Lubrano weighs in, firmly against online campaigning

Former student body president Matthew Lubrano, who is currently a graduate assistant at Marist, told me recently that he feels online campaigning is prohibitive of some key aspects of a prospective SGA office-holder.

He says that student leaders need to get to know as many people as possible on campus and form a connection with the students.  This connection would allow for people to be more comfortable approaching their student government leaders with concerns and problems.

Online campaigning would get in the way of this in several different ways, according to Lubrano:

“[Campaigning online] allows candidates to create “images” of themselves, rather than bringing ideas to voters. Part of the responsibility of an elected student leader is being able to speak in front of people and articulate a constructive sentence.  By simply posting ideas online, candidates aren’t given opportunities to actually talk, respond, and listen to voters.

He adds, “An election may turn more into a popularity contest than it already is.  If one candidate has 2,000 friends, followers, subscribers, etc. while another only has 300, there is a sizable difference in ability to spread the word quickly.  Nowadays, we’re all taught to be weary of who we allow access to our social media outlets.  If one candidate wants an extremely private social network due to potential employment problems, while another accepts virtually everyone, it leads to an even bigger popularity contest.  If SGA forces candidates to go out and meet as many people as possible face to face, all candidates are given access to the same voter pool, regardless of popularity or attitudes towards social media.  Candidates are forced to talk to voters and spend time with each of them to earn their vote.”

Lubrano also believes that the anonymity of the internet could become a problem.  While he believes the broad population of Marist College is friendly and respectful, he worries that hiding behind the shield of the internet could lead to unnecessary mudslinging.

“As if going out on a limb and forcing even the shyest people to break out of their comfort zones wasn’t enough, having to be “bullied” online is a negative side effect that truly isn’t worth it.”

While he would be against it, Lubrano also believes that the ban on online campaigning will be changed in the future.  He hopes there would be some way to ensure that the process is equal and fair leading to more SGA availability to students rather than cruelty, anonymity, and sheer popularity.

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Torres: Online campaigning ban like “when radio stations banned rock music”

In response to the debate over online campaigning, Marist student and former SGA elections commissioner Dan Torres sent me this statement:

“I feel that online campaigning should be used in our elections because it can be a great equalizer in campaigning. You may not be able buy shirts, pencils, and other items to get your name out there but you can easily set up a Facebook page.

There is a thought process out there that using online campaigning will remove the personal touch of a door to door campaign. There is no evidence that suggests this. From working on elections I am willing to bet that if a candidate only used Facebook they will lose! Online campaigning is simply a way to further push whatever campaign message you have and implementing it in our elections will boost turnout.

As it stands now you can be thrown out of a race by using Facebook or Twitter. I have to imagine someday some future SGA will view that and it will sound almost as ludicrous as when radio stations banned rock music. I think the election process has greatly improved in the last year however this one rule still baffles me.”

Recall that Torres, as election commissioner, was involved in the controversy over the 2011 student body presidential election. He has had some strong comments about student government rules in the past including that the SGA constitution’s wording is “notoriously poor,” according to one Circle article.

I’m in the process of reaching out to members of the other side of this debate for a response.

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Paulsen gets inside look at FSU SGA…

…and it’s likely an eye opener for most students here at our small, private, upstate New York school.

Florida State University is, with its enrollment of more than 40,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students, clearly a much larger school than Marist (we have somewhere around 6,000 students).  It’s campus sprawls out over a nearly 1,600 acre (450 square mile) area in the capitol city of Tallahassee, Florida.  In comparison, our nest here on the Hudson measures in the vicinity of 250 acres.

But how does this size difference translate into student government facts and figures? Former Marist student body president Andrew Paulsen visited FSU’s SGA offices recently, and provided me with some info:

  • Marist SGA’s budget, including all clubs, SPC, Concerts, student activity fees, etc. totals about $1 million.  Florida State University’s budget is up around $13 million.
  • The Student Body President at FSU spent $18,000 on his campaign to get elected.  This compares with approximately $1,000 spent by Marist SBP candidates.
  • Like American elections, student government elections at FSU have a party system.  For instance, one of the newer political parties on campus is the Ignite Party which runs on the slogan to “blaze a legacy of tradition, service and achievement that promotes and supports the advancement of” FSU.
  • Oh, and by the way, members of Florida State’s student government also get paid.  Paulsen says he does not remember the exact figure but thinks the wage for some members was somewhere around $15 an hour.  They also have two full-time office aids working 40 hour weeks.

“I have seen my fair share of SGA offices, and this was one of the nicest. Multiple people had their own office, including their Student Body President, Executive Vice President, and their version of our Senate Speaker and Senate Pro Tempore,” said Paulsen. “I think it is fascinating that, although Marist and FSU could not be more different in size, location, and being a public versus a private school, our SGA’s are working towards the same objective. We definitely hit it off talking about student representation and working with trustees of the college, and although we just met each other for one day, I feel like they could come to Marist tomorrow and be on the same page with making a difference on campus.”

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A message from President DiBlasi to the student body

From left to right: Executive Vice President Brian Gelok, Student Body President Paul Diblasi, Former Student Body President Andrew Paulsen, Former Executive Vice President April Bourlier

Three years ago I set foot on this campus really having no idea what laid before me. I had come from north of Boston where almost no one had heard of Marist College (including myself) and no one knew what it stood for.  After touring Marist I knew that this was the right college for me.

As a part of the anxious summer before freshman year I did everything I could to read and study up on the college that I was soon to be a part of.  In my reading I found some negative material about the student body and the student life.  Even though I had not yet truly become a member of the community, this negative information really got under my skin. That damaging material really motivated me to do everything I could to show the outside world what a great place Marist is.

Today, almost three years later I find myself in a position where I can truly make a difference. During these three years I have seen how many of the things said on those websites were wrong, but also how there are many areas for improvement. Along with Brian Gelok I have developed goals for this year’s Student Government Association and the Marist community.

  •  1. We will work towards a more perfect athletic center. Many of the student concerns we receive are about the workout facility at the McCann arena. We aim to help resolve many of these concerns with an innovative and thoughtful solution.
  • 2. We will work towards a more inclusive community. The clubs and organizations (including SGA) are the lifeblood of our campus. We will work to make ourselves more inclusive and realize that there is potential in every student.
  • 3. We will work towards a more student-centered Student Government Association. Instead of waiting for student concerns to come to us, we will make it a point to reach out to the community and ensure that everyone feels a connection with the decisions being made around them.

While the Student Government Association Administrations of the past three years have had many successes, we feel that with hard work and dedication we can accomplish even more that they did. We have surrounded ourselves with the most qualified people and have learned a great deal over the last three years. With this in mind Brian and I understand that the bar has been set high and we are going to do everything we can to reach it.

If any students are interested in voicing their concerns I welcome them to come by the Student Government Association Office anytime. I would also like to invite every student to become a member of Student Government in some form. Stay updated by following our Twitter (@MaristSGA), pinning us on Pinterest, or liking us on Facebook.

The students which were named to DiBlasi’s executive board are listed after the jump.

Continue reading

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Debate: Online Campaigning

Image via

Walking around the Marist campus as recently as a few weeks ago, it was easy to see that student government elections were underway.  Flyers were pinned to almost every bulletin board, students wore colorful shirts with candidates’ names in large, bold letters, and candidates were frantically circulating petition documents in order to get on the ballot.

With all of this campaign activity going on in the real world, it was glaringly obvious that campaign activity was missing in the virtual world – namely, on the internet and social media.

This was no coincidence.  The SGA campaign regulation document given to all potential candidates specifically states, “Any form of online campaigning is forbidden (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Foxmail/E-mail, Blogs, etc).”  This, however, is the extent of the regulation.  No further specifications or reasoning is given for this rule.

At the pre-election meeting, potential candidates were told that any candidacy-related status updates or posts by anyone – even if it was not someone involved with the campaign – were not allowed.  Even if, for instance, a candidate’s friend posted a picture in which one person in the photo was wearing a campaign T-shirt, the person whose name appeared on that shirt could be disqualified from the race.

This, of course, begs the question: why?  All voting for the elections ultimately takes place online.  National, state, and local political candidates campaign online.  Other colleges allow for online campaigning. So why not Marist?

Brian Gelok, Vice President of Club Affairs and President-elect DiBlasi’s running-mate, is a staunch opponent of online campaigning and gives us this explanation for his position:

”I am against the use of online campaigning, and I say this for several reasons.  The first is that it takes away from the personal aspect of the election. I believe that forcing the candidates to go and meet the students is the first step SGA takes in getting to know the issues. It forces them to go and ask people their beliefs and concerns.  If we have online campaigning, I believe that this will change.”

He then told me the story of his brother, who was the student body president at Siena College.  According to Gelok, his brother was allowed to use social media in his campaign and, therefore, did not have to go door to door.  He said that due to this, his brother did not get to know nearly the number of students that Marist student body presidents know.  He continued:

“Another reason is the internet takes away any fairness aspect in the election. For example, I know individuals who are administrators for the Marist College class of 2014 and 2015 Facebook groups. I can easily gain access to that and have 50% of the school before any other candidate can walk out of the office.”

Despite this Gelok predicts that some day SGA will implement online campaigning.

Deborah Akinwunmi, president of the class of 2014, disagress with Gelok.  While she understands the concerns, she feels that campaigns are missing out on a major resource without using the internet and social media.

“…I feel that this is something that will eventually happen and if we properly regulate candidates’ use of the internet, it can be a great source for us and also a great way for us to get more voter turnout.  In addition, I personally feel that to an extent we are limited in campaigning because we are not allowed to use these amazing resources such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.  I also feel that through precedence we can set the stage for future SGA election candidates to do both.”

What do you think about this? Would you feel better informed as a voter if you could get information about the candidate’s online?  Or do you prefer face-to-face interaction?  Get in on the debate by commenting here, on Twitter (@SGAinProgress), or sending me an e-mail.  I will be sure to follow up with those in SGA and ask them some of your questions.

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Taking a (spring) break

We are halfway through the semester and with midterms this week and spring break next week, the blog is taking a little bit of a rest.  Not to fret, though, there is much more Marist in Progress to come.

Upon returning from break, we will be hearing from president-elect DiBlasi regarding who he will be appointing to his executive board.  In addition, we’ll have some comments about the job the Paulsen administration has done as the year begins to wind down.  That and more on the relationship between the student body and its government is still to come on this blog.

In addition, I am lining up  some guest bloggers who will write their own thoughts and analyses of SGA and Marist student life as a whole.

Have a safe and enjoyable spring break!

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Bits and Bites – 3.2.12

  • In stark contrast to the huge voter turnout for this year’s elections, interest was low at the town hall event SGA hosted just prior to the results party, during which the floor was open to questions but only one was asked (by a member of student government, nonetheless).
  • President-elect DiBlasi tells me he will be naming his executive board next week.
  • $1350 was raised from 50/50 sales at last Sunday’s basketball game for the scholarships in honor of Kerry Fitzsimons, Eva Block, and Kevin Johnson. The money will also go toward a establishing a permanent memorial on campus.
  • Marist President Dennis Murray wrote a letter to the Marist community regarding the memorial scholarship.
  • I’m still working on a post about the debate over online campaigning.
  • I hear that there is going to Nutella in the cafeteria now!? Need to find out more about this.
  • The Marist Poll on the Republican Primary in Arizona came far closer to the actual results than the CNN Poll did (full disclosure: I work at MIPO).
  • MAAC basketball tournament this weekend! Circle coverage here. PoJo coverage here, here, and here.
  • Let us not forget the other not as publicized, but still impressive, recent Marist sports accomplishments.
  • MCCTA presents newly-revised work “Spine” this weekend at the Nelly Goletti Theatre.
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