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Eight open senate seats allow for student leadership opportunities

September 16, 2010

UW-River Falls’ Student Senate has eight seats available for the upcoming election, offering students an opportunity to become campus-wide leaders, while election reform is at the top of the new president’s agenda.

The elections committee still needs to vote on an actual date, but the elections will occur towards the end of September, according to Jayne Dalton, the Student Senate elections committee chair.

There are four first-year seats available, three at-large positions and an opening for a representative for the College of Education and Professional Studies, according to Lee Monson, the Student Senate president.

“The students elected to these positions will have voting capabilities and will serve on committees. The representative of each of the different colleges here on campus will be the contact person for any student who may have an issue pertaining to a particular college,” Monson said.

In order for a student to be considered a candidate, he or she must fill out a sheet with his or her contact information and attain 50 signatures from peers.

“The application sheets will be available two weeks before the election and must be turned in one week after the sheet was made available,” Dayton said.

Any student currently enrolled at UWRF and in good academic standing is eligible to run for Senate, according to the Senate’s constitution. Good academic standing means maintaining a cumulative grade point average of 2.25 and carrying a minimum of 12 credits while in office.

The Senate is a non-partisan group that consists of 25 members on one year terms with no term limits, according to the Student Senate Constitution website. The goal of the Senate is to provide students with opportunities to improve their academic, personal and social levels and to empower students with resources necessary for them to advance in their education, according to the Senate’s mission statement.

There are no new rules regarding campaigning for the fall semester election, according to Monson. The current campaign rules include where candidates can do campaign chalking, where they can post posters, when they can put up and take down their campaigning materials and how a candidate cannot threaten a person to vote for them, according to the Student Association Student Senate election rules. The complete set of campaign rules can be found at www.uwrf.edu/StudentSenate/.

Monson’s initiative is to reform policies so they are less ambiguous in time for the spring semester elections. Monson’s reform will involve removing any vague language and removing as much room for interpretation as possible in the election rules documents. By doing this, those presiding over the electoral process and those participating within it can have a consensus on what is fair, according to Monson.

The need for reform is in response to the unclear campaigning rules that resulted in an ethics complaint during last semester’s elections. The complaint, filed by former Student Senate President Josh Brock against Senate presidential candidate Nikki Shonoiki, stated that Shonoiki campaigned prior to the time allowed by Student Senate bylaws during an interview she did for WRFW. The complaint was then heard in an ethics meeting held by the Student Senate. It was validated and moved to mediation. A resolution could not be reached so Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Greg Heinselman was called on to make a final decision on the issue, which was to hold a redo of the presidential election, according to Elwood Brehmer’s article, “Ethics complaint leaves Student Senate in limbo.”

Dalton said she is looking forward to the spring elections when the Senate will have new rules, regulations and an official elections committee chair instead of it being haphazardly put together. Dalton said she wants to see a forum put together so that the first year senators can speak out.

“It would be great for the whole student body to get to know the first year candidates and hear what they are all about,” Dalton said.