODesk has over 50 jobs posted since May 2011, including paying for Facebook “likes,” YouTube hits and Tumblr followers. MacGregor-Dennis denied ever paying for Facebook likes and YouTube hits, though he said he hired social media managers whose main responsibilities were generating likes, hits and followers.

Additionally, the account paid a third-party contractor listed by ODesk under the name “Rebecca S.”, living in the Philippines, to “scrape” first names, last names and email addresses of presidents, financial officers, additional officers and E-commerce officers of student groups from MyGroups, the ASSU’s student group software. The contractor organized the data into a spreadsheet in August 2011.

These student email addresses were all publicly available at the time, though the MyGroups system was later updated to require an SUID web login to access the information. This shift was made, according to director of Student Activities and Leadership (SAL) Nanci Howe, out of consideration for students, who were receiving spam.

“It hasn’t been public in many years; we’ve directed them to the directory,” said Howe, whose department oversees MyGroups, since updated to MyGroups2. This means that only emails of students who had opted to have their emails publicly available would have shown up in this “scrape.”

The Daily has not been able to get into contact with Rebecca S., the ODesk contractor. Her job is listed as “complete.” Several financial officers for student groups reported receiving personal emails from MacGregor-Dennis over the past few months asking to meet and talk about what the ASSU can do for their organizations.

MacGregor-Dennis maintains that he has never broken University policy by paying for services through ODesk or directing contractors to student information. An email to Stanford Information Technology Services asking for clarification on the University’s policy regarding distributing publicly available student information has not yet been answered.

Other jobs on the ODesk account include a Social Media Manager who has been paid over $800, a Student Government Email Assistant who has been paid over $100 and a Tumblr blog follower who has been paid $299.38 dollars.

MacGregor-Dennis later clarified that the social marketing positions were largely related to marketing for the new eDorm and “several other business ventures” he was working on this year. His most recent ASSU Facebook updates have been “liked” by between 30 and 40 people, the majority of whom are fake Facebook accounts. They share similar “likes” in addition to MacGregor-Dennis’ campaign page, such as D9 music, a book about the antichrist and a company called MAK Financial.

“Facebook Like Generator,” “Entrepreneurship Website Content Creator” and “Get 1,000 views for my YouTube video” are other items purchased through the ODesk account.

The Tumblr blog follower’s job is listed as, “I need someone to follow other blogs on Tumblr for my blog, and then later unfollow other blogs on a different day.”

“None of it is ASSU money,” MacGregor-Dennis said, citing academic interest in social media. “All of this would be distributed among friends who are interested in the area.”

MacGregor-Dennis said he does not have a problem with students learning any this information. Students, on the other hand, have not taken kindly to MacGregor-Dennis’ strategies and what could amount to a political misstep.

“This is an area of academic research for me. I think there are huge social problems to be tackled [in the labor field], and I am happy to answer any questions about this,” MacGregor-Dennis said.

About Brendan O'Byrne

Brendan is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily. Previously he was the executive editor, the deputy editor, a news desk editor and a writer for the news section. He's a history major originally from New Orleans.
  • Meowcats

    I think MacGregor-Dennis has some ego problems if he is paying for facebook likes and twitter followers.

  • <3

    hahaha “None of it is ASSU money”….that’s great, but academic interest in social media doesnt make up for the (in my opinion) pathetic-ness of spending $2000 for people to make unnecessary lists and get likes/follwers. an effective social media campaign (on such a small scale) shouldnt cost anything…the lengths people go to to get some attention…. smh

  • Concerned Student

    I have serious issues with bringing in an ASSU Executive who spends money like this.

  • some dude

    People should seriously chill over this whole social media marketing thingy. Sure, the spambot thing isn’t glorifying – there were probably better “marketing” strategies. 

    But it’s just that – a marketing mishap. You shouldn’t measure what Stewart has done for the ASSU this year down to some social media campaign, but actually at what he has done for the school (edorm, replacing zimbra with gmail etc)

  • cynic

    facebook @ stanford: undergraduates grab pitchforks because a kid payed for advertising.

    meanwhile, in egypt…

  • zork55

    1. You can’t call edorm a success yet. Approval is one thing, but we have no idea whether or not it will take off.

    2. Zimbra was going to get replaced with GMail regardless of who was in the ASSU. Let’s be real.

    3. Care to continue with the “etc.”?

  • Real World

    Welcome to politics, when the woman you slept with 30 years ago suddenly takes precedence over your career.  

  • Real World

    *where

  • PhD Candidate

    I’m worried for this guy. Stewart MacGregor-Dennis’s observable behavior in-person and online would suggest that he has many features of antisocial, narcissistic, and histrionic personality disorder. As a result, it’s likely that he suffers from an anxiety disorder, and those symptoms are often exacerbated through added stress, through scrutiny from the public, and as he gets older.

    I think people ought to show him more empathy. But most certainly, I do not think that he is in the right mental state to run for ASSU Executive. My hope is that he finds the support he needs, surrounds himself with people who can help him through this struggle, and focuses on his mental health and wellbeing.

  • Andrew

    Has anyone told this guy that nothing he has done at Stanford has been remotely innovative? It’s all cheap tricks and smoke and mirrors. 

  • another dude

    I “replaced Zimbra with Gmail” last year by filling out a section in the Gmail settings to have it collect my Stanford mail. Took two minutes. And the nice part is, if I didn’t want my email stored on a server owned by a third-party corporation, I could have chosen not to. Starting next year, we won’t have that choice.

    As for eDorm, no cOmment.

  • Anon

    Infographic on SMD: 

    http://on.fb.me/smdinfographic

  • Daft Punk

    “None of it is ASSU money”

    But it could have been. The ASSU could have used it for, say, volunteer group subsidies — if only Stewart had taken an $8000 salary instead of $10000 and given up on the sweet, sweet robot love.

  • Sophomore

    Actually, what HAS he done for the school? Basically nothing that is truly good for the entire student body. Most of his activities seem like resume padding on the ASSU’s dime so he can look good at the next step of his career

  • zork55

    keep in mind ASSU members get paid a salary..

  • JadedAlum

    This kid is going places. He will be an excellent politician, or a wealthy non-profit owner. Mark my words, this guy has what it takes to rake in the big bucks from people’s good faith.

  • Excuse me, but

    Why can’t he do with his money as he pleases?

  • Fuzzy

    eDorm puts entrepreneurial wannabes on an even higher pedestal than they are already on, while further dividing the undergraduate population along academic lines. Not a great contribution for someone so interested in “unity”

  • Mike

    So true. And he puts up these massive platforms for his candidacies with hundreds of issues that he can’t solve. Just does it to make a name for himself. Nothing more.

  • aalifimoff

    And I could get paid less to do my job as well and then the Daily would have more money to spend. But I don’t because I have things I want to spend the money on. Obama gets paid a lot of money as well. We should similarly decrease his pay!

  • aalifimoff

    Thank you.

  • aalifimoff

    Gmail’s mail forwarding is probably the least effective product that they offer. There are distinct advantages to being able to have all of your mail directly delivered to Google’s web servers. Your disagreement is valid in terms of privacy, but this does mark a substantive change. On that note, whether or not SMD is responsible for it, I won’t comment.

  • aalifimoff

    I love how you used the name “PhD Candidate”, as though that adds more legitimacy to your claims. WebMD yields the same results.

  • Meowcats

    It’s a bit shady to have people to like your campaign’s facebook page and your statuses relating to that campaign. It makes it look like people actually support you, when it’s actually same random fake profile.

  • alumni

    You’re right, he didn’t need any title to add legitimacy, Stewart very clearly has something wrong going on in his head if you just look at the sheer amount of cliches and buzz words he cranks out. No one normal could be an obsessive parrot like that for so long. I think “PhD Candidate”‘s diagnosis is spot on. This is coming from, if you must know, a “MD Candidate”, and I assure you that is already more than a WebMD search.

  • Stewart MacGregor-Dennis

    http://youtu.be/2wyWMDMAtT8

    Hey,

    We appreciate the support that we’ve gotten from many Stanford students who have reached out to us today.

    We would like to ask that you check out our video response to the day’s events.

    Let’s make this a clean election and focus on the issues and visions of the campaign slates.

    We hope you consider voting for MacGregor-Dennis & Druthi: The Stanford Student Challenge now at http://ballot.stanford.edu/

    http://youtu.be/2wyWMDMAtT8

  • Pablo

    If you have a twitter account, I am willing to bet that you don’t even know all the people who follow you. Everyone  has followers who are fake. I know I do. Welcome to the internet.

    Big deal.

  • T.I.

    So many haters…

  • troubled by this campaign

    That’s not the whole problem, the fact that his use of fake people spilled onto his campaign is what is troublesome. He is not making the competition a fair plane. THAT is a disturbing statement.

  • Guest2

     Its one thing to not know all your followers, and its another thing to have at least 30 of your 58 Facebook comment likes be fake accounts. That aint random internet chance.

  • MindofLogic

    This is disappointing.

  • Stanford Alum ’11

    Also, he took down the Likes bar on his Youtube video response, after receiving 8 likes and 10 dislikes. Not even Rebecca Black does that.

  • Some Guy

    Yeah man, speculatively declaring someone’s mental illness in a public news forum is a great way to “show him more empathy.” It’s rhetoric like yours—prescribing what the rest of us should do, while removing yourself from responsibility—that gives intellectualism a bad name, Phd Candidate. Say what you will about Stewart’s actions, but this whole backlash has been handled in the most immature, vitriolic, and embarrassing way possible.

  • zork55

    I absolutely saw this happen to multiple people and multiple comments. I’ve completely lost respect for Stewart.

  • Abc

    I’m not sure where in med school you learned that it was good practice to diagnose someone you had never met with a mental illness on the internet–that’s a permanent mark on their reputation, maybe you missed the Hippocratic oath?–but these attacks are way over the line. Calling attention to someone’s disingenuous political tactics is fair game–it’s relevant to whether they’ll be an honest leader. But for the love of God, this has gone too far. He doesn’t deserve this. Stop. 

  • MindofLogic

    Stewart, many of your supporters had given you the benefit of the doubt when this news first broke. But the way you’ve censored everyone –on your videos and FB wall– crosses the line, and is only further evidence of your attempts to deliberately misguide the electorate. Do what is right and be “transparent” with people. At this point, it just looks like you’re trying to get elected and it is not working. People are not stupid. You will probably lose this race and there is little you can do to change that. But you do still have a choice to lose honorably or not. Make the right choice and show us you still have integrity and character.

  • What logic?

    Why? Because people like yourself have resorted to vicious character attacks and have decided to ignore his right to spend his money however he so chooses. Junk comments have no place on Facebook, and he has the right to delete mindless ad hominem trash from his own page. Did he lose that right too?

  • Student

     The Palpatine email copied this statement essentially verbatim. This is completely getting out of hand.

  • Disgusted

    The line was crossed when people made personal, and truly illogical, attacks on Stewart.

    When did he lose the right to invest his money however he wanted? Sure, feel free to discuss whether his marketing strategy was effective or not, but please, don’t make these ridiculous moral accusations. He had money, he found people willing to work for that money, and both parties carried out their end of the deal. If his platform means so much he is willing to pay $2K for it, so be it. That is his choice to make. Not yours. Not mine. And yes people, his salary is his. It does not belong to the ASSU.

    When did he lose the right to clean up his Facebook? Clearly, the man has addressed these ridiculous accusations, with far more grace and class than I could have. If someone wants to post attacks on his page, the first thing I’d do is delete them. They have no place on anyone’s personal profile. Believe it or not, a FB profile is not a public space for anyone to throw out whatever junk attacks they’d like. Facebook gives the owner of the profile the ability to  get rid of the trash, a right that you, like many, have failed to respect.

    Sadly, I don’t have much hope for SMG. Despite their efforts to end world peace and save the planet, Stanford students can be nasty, vicious animals. There is no honor in how Stewart has been attacked, and its a shame this election will not be about the platforms.

  • Lib

    I think you missed a few points here
    1) Voters HAVE the right to judge purchases/services relevant to the campaign. It isn’t the problem that he outsources tasks, it’s what services he bought. For example, voters should care if someone spends a grand on cupcakes versus a grand hiring people to systematically dupe the community into thinking he has more support than he really does. Disclosure: I’m a libertarian so everything you said I generally agree with, just not in this context
       If you want to call people being outraged at deception a “personal attack” then fine.

    2) I think the overall response does not show viciousness. The response would not be so overwhelming for 99% of the student population, so clearly Stewart over the years really has offended, botched tasks, and embarrassed the community. This ill will did not appear over night, nor was it inspired just by a few meme pictures online. 
    People are just standing up to prevent a massive election mistake. Please respect democracy even when it works against your friends.

  • Meowcats

    We can criticize him for using his money to have people like his statuses relating to his campaign. Isn’t it questionable to have fake people like statuses relating to your campaign (giving the appearance that you have much support)?

  • zork55

    When you are running for executive office, albeit one in student government, you are held to higher standards. The ASSU exec is the face of the Stanford student body. 

    This is something that many people clearly don’t realize when they use the tired argument of “it’s his money/he can do what he wants with it.”