Student Union Elections to Run Remotely This Fall
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Following the push of Caucus and Student Union (SU) elections from the spring, the Board of Elections (BOE) will be holding Sophomore, Junior, and Senior Caucus elections, as well as SU elections, remotely this fall. Campaigning will happen virtually, with a concluding online election on September 24.
Due to the pushed elections, BOE Co-Chairs senior Eric Han and junior Ava Yap have made many changes to this year’s shortened election season. While elections are typically held in the spring, this year’s started on August 16 with an online interest meeting. Following the meeting, candidates were to start online petitions to get on the ballot. Though Caucus tickets traditionally require 100 student signatures from their grade, this year they only needed 50. Similarly, while SU tickets traditionally require 50 signatures from each of the sophomore, junior, and senior classes, this year they only needed 30 per grade. Both Caucus and SU candidates also required two teacher signatures per ticket, instead of the standard four teacher signatures per ticket.
Following petitions, candidates had traditionally campaigned in-person by hanging up posters around the school and advertising through social media. The BOE, however, has prohibited in-person campaigning this year so that candidates who choose blended learning will not have an advantage. “In-person campaigning is prohibited. This includes campaigns distributing posters, business cards, or treats to students as they walk into school, as well as posters plastered on the hallway walls. This change is vital, as to not give an edge to campaigns who choose blended learning over those who are opting out,” Yap said in an e-mail interview.
Instead, students will be able to learn more about candidates through their online campaigning. “Campaigns will have to rely primarily on websites and Facebook pages to share their campaign ideas and promises. In addition, the BOE will be providing all students with a list of all of the candidates’ sites and social media pages, so voters can make an educated vote,” Yap said.
While the prohibition of in-person campaigning strives to provide a fair election, it may present a potential lack of participation. “Ordinary students will feel less compelled to participate in the political system at Stuy without the excitement surrounding election season in the actual school building,” Han said in an e-mail interview.
Remote campaigning has its other disadvantages, according to Coordinator of Student Affairs Matt Polazzo. “Retail politics and this ability to get up early and hand out flyers on the bridge [have] always been a tough rite of passage that screens out people that aren't fully committed to the work of being in the SU,” Polazzo said in an e-mail interview.
Additionally, campaigning online only may not reach all students. “I am concerned that many students without social media accounts or with a limited online presence will not have an equal ability to participate in elections,” senior and Acting SU President Giordano said.
To increase student engagement during the elections, the BOE has formed a Public Outreach Committee. “We have formed a Public Outreach committee this year to promote transparency and address voter apathy. They brainstorm ways we can reach the student body and help to draft public statements,” Han said. “We have also acquired access to the schoolwide mailing list, which we expect to use more often for announcements.”
Senior and BOE Technology Head Abir Taheer has been working to accommodate for the upcoming virtual election. “I'm planning to make updates to the posts feature to allow candidates to create more engaging promotional content [and] on adding a Q&A feature in order to let students ask questions directly to the candidates,” he said in an e-mail interview. All students and candidates will be able to vote and access the aforementioned features on the vote.stuysu.org website.
The Caucus and SU debates, which will be held on September 15, 16, 17, and 18, respectively, have also been modified. While debates are usually held in person, this year’s debates will be held virtually through Zoom, which offers many advantages in conducting them. “While the presence of technology always offers up its challenges and difficulties, Zoom […] possesses many unique features. For example, the muting system will help ensure that every candidacy can speak their turn, without getting overpowered by the other teams […] Zoom will allow us to livestream the debates and upload them to YouTube so that all of the student body will be able to view them,” Yap said.
The many adjustments of this year’s election season have pushed back other Caucus and SU tasks, such as appointing members. “While the SU normally has the entire summer to release applications, interview candidates, and onboard new members, that entire process will now have to happen in October and November. This not only places an added stress on applicants, but [also] prevents the Caucuses and SU from truly beginning their work until mid-November,” Giordano said.
Though this year’s elections will be very different from those of previous years, the BOE remains optimistic. “While this election season is going to be a challenge for every party involved, [Han], myself, and the rest of the BOE are dedicated to making sure that this election season runs as smoothly as possible and that we end up with a student government that the student body is proud to have,” Yap said.