In the wake of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, Seton Hall University’s Student Government Association (SGA) is pushing back elections.
Students will receive an emailed SurveyMonkey ballot on March 30 that will close at 3 p.m. on March 31. The candidates for the election range from at-large senators to two presidential candidates.
With campus closures, the introduction of online classes and the need for social distancing, COVID-19 has affected students across the board.
“The additional time for this election was deemed necessary in order to allow candidates to adjust their campaigning plans to a completely online platform,” Alyssa Futa, chair of the elections committee, said.
Futa said, “the Elections Committee recognized that this is something that would require some thought and deliberation among tickets and candidates and thought that, given the circumstances, an additional week would help them to advertise their platforms and ideas online,” adding that “the Elections Committee also took this time to re-evaluate how we would do normally in-person events, such as Meet the Candidates and the Presidential Debate.”
Ron Babiak, candidate for SGA treasurer, said, “this will primarily be a campaign conducted on social media. We will not be able to discuss our platforms with students on campus and at student organization general body meetings.”
Not all of SGA was happy about the election’s delay. Stefan Ferreira, candidate for SGA president, said that the decision to change the election date “was decided based on candidate and committee preference, a preference I did not share.”
“I did not agree with the campaign extension because the SGA Committee had not surveyed a single non-SGA student voter about their opinion of the change to their election,” Ferreira said, adding, “any decision that [affects] students should have adequate student input, because the Student Government cannot be an institution that does not look outward when deciding important electoral decisions.”
While there would be no additional election events held, “[e]vents such as Meet the Candidates and the Presidential Debate have been moved entirely online for the sake of everyone’s health and safety. This also allows for this information to be recorded and made available for any students who weren’t able to tune in,” Futa said.
Ferreira said of the scheduled election events, “the elections committee is working hard to hold an online debate and to ensure candidates reach students through online means.”
The outbreak of COVID-19 has brought up new challenges to the SGA election process, but Futa said of the candidates, “I am genuinely pleased at how the candidates have really capitalized on this additional time by reaching out to clubs that are doing virtual meetings, doing their own campaigning on social media, building websites, etc.”
“I could not be prouder of the way we have handled the situation and continue to inform students about us, our platform and how we will benefit Seton Hall University if elected,” Babiak said, commenting on the SGA’s response to the crisis.
“I’ve seen a lot of great leadership out of our current Senate and Executive Board during this time, and I hope the student body has too,” Futa said.
When asked how they thought COVID-19 would impact the SGA election, SGA members were hopeful. “I believe the coronavirus will impact voter turnout, improving it and not harming it. Since we have put an emphasis on our social media efforts, I believe more students will be engaged with the content, develop opinions on the candidates and be more likely to vote than in previous years,” Babiak said.
“I hope that with the additional time that candidates and the Student Government Association had during this campaigning period that this will actually help to encourage students to vote … I hope the student body is able to see how important these elections are, who they choose to represent them to administrators and who will advocate for their voice, and I hope that this situation encourages them to check their email on Monday, March 30 and vote,” Futa said.
Marie Leone can be reached at email@example.com.