Getting the word out

Spring is in the air at the University, which means one thing for the students active in Student Government, Inc. – elections. In order to be in the running for a SGI position, hopeful students must start by doing what every person in office has done – hitting the campaign trail.

For the 2010-11 school year, 18 candidates are running for SGI positions, including two full tickets (Progressing in Academics Revamping Traditions and Enhancing Your Experience and UNITE), and four independent candidates. This is the most candidates SGI has had to date.

The current 18 students running were weeded out of the 31 students who showed interest in running for the positions. An exam was issued on March 5 based on the rules, bylines, and background of SGI, including the specifics of the campaigning process.

Those who received a passing grade of 70 percent or higher moved on to campaigning.

“Campaigning is a multi-step process,” said Chenele Francis, the SGI Elections Chair.

“It is not just about passing out flyers; it is about talking to people and student engagement. I am really pushing for maximum engagement, not just for maximum voter turnout.”

As the Elections Chair, Francis is in charge of making sure the candidates are in accordance of the rules during campaigning, and that every candidate has the same advantage to get their name out in the University.

“We have so much going on in the school right now,” said Francis.

“We need to make sure whoever gets this represents your views. They have to talk to people, go to general body meetinga – everything that they can.”

The candidates are expected to follow the
rules set in place by the elections committee, including that all online social networking campaigns and flyers must be approved by Francis and kept on file.

Candidates are not allowed to put up personal flyers in residence halls, where campaigning is not permitted except during designated time periods.

“Only general election posters are permitted in the resident halls,” said Francis. “It is equated to telemarketing – people do not want to be bothered in their own home.”

Candidates who go against the regulations of campaigning will receive a violation that will ban them from campaigning for 24 hours. After three violations, the candidate is disqualified from the race.

None of the candidates have been issued violations as of March 23.

Although there are strict regulations and specific bylaws candidates must adhere to, all of the candidates have come up with their own unique ways to campaign.

Natalie Hincapite, who is running independently for senior senator, has been building on the University’s mission during her campaigning process.

“I take on the Vincentian approach when it comes to campaigning. I go to the library, I have discussions with people while I am eating dinner, and I talk normally. I want to hear what is going on,” she said.

Katie Beckmann, who is running on the UNITE ticket for vice president, says her party has been using a mixture of social networking and conversations.

“We are on Facebook, and every day at noon you will see us in Marillac and the D’Angelo Center,” she said.

“We are trying to talk to as many people as we can.”

Patrick Brewer, who is running under the P.A.R.T.Y ticket for president, said his team is focusing on reaching many types of students rather than specific organizations.

“It’s an interesting time to be running. Students are most concerned with the new scheduling and the shuttle buses right now” he said.

“It’s a good time for people to become involved because of the big changes the University is experiencing.”

What makes the SGI campaigning process different from typical political elections in the outside world, is that all of the candidates must balance their academic and personal lives, along with working toward their political goals.

“It is a draining experience, you are pulling 18-hour days, and not getting much sleep,” said Beckmann. “But when you are committed to this position and trying to get your name out there, it is worth it.”

For Michael Molina, presidential candidate for the UNITE ticket, being constantly in contact is the most difficult aspect of the process.

“One of the most draining parts of the campaign is the meet and greet, meeting thousands of students on a daily basis,” said Molina. “There is not a moment when you are not in an interview, running a social networking site, or answering e-mails. It takes a lot out of you.”

For Tami Telford, the vice presidential candidate for the P.A.R.T.Y ticket, the excitement and adrenaline of the campaigning is what keeps her going.

“What keeps me going is that this is exciting,” said Telford.

“It is two weeks of campaigning, then you find out how many students you have reached. The fact that I can talk to hundreds of students today keeps me going.”

Although the campaigning has been intense since it began on March 15, the candidates have been receiving positive feedback, and plan on getting more aggressive until campaigning officially ends on March 30, when students can begin voting.

“Our campaign techniques are going to anyone who is out there, and reaching as many groups of people that we can,” said Brewer.

“We are reaching out to people in Marillac, Montogris and the D’Angelo Center, finding out students’ needs, and letting them know that we are here.”

Students can begin voting at midnight on March 29 and vote until March 30, on St. John’s Central, and at designated polling places.