Saturday, August 8, 2020

How the coronavirus changed the campaign for ASMSU candidates

Students can vote online March 30 to April 5

March 27, 2020
<p>ASMSU holds a General Assembly meeting on Feb. 27, 2020. </p>

ASMSU holds a General Assembly meeting on Feb. 27, 2020.

Photo by Jack Falinski | The State News

With classes online for the remainder of the semester, candidates running to represent their college in ASMSU’s 57th General Assembly realized they were not going to be running a traditional campaign.

“I knew this was going to change the dynamic of the General Assembly campaign and election,” College of Arts and Letters candidate Matthew Apostle said.

Michigan State students can vote online for candidates March 30 to April 5.

“Given the state of our national affairs right now, it does in fact mean that campaigning will be tougher, but it does not mean it is impossible,” College of Communication Arts and Sciences candidate Jack Harrsion said. “It just means that those who campaign effectively are the candidates that have adapted to these circumstances.”

Harrison and many other candidates found creative ways of promoting themselves and the importance of the election online ⁠— including Zoom lectures. 

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“While elections will be held on an online platform again, we must work to find new ways to get increased student voting outcome,” current College of Natural Sciences representative and candidate Aubrey Hanes said. “Students will be voting for the individuals that represent their voice not only in student government, but on academic governance committees as well.”

After serving in the 55th GA, College of Agricultural and Natural Resources candidate Sergei Kelley is seeking re-election.

Previously in the GA, a bill to remove Kelley alleged he used ASMSU logos to recruit conservatives to the GA, but did not pass. Following this, Kelley ran for the 56th session but was not reelected.

Kelley is editor-in-chief of The Morning Watch, and chairman of MSU College Republicans.

“Last year's campaigning was much more boots-on-the-ground oriented, this year it's obviously going to be different,” Kelley said. “I am utilizing social media, personal communications and email, and other formats to still reach voters.”

While some candidates believe the circumstances could increase voter turnout, others feel this could hurt the election.

ASMSU’s policy committee passed a bill for a pilot fall election March 26, taking into account turnout and that there are still 17 seats open for the GA, which would be too many to appoint individually. This will go through the GA at their last meeting on April 2. 

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources representative and candidate Blake Lajiness was appointed to the GA in November 2019, after attempting to run last spring as a write-in candidate. Since his last campaign was late in game, this year’s election was a first chance to do it formally. 

“My plan was kind of already an online plan,” Lajiness said. “I guess the only thing that was kind of more difficult to do was to get those signatures because the deadline was the Wednesday that classes were moved online. So, I was kind of in a hurry to get over to ... Natural Resources Building to get some signatures, so I kind of had to go over there the morning of.”

For some freshmen running for the GA, they were not able to run their first campaign the way they originally hoped to. 

“I was nervous about classes getting moved online for my campaign and voting," College of Natural Science candidate Olivia Triltsch said. "Being in the freshman class council, we were in charge of assembling the annual ‘battle of the late nights’ and has already begun talking to local restaurants and reserving a location to host the event. Once we moved online, I got very disappointed that our work was not going to be recognized.”

Moving a campaign solely online removed some of the personal connections the candidates hoped to make with their constituents. 

“Running a campaign on an empty campus is a little sad,” College of Education candidate Aaron Iturralde said. “I really hoped that this campaign would let me talk one-on-one with students in the College of Education and hear their concerns.”

After serving as Vice President of the Freshman Class Council, Iturralde said he hoped to voice student concerns more directly if elected in the GA, and has since had to transition this idea to a Zoom meeting instead. 

“I feel kind of disappointed not being able to run my campaign properly for the first time,” Triltsch said. “I was really looking forward to connecting to more peers and listening to what they wanted to see happen next year.

Even with the setbacks, some candidates are hopeful that the students will turn out.

“As we participate in social distancing, it is vital that we don’t distance ourselves from the issues still present on campus,” Hanes said. “ASMSU will continue to advocate for students, and Spartans will continue to vote.”

List of candidates for the 57th General Assembly Session:

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Blake Lajiness

Emma Grant

Sergei Kelley

Max Toll

College of Arts and Letters

Matthew Apostle 

College of Business 

Tim Morris

Maria Kakos

College of Education

Aaron Iturralde

College of Engineering

Christian Stack

Riley Lawson

James Madison College

Jordan Kovach

Gavyn Webb

College of Natural Science

Cynthia Sridhar

Olivia Triltsch

Aubrey Hanes

College of Nursing

No candidates

College of Social Science 

Sarah Chynoweth 

No Preference

Alan Saleh

College of Music

No candidates

Lyman Briggs College 

No candidates

College of Veterinary Medicine

Travis Boling

Leland Ackerson

College of Communication Arts and Sciences

Jack Harrison 

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