Fewer than 300 students voted on the Dec. 11 Student Association referendum that saw the passage of all three issues on the ballot, including the addition of a third, non-voting freshman senator.
SA members said short notice prevented many students from hearing about the election.
Students passed all three proposals by significant majorities: to add one more non-voting freshman senator, to review the Code of Student Conduct and to form a group to examine student judicial procedures.
SA Executive Vice President Josh Singer said he was disappointed with the turnout but pleased with the results and said the SA will begin accepting applications for the third freshman senator position as soon as possible.
“Those who were opposed to the addition of the Senator felt that freshmen were already over-represented,” Singer said.
Singer and two senators created the referendum, which the SA estimates cost $2,500 to hold, by completing a petition. Their original proposal for a referendum on whether to add a third freshman senator was rejected by the Senate, prompting students to garner the 2,200 signature petition necessary to hold the election.
Zack Beyer, SA vice president for student activities, said the other issues were added to the ballot during a Senate meeting.
Singer said the SA should have been prepared to conduct a vote because senators were informed three and a half weeks in advance.
“Logic would dictate that if someone is telling you that you may have an election, then you would start preparing,” he said. “It’s great that they did a Hatchet ad, but why weren’t there posters in every dorm?”
SA President Roger Kapoor attributed the low turnout to a lack of preparation opportunity.
“We had to put together an election within a matter of a week, so maybe the amount of publicity about the election wasn’t as high as it would have been,” he said.
Beyer said the Senate received the petition Nov. 30.
The two judicial items on the ballot are important, Singer said, and should have been treated that way.
“Student opinion is the most powerful tool to send the administration a message,” he said.
Singer said the Code of Student Conduct will be recalled to the Joint Committee of Faculty and Students with the passage of the referenda.
“The alcohol and drug policies need to be reviewed and expanded for depth,” Singer said. “The are not as straightforward as it could be and there are a lot of gray areas the code does not cover.”
Other issues he hopes the Joint Committee will address include the role of an advisor during SJS hearings and policies that remove students from University housing after the first drug offense.
The third referendum will establish a five-person student committee to review procedures and recommend changes to the processes of SJS.
“There needs to be some students with leverage,” Singer said. “Students who can go to the deans and administrators and voice student judicial concerns.”
Beyer called the low voter turnout “disappointing.”
“Our goal was to get at least 500 students to vote,” he said.
Poll monitor Lindsay Hamilton said mostly students involved with the SA had voted at her Marvin Center polling station, where 31 people had voted by 1:45 p.m. She said half of the students voting said they were sent by Singer.
“No one knew about the election,” Hamilton said.
“The only people who would get information were on the SA mailing list, so they are already part of the SA,” freshman Erin Hersey said.
SA bylaws mandated that the referendum be held before classes end for the fall semester.
“We didn’t have a lot of notice,” Beyer said. “We had to call the election before the fall semester ended. We sent out a couple of e-mails, but a lot of our focus was on the logistics. We thought the best advertisement would be people sitting at the (polling) tables.”
Kapoor said the SA is considering ways to increase voter turnout for the regularly scheduled general SA elections in February.
“We’re looking into moving the elections online,” Kapoor said. “That way, all the verification procedures would be done in a speedy and efficient way and hopefully that will increase the amount of voters in comparison to the previous years.”