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.