A candidate forum was held yesterday for the virtually uncontested Student Assembly elections in the auditorium of Robert Purcell Community Center.
Though the candidate forum was posted on the S.A.’s website and open to all students, no students unaffiliated with the elections were in attendance. Organizers billed the forum as an opportunity for the candidates to meet and discuss their platforms, but with only 22 candidates running for the 19 seats across the board, only two races are actually in play for the upcoming elections slated to be held from March 5 through March 7.
No one is running for the College of Human Ecology seat. Of the 22 candidates running for seats, 18 attended the forum.
“If you ask me, the running of candidates unopposed and the S.A. having unfilled seats is an elections nightmare,” said current S.A. member Ryan Lavin, ’09, who himself is running unopposed for the ILR seat.
Nitin Chadda ’07, director of elections for the S.A., said the forum was “the only opportunity for candidates to publicly engage in substantial discussion.” The candidates discussed their reasons for running for S.A., how they felt the group should better communicate with students and their opinions on a recent resolution that bars candidates from running on group tickets.
Chadda said that a possible reason for the lack of attendance at the forum was that “the election is much less controversial this year because there are no tickets.”
Two weeks ago the S.A. passed Resolution 22, the Resolution for the Revision and Adoption of Student Assembly Election Rules, barring candidates from forming tickets or partisan slates of any form in an attempt to make the elections more fair and accessible to all.
[img_assist|nid=21737|title=Thinking ahead.|desc=Ryan Lavin ’09, currently the representative to the S.A. from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, discusses next year’s goals for the S.A.|link=node|align=left|width=100|height=66]
“In the past, students organized tickets around students that were considered ‘electable’ and not based on the students’ dedication to the S.A. This led to many students serving on the S.A. who were not dedicated to, nor really interested in their position,” Chadda said.
Though at yesterday’s forum many candidates and members of the S.A. discussed their belief that banning tickets was fair, it has resulted in a very low number of candidates running in this year’s elections, with only 22 students running in comparison to last year’s 56. Only two of the 12 elections are contested: the two College of Agriculture and Life Sciences seats and that for the four at-large/undesignated seats.
Chadda said he believed the reason so few candidates were running was because “last year’s election was very controversial, insubstantial and unnecessarily personal. This served to drive people away from S.A. elections.”
Chadda also said he felt more candidates had been inspired to run in the past because of the notoriety of the S.A. and students feeling the need for reform.
“This year’s S.A. was very productive and non-controversial. As there was no notoriety, fewer students felt the need to run for S.A. in order to change its character. This was not the case in the past,” Chadda said.
Some current S.A. members expressed doubt about the new resolution barring tickets.
“Though I supported it initially, I later pulled my name as I felt it was a very general solution to a very specific problem,” said Mark Coombs ’08, executive vice president and a candidate for an at-large seat.
Coombs said he felt that although tickets were often unfairly organized and run, they did provide help to new students in getting their name out.
“A freshman or sophomore who hasn’t yet served on the S.A. will have a very difficult time convincing other students of his or her merit without the help of other S.A. members, which is a real shame because there are other candidates I’d like to support and give a hand to in the elections process,” Coombs said.
Students discussed campaign platforms such as extending the hours of Libe Café, providing wireless internet in all on-campus dorms and better and more consistent plowing of the sidewalks and walkways on campus. Another important issue that was discussed was byline funding, as next year will serve as a review year for how the S.A. funds on-campus clubs and activities.
Many candidates advocated for reform of the current Student Assembly Finance Commission funding process.
“Students expect a 40 percent cut in their funding request, and thus inflate their budgets by 40 percent to make up the difference,” said Vince Hartman ’08, current S.A. Arts and Sciences representative.
“We need to create a better system in which students will provide honest budgets because they place trust in the funding process,” Hartman said.