By Nick Bray, Staff Writer
The UMF Student Senate recently conducted elections for the 2016-2017 executive board and junior Jamie Austin was elected the new president.
To conduct such an important election, it is imperative that the student body be notified about when to vote. It appears as though notification about the election was not very comprehensive and may have led to some students not being aware that the elections were taking place, especially the off campus commuters.
The only official advertising for the election came in the form of a powerpoint slide that was projected on the televisions in the Student Center, as well as a printed table of the times in which voting would take place which was posted on the door of the Student Senate office. Unofficially, UMF senators were instructed to notify people about the election, via word of mouth, and postings on their personal social media accounts. I personally only knew the election was occurring because I saw a candidate post about it on their Facebook page, after the elections had already begun.
The elections are placed in the care of the Election Committee, a group of senate executive board members, as well as senators in the general assembly. Nick Bucci, outgoing president, was chair of the election committee.
“My job is to delegate other tasks to my committee members, but they were all quite busy this semester and it’s winding down,” said Bucci, “So, I took on most of the responsibilities for advertising, acquiring a notary for when we do the election counting tonight, and setting up tabling hours.”
Less than 10 percent of the UMF student body voted in the executive board election. As of April 21, there are 1687 undergraduate students registered at UMF. Excluding the write-in votes, only 113 people voted in the race for president, resulting in only 6.7 percent of students voting in this race.
The election committee should have done a better job at conducting this election. Although only one race was contested (Vice President), the election process is important as a whole. This election represents an opportunity for UMF students to have a voice in who represents them on the senate. The senate is responsible for many important operations on this campus, including managing the Student Activity Fee funds, and the club budgets, which are in excess of $250,000.
Students cannot possibly voice their opinion if they are not aware of the election in the first place. To make matters worse, the commuter population was nearly 100% unspoken for.
Even Cody Smith, president of the Off Campus Commuter Council was unaware of the election process. “I only learned about it from Nick Bucci’s post on facebook.” said Smith. It seems as though a lot of commuters do not have much of a reason to visit the student center often enough to notice the powerpoint advertisement.
If a commuter student didn’t know a UMF Student Senator, there was no way that a commuter would have been aware of the election at all. “I think they should be able to get a lot more advertising.” Smith said. As an off campus student myself, I’m disappointed to see that senate didn’t do more to inform us of the election.
If the election committee could have been more proactive, they could have placed a notice in the weekly UMF Student Notices, an email that gets sent out to all students. They could have also placed flyers in the residence halls, and academic buildings across campus.
The election committee members that realized they had little to no time to assist with the election should have resigned, so they could have been replaced by members that President Bucci could actually delegate tasks to, instead of having to do most of the work himself.
Kirsten Swan, faculty advisor to Student Senate, believes more could have been done to improve advertising for the election. However, Swan acknowledged that the election policy in the Senate bylaws need updating.
“They were last updated in 2005” Swan said.“They don’t address social media as a means of campaigning. Because in 2005, we weren’t doing that.” Swan supports the creation of a commissioner of social media to address the new ways that information can disseminated to students.
One of the most important responsibilities of the student senate are to remain transparent and consistent. “As senate moves forward, they need to work on being more consistent and more transparent.” Swan said.