With a pandemic and most classes being held remotely, Slippery Rock University Student Government Association (SRSGA) senate candidates find themselves relying heavily on word of mouth to garner votes.
In interviews with more than 10 candidates, many said they have found campaigning in this new normal ranges in difficulty.
Sydney Lewis, a freshman senator candidate and double major in dance and exercise science, said it is hard reaching out to her peers as an incoming freshman since most interactions are only through classes on Zoom.
Braydon Brinker, a finance major and freshman senator candidate, said he has been doing what he can on social media to engage with students. A lot of his interactions online have not just been about getting his name out there, but letting students know that there is an election going on.
Most of the candidates said they have relied on social media to let people know they are running.
Spencer Kahley, a junior mathematics major, and Hannah D’Egidio, a sophomore music education major, are running a joint campaign on Instagram to promote their ticket. D’Egidio has used the platform’s livestreaming capabilities to talk with students about who she is and her platform.
D’Egidio said that while it is nice to be able to talk to people online, it is still difficult getting them to interact compared to in person.
D’Egidio is running for the college of liberal arts and at-large senate seats. Kahley is running for the at-large and college of health, engineering and science (CHES).
Going up and talking to students in the quad about their concerns is not a viable option, according to Leah Bracken, college of business candidate and sophomore safety management major.
“It’s almost like a ghost town,” said Bracken.
Despite inherent setbacks with not being able to campaign on campus like in previous years, some candidates are utilizing the technology and thriving.
Madison King, a junior political science major and commuter senator candidate, said she was already planning to run a reelection campaign completely online before the pandemic hit.
King said her observation is that SRU students have a big social media presence. Her plan was to reach those students where they socialize, via Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.
While the pandemic has forced her to adapt her message, her approach did not.
An Inclusive Community
When asked about why they wanted to run for senate and their goals once elected, the candidates said they want to lift the voices of students and make sure their concerns are heard.
Sophomore recreational therapy major Elizabeth Hood said SRU has a great campus community. The commuter senator candidate said she wants to make sure everyone feels welcome and safe.
If elected, international senator candidate Mohsen Kanani, a junior psychology and business management major from Israel, said he wants to bring students, especially international students, together with events and campus organization outreach.
Kanani said it is important for a diverse group of people to come together and share ideas.
Diversity and inclusion are still a top priority for King as well, who said she plans to continue her work on a transgender rights package. That work was cut short last year when the campus shut down and classes were moved online.
Along with that, King wants to address technological inequities that have been highlighted since the pandemic. Specifically, King wants to make sure all students have broadband internet access – something that has become a necessity with hybrid and remote instruction.
With the senate structural change this year, candidates for the four academic college seats have said they look forward to making sure their colleges are being heard when it comes to the future of the campus.
The new seats are what drew sophomore biology major Samantha Shaffer to run. Shaffer said she always wanted to get involved with SRSGA and being able to represent CHES and her major was a win-win.
A thin field of candidates
While the new structure has added 13 senate positions and diversified the field, a lack of students applying to run has made it difficult to fill all the positions.
Still, students are putting themselves out there to get involved.
Caleb Covey, a sophomore exercise science major who is running for the CHES and at-large senate seats, described himself as a bit on the shy side yet still decided to throw his hat into the ring and run.
“My family is the most proud,” Covey said. “And my friends were surprised.”
Covey said his friends have been helping him with campaigning and how to talk to people.
With most candidates running unopposed and barring any write-in candidates, come Friday, SRSGA will have 23 newly elected senators – up three from last year.
Along with 20 senate seats without candidates, the SRSGA still must fill two executive board positions – parliamentarian and speaker of the senate.
Grant Warmbien, Nic Condon and Alexandra Kulikowski have applied for parliamentarian. SRSGA President Joey Sciuto met with the candidates this week and will be announcing his pick Friday.
Once the senators are sworn in, they will select a speaker of the senate who will be the liaison of the senate body and the executive board.
Matt Reitler, a senior fiance major who was a senator last year, said it is an important position that he hopes will foster better communication between the two bodies.
Reitler said he has a lot going on since starting a new internship but would like whoever fills that role to make help foster transparency inside student government.
“I hope we find someone to take that role seriously,” said Reitler.
After the elections, students interested in filling open senate seats will have to petition the SRSGA for them.
Election results will be announced on the SRSGA Instagram Friday at 5 p.m.