The student government elections for the Ursinus College Student Government (UCSG) executive board and class councils began this week. Candidates for positions on the executive board were expected to begin their election campaigns Mar. 12. A second election for class council representatives will take place next week.
The executive board oversees student senate meetings, as well as operations of the class councils and Student Committees, according to the Ursinus website.
However, almost all of the candidates for the executive board are running unopposed this year. Liz Iobst ’19 for President alongside Jonathan Cope as Vice President, Joanna Timmerman ’19 for secretary and Andrew Voyack ’19 for treasurer on the same election ticket.
Only the position of social chair has two candidates running—Haley Sturla ’20 and Brett Highland ’19 are both running for the position.
The electronic ballots will display each election “ticket”–meaning students must vote for all candidates who are running together on the same ticket, and a text box is available for write-in candidates. Running on an election ticket is only mandatory for the president and vice-presidential candidates, but Bullock explained that “people generally find a group of friends and run as a ticket for all five positions.”
After candidates send their official declarations to the current UCSG executive board, they are given a $50 spending limit for their election campaigns, Bullock explained.
Current UCSG President Garrett Bullock ’20 explained that candidates currently running unopposed are not guaranteed their positions yet. Although these positions have only one official candidate thus far, students who are interested in being elected to the executive board may declare write-in candidates on the ballot.
“If the write-in candidate [for president] were to receive more votes than Iobst, then that individual would win the seat,” Bullock said.
Candidates ran unopposed in last year’s UCSG elections as well. Bullock explained this is a widespread problem across college campuses. Bullock mentioned speaking with student body presidents at other colleges, such as at Delaware Valley University and St. Joseph’s University, about how to “create a tangible award for being president,” such as stipends or class credit.
Bullock worked with Ursinus director of communications Tom Yencho on developing a plan of action but explained this plan was not ready to be implemented this cycle.
Bullock believes the lack of interest in running for student body president may be related to the overwhelming nature of the position.
“Frankly, it takes a maniac to run for the position. [Being student body president] is extremely time-consuming, strenuous and often overwhelming job with no material compensation,” Bullock said. “There is, of course, the reward of helping the Ursinus community, but it takes a lot of spirit to do the work for just that reward.”
Cope explained that he and Iobst decided to run because they felt they could strongly resonate with issues faced by students on campus.
“We feel that our experiences in a number of campus organizations have given us a great pulse and feel for what students on campus expect from their student government,” Cope said. “Liz and I hope to work on growing our Ursinus community by listening and initiating conversations with the students and faculty about major issues. We hope to work towards making Ursinus environmentally friendly. We want all students to feel like UCSG is working for them and we hope under our leadership that any student will feel they can come to us with ideas.”
Bullock also cited an issue in communication as reasoning for the lack of interest—he explained that USCG senators may not be relaying information back through their organizations to students, and information about the student elections may easily get lost in Ursinus emails.
In the class council elections, students will compete to be representatives for their class year. However, Bullock explained that the candidates choose among the three positions on the class councils – President, Treasurer and Secretary –after they have already been elected. Bullock explained that the class councils were reduced in size by Robert Rein ‘16 and his executive board following last year’s election.
“In the old system, we had too many qualified candidates running for class president – with nobody wanting to fill other positions,” Bullock said. “[Having] only 3 class council officers ensures accountability among the officers, who oftentimes brushed off their responsibility. My team finalized the reform so candidates ran for class council to ensure that the most qualified candidates could participate in the system without being eliminated, rather than having students that did not represent campus interests being the only options to fill other positions.”
A candidate panel will take place at the UCSG student senate meeting Mar. 14 at 9 p.m. in Pfahler Auditorium, where candidates will take questions from the audience. All students are invited to attend, Bullock said.
None of the current members of the UCSG executive board will be running this year, as they will be graduating this spring, according to Bullock. Bullock, although a sophomore, is not eligible for re-election because he will be studying abroad next year.
Polling will be open for students to cast their votes Mar. 14 –16, between 11a.m. -1:30 p.m. in the Bear’s Den and the Student Activities office.
Any questions or concerns may be sent to UCSG President Garrett Bullock at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With additional reporting by Naseem Syed.