The SA meeting for Feb. 17 included a discussion of potential changes to the process of electing the SA president, an announcement of a booth at Fresh Check Day to promote SAD lamps, and further discussion of the all-gender restroom project headed by the Campus Services Committee.

Recommended changes to the elections process

Senate speaker and junior Micah Greenberg kicked off the meeting with a presentation from the Commission to Review the Students Association, which he chairs alongside Dean of Students Matthew Burns.

The commission, which examines different SA processes and suggests ways to improve them, has recently focused on flaws in the election process.

The most contentious proposal was one to change how students vote for SA President.

The recommendation called for a switch from approval voting — where students can vote for as many presidential candidates as they want — to instant runoff voting. The new system would require students to rank (rather than select) presidential candidates according to their first, second, and third choice, and so on.

Following this, all the first-choice votes would be counted, and the candidate with the least votes would be eliminated. Then, all the students who had listed the eliminated candidate as their first choice would have their vote transferred to their second-choice candidate. This system would only apply if there were more than two candidates in a race.

Greenberg — who is a member of the Campus Times’ senior staff — said the new process would allow students to vote according to their actual preferences instead of being forced to vote for a candidate they thought had a better chance of winning. He added that the system would not be implemented this semester, as it was not technologically feasible for UR.

Until then, the commission recommended a strong publicity effort to help people better understand how approval voting works, as Greenberg said some people had mistakenly thought that voting for more than one presidential candidate split their vote in half.

SA President and senior Jamal Holtz said he saw “a lot of complications with this system,” and cautioned against overhauling the current system based mostly on “anecdotal evidence.” He added that he thought this change would need input from the student body before it could be passed.

Other noteworthy recommendations from the commission included:

  • Distinguishing between campaign planning and campaigning more generally. Campaign planning would be allowed all year-round rather than during the campaign period. Campaigning has also been split into public and private campaigning. Public campaigning refers to activities like chalking or Facebook posts meant to target a multitude of students, whereas private campaigning refers to direct interactions, in-person or online, meant to persuade students.
  • Introducing a rules quiz that candidates must pass before they can begin campaigning. Currently, candidates attend a mandatory meeting and can refer to the rules online. Greenberg said this could more effectively limit confusion and prevent candidates from committing election violations. Candidates would be allowed to take the test as many times as needed to pass.
  • Requiring student organization e-boards to approve decisions to endorse candidates or booking rooms for candidates. This would help prevent e-board members who were running for election from abusing their power.

To pass, these recommendations will have to be approved by the Senate in a vote happening on Monday, Feb.24.

SAD Lamps Debut

Student government will have a booth at the Feb. 24 Fresh Check Day event in Hirst Lounge to promote the new Seasonal Affective Disorder lamps and inform students on how they can get one at no cost. Fresh Check Day, an interactive expo event focused on mental health promotion and suicide prevention, will be held from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. on Monday.

All-Gender Restrooms

Pavlicin said the Campus Services Committee had recently presented a draft of their report on all-gender restrooms to several deans. The report makes recommendations to ensure that students are never more than one floor away from an all-gender restroom. Pavlicin said the deans had expressed support, but preferred a more flexible timeline than the draft presented.

Other Announcements

Holtz introduced Unsung Heroes, a media initiative that could amplify SA’s Stars and Service program which recognizes University staff.

SA is now accepting applications for its new sub-committee to discuss ways forward regarding the Hirst Lounge flag display. As announced in the Feb. 17 SA summary, this sub-committee will advise the University-wide committee that is deciding what to do with the flags.

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