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UR’s Students’ Association is nearly finished making amendments to its election policies and procedures manual.

The SA’s electoral process is governed by a set of rules known as the bylaws. The goals of the election process outlined in these bylaws are carried out in accordance with the Policies and Procedures Manual (PPM), which outlines and specifies the acceptable operations, policies and procedures relating to SA elections.

According to Speaker of the Senate and senior Dan Cohn, “the bylaws tell us what needs to be done and our PPM tells us how and where.”

The PPM changes frequently to adapt with the changing social climate surrounding student government elections. This year, the amendments to the PPM are largely focused on two issues: the selection process for Professor and Student Life Advocate of the Year; and the guidelines for campaigning on social networking sites.

Every year, one professor is selected as Professor of the Year for each of four academic divisions: the Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences and Engineering departments.  In the past, the award has been decided by a student body vote — students could vote on professors of their choosing on the SA website.

The SA decided that student body votes are biased, however, and this year have opted to select the four professors of the year using a special task force.

Students will nominate professors for the award on the SA website.  Then, a task force composed of members of the student government, dispersed across class years and academic divisions, will decide which professor wins the award for each division. Identical changes are in the works for the Student Life Advocate of the Year Award.

“By proxy it’s almost like it is a student vote,” SA Elections Committee Chair and senior Becky Donnelly said. “Senators represent their constituents.”

The proxy vote is meant to eliminate the bias favoring professors with large classes inherent in a student body vote.

One student worried that the new selection method might carry its own bias.

“On what basis is the task force going to select the professor? It seems like this new method is just as ambiguous,” junior Renuka Lakshmanan said. “I wonder if [the new method] is going to fix the bias?”

The SA is also establishing guidelines for campaigning on social networking sites which, until this year, have been non-existent.  Currently, students running for positions in the SA cannot spam other students with mass emails, and the SA wants this same logic to apply to social networking.

Candidates can now campaign on any forum to which message recipients have voluntarily subscribed and from which message recipients can also voluntarily unsubscribe.

The changes, according to Donnelly, “establish more clear guidelines for social media use in campaigning in the long run.”

“The new changes protect candidates rights and enhances the campaign process overall,” Cohn said.

As a result of these changes, students running for office are still prohibited from sending unsolicited messages to voters.
The campus reception to the new changes was generally positive.

“The campaigns of students running for student government positions can be overwhelming sometimes,” freshman Kiara Medina said. “I prefer the new changes.”

“When you’re running [for office] it’s hard to know what’s unacceptable and what’s okay,” freshman Rachel Suresky said. “I think the new changes will make everyone happier in the long run.”

The PPM has also been updated for the benefit of future members of the SA, with various suggestions for how to run elections in the future.

Volkov is a member of the class of 2012.

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