The elections last year, fraught with scandal, were the most heated in recent memory for Utah Valley University. With illegal campaigning and bigoted e-mails, the campaign was an ugly one which led to a final vote that fell across party lines.
To help avoid these same issues and pitfalls, the Election Committee has created the Campaign for Integrity, which will serve as an effort to support the elections and to create awareness among the students to promote a dignified race to the presidency.
“Just seeing how things were run and how teams interacted with each other during elections and campaigning and debate, it really was just disappointing to me to see the interactions going on,” said Erin Haskell, vice president of academics and the Election Committee chair. “I thought, ‘if there’s any way I could change what happened last year into something better then I’m going to do it.'”
Previously, the committee adhered to a violations rubric which the candidates were held to. This year they’ve even added a clause on mudslinging to avoid any unnecessary contention, but Haskell said that she was looking to do more.
“We have a violations rubric that we follow, but I thought that really, if the teams were going to be held to a standard, then the student body was going to be the most powerful force to do that,” Haskell said.
Campaign posters, which the committee plans to hang around campus about a week before the campaigning begins, will promote integrity and fair play with simple quotes about leadership signed “Sincerely, the Elections Committee.” The committee hopes that this will help students keep in mind that they should make an informed decision on which of the candidates their student body officers will be.
Even with all the controversy, only about eight percent of the student body voted in last year’s election. In an average year, the administration expects about two to 14 percent of the student body to turnout for voting. And while the Elections Committee is not expecting anything different this year, they are always hopeful that students will turn up to vote.
“If the student body started to care, even just a little bit, about what happened to the school and about the leaders that are trying to take us places, we could make so much more of a difference, so much more of an impact on the state of the university,” Haskell said.
The UVUSA presidency is the student body’s link to the administration. Through this election the students choose their representatives and can have a very real effect on the school and how it is run. With President Holland recently announcing the potential loss of $10 million, that link will be more important than ever.
Voting will begin on March 4 with the final vote being announced Wednesday afternoon. The highlight of the week will be the debate between the three parties on Tuesday at noon in Center Stage where students will be able to see the candidates respond to questions. Beyond that, the student body will be able to meet the candiates in halls that week as they vigorously campaign for the offices.
“[The students] should be asking hard questions to those candidates,” Haskell said. “They’re going to be in the halls. Go and drill them on what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, and how they’re going to do it, and when they’re going to do it.”