Low candidate turnout at SGA's Press Night

by Martha Schick / Beacon Staff • March 27, 2014

The Student Government Association held its annual Press Night on Tuesday, March 25, with only nine of the 17 candidates in attendance. All but one seat, the class of 2017 senator, are uncontested. 

Press Night is meant to allow those running for SGA positions to give a campaign speech to students and student press. Although SGA posted about the event once on its Twitter and Facebook pages, only 14 studentswho were either members of SGA or the pressattended. 

Emily Solomon, SGA executive assistant and organizer of Press Night and the election, said in an interview after the event that she didn’t ask when candidates would be available for Press Night to avoid the appearance of picking favorites.

“You come into the problem of picking a date,” said Solomon, a freshman visual and media arts major. “You have some people saying, ‘Well, did you choose that date because I couldn’t make it and that person could?’”

Solomon said candidates cited work and rehearsals, among other conflicts, as reasons they could not attend.

Press Night traditionally falls halfway through the election cycle: after election packets were due March 17, and before polls open on April 2 at midnight, according to Solomon. She also said SGA picked the time of 7 to 8 p.m. to minimize conflicts with classes. 

SGA President Paul Almeida, a junior political communication and marketing communication double major, said he was not entirely surprised by the absence of some candidates.

“This isn’t the first time we had students running for positions not show,” he said in an interview. “It would have been wonderful if they were there and it’s something that’s expected, but it’s not necessarily egregious that they weren’t there.”

A new requirement as of this semester, instituted by Solomon and Sharon Duffy, associate dean of students and SGA faculty moderator, is sending in a candidacy statement prior to Press Night that can be read in case of absence, said Solomon. 

While five of the eight absent candidates didn’t send in a statement, sophomore political communication Connor McKay was the only officially ballot candidate to not submit, while the other four were write-ins. Solomon said that she would speak to Duffy about the future of McKay’s campaign and the possibility of his name being taken off the ballot and made to run as a write-in, although she said she doesn’t see the absence of a statement becoming a major issue for non-contested positions.

McKay said in an interview that from what he understood, a candidacy statement was only needed if the candidate wanted it printed in the ballot. He said that he didn’t think his absence from Press Night would hurt his chances.

“I don’t think [Press Night] is really relevant,” he said. “I feel like social media is a lot more far-reaching and effective and relevant.”

He said that he plans on speaking on the radio, putting up flyers, and using a Facebook event page to do most of his campaigning.

Navidra Hardin, the only candidate for SGA president and a write-in, was unable to attend. The sophomore journalism major said he was called into work at the last minute.

Kassandra King, SGA vice president and a junior political communication major, was present to give her speech as a write-in candidate to be re-elected as vice president, and said she felt it was important that she, as a candidate, attended.

“If I’m standing there and telling you I will take on this position, I will be there every step of the way,” she said in an interview.

Solomon read several statements for those who didn’t show up.

There are no students running for the position of treasurer for any class, or secretary for class of 2015 and class of 2017. Of 23 electable positions on SGA, 11 currently remain with no declared candidates. Students can still run write-in campaigns, although they can no longer get their names on the ballot.

Five of the eight academic departments lack a candidate for senator, with freshman Alexandra Nikolaidis as the only senator on the ballot and in attendance, running for communication sciences and disorders, and sophomores Rebekah Brinkerhoff and Alicia Carroll running as write-ins for performing arts and visual and media arts, respectively. All three currently occupy these positions. 

The only contested position is for the class of 2017 senator. Freshman journalism major Gabriella Kula and performing arts major Bathsheba Wood are running. Kula is currently the athletics commissioner, and Wood is the current class of 2017 senator. Both were present to give speeches. 

Even amid absences of both people and statements, Solomon said that all candidates were accounted for in some way, whether or not they attended.  

“No one is not represented at this night,” she said. “It’s just a matter of who’s here in the flesh.”