Fowler pushes SGA campaign changes

William Evans

Candidates for Student Government Association office weren’t allowed to chalk on campus sidewalks to announce their campaigns this year due to a revision in guidelines that restricts chalking to student organizations and University departments, said Alex Karagas, coordinator of student involvement and leadership.

University departments, such as grounds and risk management, cited the use of chalkings by private businesses to solicit students and the appearance of chalkings on campus buildings and lampposts as reasons to revise the chalking guidelines, she said.

The University is willing to discuss revising the guidelines with the SGA because the University did not intend to deprive SGA candidates of a resource, she said. However, as it stands, SGA candidates are considered to be individuals and not student groups, and the guidelines prohibit individuals from chalking, she said.

In a memorandum sent to Vice President for Student Affairs Mark Nelson, outgoing SGA President James Fowler said the ban on chalking hinders SGA candidates from garnering name recognition.

“When this ban was announced, the SGA informally expressed its concern to Student Affairs administrators that students could become more disenfranchised, resulting in a dramatic decrease in the exciting atmosphere created during the SGA election cycle,” Fowler said.

Jeff Elrod, who was elected as an SGA Senator for the College of Arts and Sciences, was quoted in the memo as a proponent of chalking for SGA candidates as a method to attract students’ attention.

“If [students] see, say, 50 squares of one name, they may be more likely to take interest and find out more about the candidate and the others as well,” he said. “Chalking is quick and inexpensive name recognition for candidates.”

The recent ban on chalking and the use of stickers in SGA campaigns led to candidates using more expensive means to announce their intention to run for office, Fowler said.

Candidates used buttons, cups, koozies and large banners to replace the traditional use of chalking and stickers to garner name-recognition, he said.

If the Elections Board, which makes rules regarding SGA elections, intends to maintain the ban on chalking and stickers, spending caps for candidates should be raised to reflect the increase in expenses candidates must make to compete, he said.

On a separate topic, Fowler said he wants to institute a new loan policy regarding SGA and Homecoming campaigns.

“Currently, the SGA offers a $500, 30-day interest free loan to all enrolled students,” he said. “I will propose that candidates running for SGA or Homecoming positions have the option to take out a loan amount that reflects the spending cap for their desired position.”

A schedule of slots for potential debates during the official campaigning period should also be created so that the date and time of debates are spread throughout the course of the campaign, he said.

The unofficial campaigning period, during which candidates are prohibited from launching social media or handing out material, should be expanded to allow for candidates to speak with student organizations who may wish to host a debate, he said.

 

For pull-out box:

 

Fowler’s memo to Mark Nelson included two separate proposals for the University vice president of student affairs to consider.

 

Recommendation 1:

 

–       Allow chalking and stickers again

–       Keep spending caps at current levels

 

Recommendation 2:

 

–       Allow chalking again, but not stickers

–       Raise spending caps to between $1,000 and $1,200 for executive candidates, between $300 and $500 for senate candidates, and between $400-$600 for Homecoming candidates

 

In both Recommendation 1 and Recommendation 2:

 

–       Provide loans for the amount of the spending caps

–       Institute a minimum and maximum number of debates, to be hosted by student groups

–       Develop standard criteria for these debates

–       Expand the “Unofficial Campaigning Period”

–       Post the updated Elections Manual on vote.ua.edu during the first week of classes in the Spring semester