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Tickets use web for campaigns

Megan Doyle | Monday, February 14, 2011

Despite more stringent rules on campaigns for student body president and vice president, the five tickets in this year’s election used Facebook and other Internet promotions to spread their ideas while making personal connections around campus.

Voting began at 8 a.m. this morning through a link sent to the entire student body from the Judicial Council. The voting site will close at 8 p.m.

Judicial Council president Marcelo Perez said the council monitors the elections closely in order to ensure the campaigns proceed ethically and fairly.

The Judicial Council made many changes to the rules in the constitution prior to this year’s election, including revisions to its Facebook policy.

“Facebook statuses may now say ‘Vote for [candidate’s name]’ on the day of the election, whereas last year this was prohibited,” Perez said.

The link to the voting website is also not allowed to be distributed through networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

“Concerning the actual Election Day the most important rule will be that now on [only] the Judicial Council will be allowed to distribute the election link,” Perez said. “Any candidate that is found distributing the link would have an allegation brought against them.”

Web campaigns played a critical role for all of the candidates. They assembled websites, created Facebook fan pages, filmed YouTube videos and even Tweeted.

Presidential candidate Catherine Soler and vice presidential candidate Emily LeStrange created a Facebook fan page, a Facebook voting event, a Twitter account and a website.

“It is always hard to get all of your ideas across through posters,” Soler said. “So we hoped that by emphasizing our slogan, ‘Passion and Perspective’ as well as our website and Facebook and Twitter logos that students would find various ways to read more about what we offer students.”

Candidates Ricky Bevington and Olivia Colangelo also created a Facebook page and an event to invite the student body to vote on Monday.

“We might not have had the fanciest posters or the fanciest website,” he said. “But we thought it was more about the ideas on the website than the site itself.”

The team filmed campaign videos and posted them on their YouTube channel. The channel received over 200 views, Bevington said.

Presidential candidate James Ward said he and running mate Heather Eaton used Facebook as a starting point to spread their names and catch students’ interest, but talking one-on-one was the focus of their campaign.

“We went with more of a grassroots strategy to engage people in actual conversation and try to help them realize we are in this for the students,” Ward said.

The team used a Facebook ad in addition to their other campaign methods.

“We had to make sure nothing we did on Facebook could be skewed as trying to solicit endorsements,” he said.

The ticket wanted to make connections in the dorms through their door-to-door campaigns and found the greatest campaign challenge was finding the time to reach out to everyone, Ward said.

Pat McCormick and Brett Rocheleau also visited every dorm on campus, and McCormick said the door-to-door conversations were the heart of his campaign.

“Though we have used electronic communications like e-mail contacts, text messaging and Facebook, our belief was that these forms of communications were only means to the ultimate goal: having the chance to talk with students about the future of our school face to face, one person at a time,” McCormick said.

McCormick said the ticket’s website and Facebook event pages were successful tools for the campaign as well.

“One publicly available indicator of the interactive nature of our campaign though is that our event page has the most comments of any current candidate event page online,” he said.

Campaigning is prohibited in the any of the Student Union offices or any venues occupied by the student union, Perez said, and all areas of LaFortune Student Center are off-limits for campaigns except pre-approved areas of the basement and first floor.

Ward and Eaton received a violation and sanction for posting a campaign poster in non-bulletin space in the LaFortune Starbucks, Perez said. The sanction against their ticket required Ward and Eaton to remove their posters from LaFortune for 24 hours.

Kevin Noonan and Matt Thomas, candidates on the perennial Zahm ticket for president and vice president, did not campaign as widely as the other tickets. They said they faced their biggest challenge in dealing with the campaign rules as well.

“Really our biggest challenge was toeing the line between the fact that our campaign is a mockery of the process and actually getting our campaign materials approved by the Judicial Council, for whom we have the highest respect and in no way think that their time is wasted in their decisions to crack down in the election process,” Noonan said.