New rules in place for SGA Presidential election

Election Day is Feb. 16. If needed, there is an Election Run Off Day on Mar. 2. Collegian file photo. 

MEGHAN STRATTON | STAFF REPORTER | mstratton@butler.edu

The candidates for Student Government Association president will begin campaigning on Feb 16.  Applications to be on the ballot were due on Feb 12. After the candidates attend a 5 p.m. meeting Feb. 16 with the Election Oversight Committee to go over election rules they are allowed to begin campaigning.

According to Jen Agnew, the associate director of the PuLSE office, the students that comprise the Election Oversight Committee are the official election figures.

The Election Oversight Committee reviews the guidelines for all SGA elections, monitors the campaigns, sets the schedule for the election, and evaluates all campaign violation submissions.

Each year at this point in the semester, students are able to run for SGA president and Cabinet. Everyone who meets the requirements will become a candidate, and there is no maximum number of students that can run for one position. To become president, a student must be enrolled full time and an upperclassman.

Annie Keirn, sophomore communication sciences and disorders major, is the College of Communication senator and director of the Election Oversight Committee. She was a member of this committee last year as well.

“There are a few big new rules this year and the others are just rewordings to make old rules better,” Keirn said. “The first big one is that we added an appeals section this year.”

A previously existing policy states that there are three levels of violations: minor, major and severe. Two minors equals a major and two majors equals a severe violation. If a student commits a severe violation, he or she is no longer able to run for office.

Minor violations involve breaking rules regarding posting flyers while severe violations involve online posting and defamation of character, according to SGA election guidelines.

If a candidate submits a violation against an opposing candidate and that candidate gets removed from the election, he or she may submit an appeal.

The decision will then be presented to the SGA senate, and if the decision is upheld, the Student Conduct Board will make the final decision as to whether or not the candidate is still allowed to run for office. The Student Conduct Board consists of 20 students, professors and faculty members whose general duty is to review appeals of administrative decisions that concern academic and behavioral violations.

The second new rule concerns alleged harassment violations. If a violation is submitted and the Election Oversight Committee believes it to be harassment, Student Affairs is now able to review the case as well.

“We worked closely with Sally Click, dean of Student Services, to make this rule because obviously we don’t want any harassment and that’s a big deal,” Keirn said. “With this rule, the violator will possibly be punished on the campus end as well.”

Harassment includes but is not limited to “any verbal or physical behavior… that is directed at one person or a group that creates an offensive or hostile environment,” according to the Butler University Student Handbook.

Alleged harassment can send a student to the University student conduct system and potentially subject them to criminal prosecution under appropriate federal, state, or municipal law.

The final new rule is SGA Cabinet members may not endorse candidates or serve on campaign staffs, so as not to heavily affect the election.

 The members of cabinet include the parliamentarian, director of marketing and communication, director of programming, director of service and philanthropy, vice president of finance, vice president of student initiatives, director of diversity and inclusion and the SGA president.

“This was a decision we made based off of something that happened in last year’s election,” Keirn said. “One of last year’s presidential candidates had a cabinet member on their campaign team. Even though the cabinet member was not outwardly endorsing this candidate on social media or in person, they were still helping the candidate by being on the campaign team.”

The opposing candidate then came to the Election Oversight Committee with concerns about this process.

“A cabinet member represents SGA whether they’re doing their job or not, both on and off campus,” Keirn said. “We didn’t find it in the best interest to have someone who represents SGA endorsing a candidate, for fear that their position will sway the campaign.”

Elishua Burca, a sophomore viola performance major, believes the SGA elections give a voice to the student body.

“SGA has done a really great job of representing students this year on campus, and I don’t think we would’ve had that with just administrators,” Burca said. “I’ve really enjoyed the events SGA has worked on.”

In addition, campus organizations are not allowed to endorse candidates. These organizations include Greek Life, any club and SGA itself.

Taylor Dickerson, a first-year political science and history major, serves as the ResCo senator.

“There were endorsement matters that I was hoping to further discuss and amend for purpose of clarification before the new guidelines passed, which is unfortunate,” Dickerson said. “However, I think that Annie [Keirn] and the Election Oversight Committee know what they’re doing and had justification for all  the changes. After this election they may realize other flaws and we’ll tweak them again. It’s all part of the process to try to make the elections as fair as possible.”

The Election Oversight Committee will be looking at the rules for cabinet endorsement closely throughout the election, and possibly revising.

On Feb. 22 from 7:30 – 8 p.m. there is a candidate meet and greet in Pharmacy Building Room 156, which precedes the SGA Presidential Debate from 8 – 9 p.m. Election Day is Feb. 26 from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. If needed, there is an Election Run Off Day on Mar. 2.

After the election, the Election Oversight Committee will not announce the election results until at least 24 hours after the voting has closed, which is standard procedure.

You can follow Meghan on Twitter @meghan_stratton

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