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Spring Student Senate elections present leadership opportunities

February 24, 2012

The nine-week cycle for Student Senate elections has begun, but in the early stages it is hard to tell just how much interest there is and who will be running.

By the end of the process, however, all 15 positions will be filled and a new group of students will represent the student body.

Senate is the official government body of students at UW-River Falls and many of the decisions they make directly affect all students. The elections held in the spring of 2011 for this academic year’s Senate proved that interest is lacking when it comes to Senate.

There were 681 students who voted in that election which was just under 10 percent of the entire student body. In the fall 2011 elections about 10.4 percent of students voted.

Derek Johnson, former Senate member, explained the difficulty of being elected as there are so few students that vote.

“You can get your required signatures, but the problem is that when it comes to elections people just don’t vote and that is frustrating.”

One explanation for the minimal interest is possibly because of a lack of knowledge about the Senate and who can run. Students may hear about the elections but think that it is only for certain students who are already in leadership positions elsewhere or who meet the high qualifications. What students should know is that literally anyone can run.

According to Article III, Section 7 of the Senate Constitution, “Any student currently enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and in good academic standing is eligible to run for Senate.”

Good academic standing is defined as taking a minimum of 12 credits and holding a cumulative GPA of 2.25.

“People might be intimidated when it comes to running for Student Senate, but you don’t have to be a political science major, all you need is the desire to get involved” said Student Senate Advisor Paul Shepherd. Senate member and Elections Commissioner Benjamin Blanchard, explained how the process works.

“Running for Student Senate is actually quite easy. The first step is to head over to the Involvement Center desk and pick up an election petition. Simply fill out the front form and collect the required amount of signatures for the seat in which you wish to run for and turn it back in to the involvement center desk before March 2.”

The positions available include: President, Vice President, one Nontraditional Representative, one Senator for each of the four colleges, and eight Senator At-large positions.

All positions except for President and Vice President require 50 signatures on the petition. To run for President or Vice President you must have 100 signatures. If more than three people turn in petitions for either President or Vice President, a primary election will be held on March 26.

A couple of the current senators will possibly seek re-election, although perhaps not to their same position. Every position remains up for grabs, however. Grady Nelson, a current Senate member, has announced that he will run for President.

“It’s the right move for me. I was encouraged to do it and I also just went with my gut. There are many things that I can do and I’ve already got 82 signatures only 32 hours after the petitions came out,” said Nelson.

Senator Beth DeLong summed up how many people on the current Senate feel about why students should run for Senate.

“You get a direct say in what happens on campus. This is the place where you can decide how your money is spent. Anyone who wants a say in their education and experience at UWRF should have a seat on the Senate.” It isn’t just about having your voice heard and the ability to inflict change and make important decisions, however.

The benefits a student can obtain through a leadership position like being on Senate are immense. Future employers will be impressed by someone with Senate participation listed on their resume.

“Personally, I’ve learned a lot of time management skills being on Senate. It can be a lot of work but it can be fun and rewarding at the same time. I would highly recommend it to anyone,” said Blanchard.

It is important to note that there are rules for campaigning. In the past there have been some issues in regards to campaigning, but measures have been taken to ensure that rules are clear and there are no more issues. Two very important rules include no posting of campaign material before the petition due date, and that all active campaigning must cease on election days. All campaign rules can be found on OrgSync and a copy of the full election rules is attached to all petitions.

Polls will open for the general Senate election on April 2 at 8 a.m. and close April 3 at 4 p.m.

A link to the polls will be sent out to all students via email. The results will be posted at 5 p.m. on April 3 and the student body will have new leadership for the 2012-2013 school year.