SGA candidates make final appeals to voters as election arrives

By Chris Shores

Nearly 100 candidates are running in this fall’s University of Massachusetts Student Government Association election, which will take place Monday and Tuesday. The ballot includes 50 candidates seeking senate seats, 44 applying for spots in local House Councils and one running for a lieutenant governor position.

According to Chancellor of Elections Christopher Faulkner, students can vote either day in the Campus Center from 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. or in any of the dining commons, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.  Students can select senators from their residential area, as well as a House Council of President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer from their dorm cluster.

All of the candidates strongly encourage students to vote, many citing the fact that the SGA controls a budget of two million dollars. Voting for candidates will determine what is or is not done with that money, voiced many.

“It is essential that people vote in this upcoming election. There is an opportunity to elect the leaders of student government and have this organization represent the students,” said Erica Nyer, candidate for a Southwest (north) senate seat. “Students should vote so they have a student body that directly represents the students. These issues affect everyone, and every individual has the power to do something.”

Each residential area is allotted a certain number of senators to represent them in the SGA. Four areas – Central, Northeast, Orchard Hill and Southwest (south) – have competitive races this election. In Orchard Hill, eight candidates are seeking three open senate seats, making it the most competitive SGA senate race. In Central, six candidates are seeking four open seats. Four Northeast students are running for three spots. In Southwest (south), nine students vie for six open senate positions.

Both Southwest (north) and Sylvan have complete ballots, with four and two candidates, respectively.

There are 16 commuter students running for 17 spots. In the North apartments, zero students are on the ballot (there are two senatorial spots). Write-in candidates can win these positions and could potentially win other positions if they collect more votes than students on the ballot.

This year, SGA election planning members has decided to hold House Council elections at the same time as the SGA senate races, something they hope will have a positive effect on the election.

“I think that having House Councils elected alongside Senators will bridge the gap between the different branches of the SGA and will hopefully result in a higher voter turnout because with more candidates comes more people actively mentioning elections and getting their friends, neighbors and supporters to vote,” said Faulkner.

Of the candidates running for President, Vice President, Secretary or Treasurer of their cluster’s House Council, 17 candidates are running unopposed. There are 10 positions that have at least two candidates running, including the entire Webster/Dickinson Cluster in Orchard Hill. Six individuals are applying for President of Webster/Dickinson, with two candidates running in every category.

A Daily Collegian survey of those running for SGA positions revealed that many candidates have similar issues they would like to address if elected. Several candidates discussed their desire for the availability of wireless Internet in all dorms on campus and discussed the parking situation for students. Others said their main focus would be on improving the “transparency and accountability” of the SGA, better allocating funds for students and improving communication between the SGA and the campus body.Another issue that many of the candidates wished to address is already on the ballot this fall in the form of a referendum: Whether or not the SGA voting should be conducted online in an electronic form rather than at polling stations.

“We are one of a handful of campuses in the country without online elections, and I think that the SGA should be ashamed of itself for disenfranchising commuter students,” said Derek Khanna, who said he has been pushing for online voting for three years.

One concern about online voting has been a growing fear that “over-the-shoulder” voting might occur, influencing the vote one way or another in favor of a certain candidate.

A second referendum on the ballot aims to establish a new $1 student fee, which would create a UMass Independent Film Production Club. Such a fee would be similar to the MassPIRG fee currently automatically charged to student’s bursar bills.

An online voting guide for the SGA elections can be found on our website.

Chris Shores can be reached at [email protected].