The Georgetown University Student Association Election Commission held the first of two information sessions Monday night, which are designed to inform prospective candidates for the 2014 GUSA executive election about the rules and procedures before the campaign period officially begins Feb. 13.
While all students who wish to run for either president or vice president must attend, only Zach Singer (SFS ’15) and Ben Weiss (COL ’15) were present at the first session.
The second information session is scheduled for this evening.
Both Singer and Weiss have previous experience in GUSA. Singer, who was elected to the senate his freshman fall, served as both speaker and vice speaker of the GUSA senate before assuming the role of chief of staff in GUSAPresident Nate Tisa’s (SFS ’14) administration. Weiss, elected to the senate at-large in his freshman year, is currently the GUSA senator for Village A and was chairman of the senate Committee on Student Life during the past semester.
Neither potential candidate offered a comment to The Hoya, as election protocol stipulates that, as candidates, interaction with the media cannot occur until the official campaign period begins.
Candidates seeking to run for a GUSA executive office must submit official candidacy forms by Feb. 10 and will have two weeks between Feb. 13 and Feb. 27 to campaign, which includes canvassing, distributing flyers and tabling. Campaigning will officially begin at midnight Feb. 13.
On Feb. 12, candidates’ budgets for the ensuing fiscal year are due to the GUSA Election Commission. Budgets must be submitted on time in order for candidates to participate in the presidential and vice presidential debates, which are respectively scheduled for Feb. 23 and a date to be determined between Feb. 18 and 20, respectively. The election is Feb. 27.
During each election cycle, current GUSA executives can offer an endorsement to a particular campaign. Last year, the previous executive members President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) and Vice President Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13) endorsed Jack Appelbaum (COL ’14) and Maggie Cleary (COL ’14), who ultimately lost to Tisa and his vice president, Adam Ramadan (SFS ’14).
While Tisa has given no indication that he will endorse any of the teams, his Chief of Staff Singer has been a close ally during Tisa’s term. Last year, Tisa acknowledged the role that Jake Sticka (COL ’13), who managed Appelbaum’s campaign while concurrently serving as Gustafson’s chief of staff, played in the issuance of her endorsement.
Tuesday’s meeting included a presentation by members of the Election Commission, as well as remarks by members of the GUSA Constitutional Council and the Director of Student Programs and Assistant Dean for Student Engagement Erika Cohen Derr, who is the administrative adviser to GUSA.
Cohen Derr encouraged potential candidates to retain integrity throughout the campaign season.
“The university administration supports GUSA and works with GUSA in many ways, and also pays attention to what happens during the elections,” Cohen Derr said. “I want to encourage you to approach this process in the spirit to which this high elected office calls you to be.”
Subsequently, the three members of the GUSA Election Commission, Ethan Chess (COL ’14), AudreyAtencio (SFS ’14) and Pavan Rajgopal (SFS ’15) ,gave a short presentation on rules and aspects of electoral procedure, emphasizing the importance of maintaining responsibility for the actions of campaign staff.
“If you lose accountability of your staff, bad things will happen,” Chess said.
Placing flyers on or under doors to students’ dorm rooms was cited as an example of behavior out of line with Election Commission rules.
“You can’t put anything on anyone’s door that they do not consent to; that’s a very serious violation of university policy, as it considers that door as somebody’s own expression space,” Chess said. “We’ve actually come very close in the past to sanctioning people on that.”
The presentation also outlined regulations for campaign budgets, which are limited to $300 per team.
“The reason that spending limit is there is to make the election something that you cannot buy; you have to win it,” Chess said.
Campaign spending encapsulates all expenses, including the printing of paper used for flyers, the development of websites, the utilization of social media advertisements and the purchases that staffers make without the candidates’ knowledge.
Members of the GUSA Constitutional Council Josh Shinbrot(COL ’16), Jason Gerson (COL ’14) and Sarah Rabon(COL ’16) emphasized that the Constitutional Council’s role as a board of appeals during the campaign is to investigate potential breaches of constitutional procedure — not to hear complaints about Election Commission decisions. Before last month’s senate speaker case, the council had lain dormant since 2010.
“Not liking the decision of the election commission is not really grounds for appeal,” Shinbrot said. “We accept petitions only when there’s a legitimate constitutional question.”
Ultimately, Atencio expressed confidence that the current campaign and electoral procedures should make for a drama-free process over the next few weeks.
“The rules are clearly defined, and any big problems that have occurred in the past have been largely from people being not clear on the rules,” Atencio said. “As long as they follow the rules, they’re fine.”