Not enough campaigning efforts, info, students say

By Derek Hawkins

The first ever direct elections for Student Government Association (SGA) president are less than two weeks away, but many students said they are not prepared to make an informed choice.

In a random sampling of more than two dozen students, few had any knowledge of the upcoming elections, the candidates or their platforms.

The candidates – Christopher Bourne, a sophomore political science and psychology major, and Joey Fiore, a middler geology and history major – began campaigning last week after they were nominated Monday night. Bourne has held one public meeting and Fiore has met with several student organizations. Both have created web pages and Facebook groups where they have published personal statements.

“What’s missing now is public debate,” said communications professor Richard Katula. “Without resorting to personal attacks they should put forward some comparison between themselves and their opponent. That would sharpen their campaigns in a way the student body needs to see.”

Christopher Bosso, a professor and associate dean of the School of Social Science, Public Affairs and Public Policy, also said candidates should address the student body directly and not limit their campaigns to the Internet.

“The best way to get people to vote will be door knocking and introductions,” he said. “Technology won’t replace good grassroots campaigning. There’s nothing like a personal request to vote – that’s what makes a difference.”

Yui Anzai, a sophomore psychology and music major, said she began researching Bourne and Fiore when they were nominated last week. But neither candidate has campaigned effectively, she said.

“The assumption is that if it’s a direct election then it’s more representative,” she said. “But from what I see that probably won’t happen. The sad thing about this is that the biggest thing we’ve seen is the candidates’ Facebook pages.”

Anzai posted a question on Bourne’s Facebook group’s wall March 15 about the lack of summer and upper-level honors courses in her major.

Both Bourne and Fiore responded to her question, but not until days later.

Anzai said she was discouraged.

“There needs to a better way for students to ask questions and get real answers,” she said. “The move to hold direct elections is trying to make students more aware, but it won’t help if students don’t know what they’re voting about.”

Brian Dixon, a middler music technology and multimedia studies major, agreed the candidates haven’t been thorough enough in their campaigns so far.

“The students should be offended that these elections have been run so poorly. The candidates aren’t following through,” Dixon said. “As a voter, I don’t want to have to do all the work. If the candidates don’t approach me, I have no motivation to seek them out.”

Although most students didn’t share Anzai and Dixon’s concern for the upcoming elections, many said they expect the future SGA president to improve communication among the faculty, SGA and student body.

“The candidates need to know what the students actually want so they can be a segue between the students and the university,” said freshman biochemistry major Dan Bittner. “They need to be able to communicate to the faculty. I care about whether they can do the job and fulfill the will of the students.”

Senior human services major Jesse Jolly, who knew of the elections but not the candidates, agreed that making SGA more accessible should be one of the incoming president’s top priorities.

“The president needs to be a voice for the students,” she said. “It’s intimidating now. If I feel like if I have a problem with the university that I can’t go to the SGA to get it solved.”

However, for others, like middler history and international affairs major Ali Cunningham, next month’s elections are a chance for the SGA to revamp its role on campus.

“If they’re going to have effective direct elections, student government needs to be generally more available,” Cunningham said. “But if they can’t make the elections matter, then they can’t make the president matter.”

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