Student participation in TCU elections rises
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 27, 2012 02:04
The general elections two weeks ago for Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate reflected a rising trend in the number of candidates running and an increase in voter turnout for both the rising sophomore and rising junior classes.
According to Tufts Elections Commission (ECOM) Chair Michael Borys, 21 members of the Class of 2015 and 12 members of the Class of 2014 competed for seven and nine open Senate seats, respectively. He added that 23 freshmen were originally on the ballot, but two candidates dropped out mid-election.
The rising sophomore and rising junior Senate seats were uncontested last year, with only five students from each class running for Senate.
“This is definitely a peak year; I wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers go down next year just because this year’s numbers were so big, but this is definitely an upward trend of getting more attention to and interest in Senate,” Borys, a junior, said.
ECOM Public Relations Chair Joel Kruger said that 69 percent of freshmen and 51 percent of sophomores voted. In the fall 2011 election, 56 percent of students in the Class of 2015 voted.
Borys said that ECOM put a significant effort into publicizing the elections, including increased use of social media, to encourage students to run for Senate and vote.
“We were able to send out an all-school email, which generated a lot of attention from reaching out to every student in the undergraduate community,” he explained. “We put advertisements in the Daily … we’re on Facebook and Twitter as well, and we cooperate with Tufts Jumbo on Facebook and TuftsLife to advertise.”
All of the Class of 2014 senators that ran for re-election retained their seats and all but one of the Class of 2015 senators won another term, according to Kruger, a sophomore. He said that incumbents had an advantage because they already have experience on the Senate and understand how it works.
“It could be easier for incumbent senators to run again because they’re able to interface with voters based on what they’ve already done and how they plan to expand on those projects,” Kruger explained. “They also understand the institution a little better because they’ve been a part of it.”
Thirty-five percent of all undergraduate students voted in the elections. The ballot also included two candidates each for Junior Class Council (Class of 2014) President, Junior Class Council (Class of 2014) Vice President of Social Programming and Latino Community Representative. All of the other seats went uncontested, including five Senate seats for the Class of 2013. Because there were two open seats for the Class of 2013, the two seats dropped down to the Class of 2014, and nine candidates were elected from the Class of 2014.
Andrew Nunez, one of the six re-elected senators representing the Class of 2015, said that he and the other incumbent senators reached out to other students and encouraged them to run.
“We did a lot of outreach, and the people who were on Senate were really encouraged to get their friends to run for Senate because we really believe that we are representing our [classes],” he said. “If we aren’t actively searching for people to run for elections, are we really representing people or are we just saving our seats?”
Bradley Friedman, the only new Class of 2015 senator, chose to run for Senate for the first time during these elections.
“I didn’t run for the first election because it was the first week or two of school, and I didn’t really know what was going on,” he said. “[Over the year], issues came up for me, and I knew that Senate was a way to resolve these issues.”
Nunez also noticed that candidates used a variety of campaign methods, which he believes contributed to the high voter turnout.
“When you have 21 people running, they’re all trying to reach out to their voting groups, so you have to be much more competitive, so people know your name, face and what you stand for,” he said. “People would go dorm-storming, there were a lot of groups and events on Facebook, people were changing their profile pictures. Last year I didn’t even chalk, and this year I chalked. People knew what was going on.”
Friedman believes that his efforts in reaching out to and connecting with students, along with his platform of making Senate more accessible to the student body, improving Tufts’ public relations outside of the northeastern United States and increasing access to food on campus during the weekends, were a reason he was elected.
“I went to each dorm and talked to people. I got a lot of good feedback,” he said. “I think [my ideas] resonated with a lot of people because they’re practical.”