PA President Elections 2012 to Feature New Rules

As hopeful Uppers await the 2012 Student Council presidential election season, this year’s election procedure will feature a new set of rules, which limit candidate’s expenditures and number, placement and content of posters.

Students and faculty will receive an e-mail with the rules of the election process, so that everyone knows what the new guidelines are.

Paul Murphy, Dean of Students, said, “Ultimately students need to know that the candidates that are running are operating within the guidelines of the election, and if they can’t do that, then [the candidates] probably shouldn’t be school president.”

The election process is expected to start sometime over the next few weeks, beginning with the stage where potential candidates solicit enough signatures to qualify as a formal candidate.

The election guideline changes permeate every aspect of the election process, including the initial stages of the election process. Formal candidates will have to submit detailed budgets for review in addition to the previous prerequisite of 500 signatures to enter the race. The candidates will also be prohibited from spending more than $50 on each of their campaigns.

Though candidates have been encouraged to spend less than $50 in years past, the rules mark the first time the policy has been put it into writing.

In years past, candidates had evaded the $50 limit by having friends or supporters spend on their behalf, according to Murphy, in an April The Phillipian article. This year all of money spent on the campaign – including any contributions from friends towards an individual’s presidential bid– will be noted in the budget.

The Election Commission, comprised of Uday Singh ’12, School President, Min Jae Yoo ’12, Vice President, Colton Dempsey ’12, Executive Secretary, Paul Murphy, Dean of Students and Paul Cernota, Faculty Advisor for Student Council and Chair in Chemistry, will oversee the implementation of the new set of rules regarding presidential elections.

In this year’s elections, each candidate will also only be allowed to put up a total of 15 8.5” X 14” posters around campus.

Each candidate is allowed to put up two posters in Samuel Phillips Hall, two in the lobby of George Washington Hall, two in Morse Hall, two in Bulfinch Hall, two in the mailroom, two in Borden Gym, two in the Den, two in the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library and one in the Day Student Locker area.

The content of the posters will also be more closely regulated.

Singh said, “We want kids to keep in mind the role they are running for. What that means is that they should run with the same level of integrity and dignity that they would pursue the job with. If you want to run for school president, act like a school president. The role of school president requires a level of leadership and dedication to steer the Student Council and the student body on a day-to-day basis.”

Singh said, “Basically, we want kids to run their campaigns with a certain degree of respect. Posters and paraphernalia in poor taste, especially those that employ drugs or sex to promote a student’s candidacy will not be tolerated. Items that fail to embody the necessary character traits of the next school president should not be used as campaign material. We want candidates to play the part for the role they are seeking long before they may actually win it.”

According to Murphy, the new rules help maintain a level the playing field and ensure that a student’s bid for school president does not take priority over studying.

“[This idea] of tightening and improving has primarily come from candidates from last year who have expressed some concern about making sure there were limits. They were recounting spending inordinate amounts of time on getting posters done and getting them put out, so here are these kids in Upper year trying to learn. Running for school president shouldn’t be a full time job,” said Murphy.

The commission was prompted to reevaluate the election process this year after students approached Murphy last spring with concerns that candidates were overspending.

Singh said, “We realized that due to the competitive nature of the election process, elections in the past have turned into arms races. One candidate puts up 20 posters, then the next has to put up 40 posters, and soon enough it corrupts the idea behind the presidential election process.”

Preventing candidates from focusing on one-upping one another rather than building a platform of ideas or studying is just one of the aims of this set of rule changes, according to Murphy.

Murphy said, “The goals here is tightening things up is to make things better. The goal is to make the election as fair as possible and also to respect that candidates can spend a lot of time with this if allowed to [continue this] ‘one-upmanship’.”

Murphy said the response to broken rules will not be significantly changed. If a student is suspected or caught breaking the rules, they will speak with the commission to fix the problem.

Murphy initially considered pulling people from the ballot if they had more than two strikes, but he believes that taking the people out of the election would be too drastic.