Wednesday, July 24, 2024

SA elections lack enough candidates

By Aleksandra Sidorova

General Student Association elections are happening April 18. However, another — special — election will follow, as there are not enough candidates running to fill all positions.

In total, there are 24 positions to fill. Eight of the positions are on the Executive Council — president, vice president, treasurer and five coordinators — and the other 16 positions are in the Senate. It is crucial that all positions are filled, as each senator is responsible for a unique aspect of student life, from College Auxiliary Services to living off-campus. No candidates are running for treasurer and three senator positions.

To Senator Dhruv Shah, the responsibility that lies within the treasurer position is deterring students from running. Shah also said SA members have done work behind the scenes encouraging people they know to run in elections.

SA Liaison Tyler Hargraves said the responsibility to promote elections falls on all components of the SA, although the Board of Elections could choose not to promote it. Hargraves, who also advises the Board of Elections, declined to comment on the effectiveness of current efforts to promote the elections, saying he would prefer to leave judgment up to students.

To Chair of Elections Mary Stockman, poor turnout is the result of a lack of promotion. This responsibility has not been clearly defined and communicated across the SA. 

“It’s embarrassing, it’s sad that people who are supposed to represent the student body are lacking in representing the student body because they’re not making sure that there’s a next legislation,” Stockman said.

Stockman said promoting the election is not the Board of Elections’ responsibility because it lacks the resources the SA has to promote it, such as access to the Instagram account. Instead, the board, which Stockman said is an entity separate from the SA yet connected to it, focuses on organizing elections and ensuring they are fair and not degrading to other candidates. 

Stockman said the BOE communicated the need to promote elections “many times,” including personally discussing the matter with SA President Taiba Azeem and Vice President Saran Kaba and addressing the Executive Council in a meeting.

The minutes for the Executive Council meeting March 27 show that the Executive Council suggested postponing the deadline for candidates to submit their application packets, which Stockman refused. 

The meeting minutes quote Kaba as saying, “I think it’s not fair to put it all on us when it is also your job to promote. It’s not just on us.” The minutes also quote Azeem: “I agree that the Student Association didn’t do their job by promoting it, but we need to work together to fix this mistake and have a functioning election.” 

The same day, the SA instagram account posted a reminder for candidates to submit their application packets — the first time it posted about elections since March 20, a week prior.

SA Coordinator for the Arts and Public Relations Manager Pilar Balader Herrero expressed her personal opinion on the matter in an email statement: 

“I think all officers let go of the reins a little bit with the promotional aspect of the elections when we saw how intensely involved the board of elections was, compared to other years,” Balader stated. “We didn’t actually understand how much BOE was involved in the marketing of the elections, and we ended up being two groups expecting the other one to take the first step. Communication has been our number one priority ever since the start of the year, and there is still a lot of room for improvement on that front.”

In an email statement, similarly to Balader, Azeem said the SA was expecting “similar buzz and results” to the previous election, which had the “highest voter turnout and the maximum number of participants.” 

Kaba stated in an email that “lack of promotion or awareness about the available positions could have contributed to the lack of candidates.” It is also generally “not uncommon for student organizations,” such as the SA, “to face challenges in finding candidates for leadership positions, especially during elections,” due to the responsibility the positions require of the candidates.

Kaba wrote that it is important to let all students know about the responsibilities each role entails, so they can make a more informed decision of whether to run in the election. Additionally, candidates can benefit from “training and mentorship opportunities” to prepare them for the challenges and responsibilities they will face.

There have been some adjustments to the candidate registration process. To run for a position on the Executive Council, candidates must gather 115 signatures from SUNY Plattsburgh students. This has not been a requirement for general elections since 2020, when it was dropped due to COVID-19 measures limiting students’ interaction with each other. 

“We needed to get to a more post-COVID kind of mindset, and I feel like Board of Elections was in a pre-COVID, during-COVID kind of mindset, and I wanted to progress the campus a bit more,” Stockman said.

Some of the five BOE members were against reintroducing the signature requirement, but Stockman thought it was fair to do so. In the decision, she considered that this was practiced at SUNY Plattsburgh before COVID, is practiced at other colleges’ student organizations and mimics politics beyond college.

“I think it’s just fair to bring back signatures because you’re running for exec,” Stockman said.

This measure also shows a candidate is motivated, Stockman said. 

Other requirements include submitting an application by the deadline of March 28 and having a cumulative GPA higher than 2.0. There is also a form to indicate anticipated campaign expenses not to exceed $100, which the SA will cover.

There are also guidelines for student campaigns. For example, students may not campaign door to door unless they have obtained permission from Campus Housing and Community Living. It is also not allowed to slip flyers under residents’ doors, which the BOE’s election guidelines describe as a “violation of privacy” and “unwanted ‘clutter.’”

“Ultimately, it’s essential to ensure that the election process is fair and transparent and that all candidates have equal opportunities to participate,” Kaba’s statement read. “Encouraging diversity and inclusivity in student leadership can also help ensure that a broad range of perspectives and experiences are represented in decision-making processes.”

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