Vice President of the Student Government Association Frank Mabalatan is beginning a new initiative with the SGA Senate Elections Committee this semester to promote awareness and encourage competition by bolstering participation in SGA elections to ensure the best leaders are representing the Seton Hall community.
Mabalatan is the chair of the SGA Elections Committee, who are defining this as a marketing initiative rather than a way to promote future legislation. Mabalatan, who is not seeking reelection, is working with his committee to ensure that the student body knows that there are figures to represent them, and to simply promote a healthy competition.
“It may seem kind of basic, or simple,” said Mabalatan, speaking about the outreach initiative. “Especially to someone in SGA, who would have thought that we need to establish that, but there are a lot of students who do not know that, so I think the first step to that and to this initiative is to make people aware that it is happening.” For the SGA to be a democracy, he assures that there must be competition for the seats up for election, and those are people from all backgrounds, who want to join in any capacity.
“Personally, I don’t think I would have ever known about SGA’s elections if I didn’t have friends in SGA” said Analisa Espino, a junior Math Major in the STEM department. “A lot of STEM complaints could be fixed if we had more representation in SGA.” Espino added that the more SGA can spread the word about elections, “the more representative SGA will become of all majors and people.”
Mabalatan included that this initiative was influenced from last year’s election which saw only one contested seat: the presidency. Mabalatan results that to many different reasons, one of them being that students who are ‘outsiders’ to SGA considering running are discouraged by incumbents or their lack of experience. Mabalatan looked to put this fear to rest by recognizing this issue: “Seeing established SGA members is very dauting and could ultimately dissuade people from joining in general.” With a laugh, Mabalatan looked to further ease those fears by guaranteeing “we are welcoming people.”
Diplomacy Senator and EPACC commissioner Julia Nicolls added that students will be discouraged because they fear they “don’t think they have the possibility of winning or aren’t popular enough.” Nicolls reminded that it is about the “work you do” which gets you elected.
The initiative aims to primarily tackle participation and awareness, but it also fully looks to encourage students to use their voice and complete the voting ballot. According to Mabalatan, students will vote for only certain ticket items, which in turn does not promote a healthy competition for all those running.
An initiative like this one has not been attempted before, so in order to see successful results, the Elections Committee is developing a commercial to be posted on IGTV-an easily accessible platform to share and exchange videos through the Instagram App-or on any social media platform so that they can reach the student body on a broad scale to publicize the upcoming elections and encourage the circulation of the information.
In addition to the pending decision to advertise on IGTV, SGA is working with The Setonian to conduct a presidential debate in order to further expand outreach. Mabalatan highlights that seeing the candidates present their platform in a debate form allows for the student body “to see who will represent them the most, and who will advocate for them the best.” Mabalatan says there is not much he can speak on now but promises there is “a lot in the works.”
When asked what a successful initiative would look like, Mabalatan immediately responded with, “a contested seat across the board.” The Vice President stressed how important it is to have a change of ideas and given the time to be expressed. A natural succession “allows for the student body to have choices and rise up to leadership positions,” claims Mabalatan.
Nicolls agreed, stating “without such productive results we may see an unproductive senate.”
“We want people to show up, we want people to take part,” Mabalatan emphasized as the most important part of the initiative. In SGA, Mabalatan who says he may be selfish for this, but wants the “very best leaders” to represent the student body, and in order to see this happen, he states, “we must put them side-by-side.”
Judy Koren can be reached at email@example.com.