First-years Set Record for Senate Race
Issue   |   Wed, 10/05/2011 - 01:48
Photo by Meghna Sridhar '14

Posters, emails, postcards, Facebook event pages, statuses and videos bombarded the freshman class last week with one clear message: “Vote for me!”

After a rigorous advertising campaign by the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) Elections Committee, the Class of 2015 had a record number of candidates in the first-year Senate elections, with 18 students running on the ballot.

“The Elections Committee met and we talked about way to advertise the Senate race in ways that we hadn’t done it before,” said Noah Gordon ’14, senator, AAS Webmaster and chair of the Elections Committee.

“This year we advertised both the election and the speech night, so that could account for the high turnout both on the ballot and at speech night. Voter turnout didn’t increase significantly, but it did increase. We like to think it’s because of our advertising.”

Through these efforts, the AAS was able to alert first-years to the upcoming elections.

“I think AAS did a great job advertising the election, especially the fact there are very few female senators. I know that when I saw those pie-chart fliers, I was even more determined to run,” said Christina Won, a new senator for the Class of 2015.

The high turnout also inspired strong campaigning for the competitive seats.

“My election race wasn’t very competitive,” Gordon said. “This year, I noticed a tendency [among the freshmen] to go beyond posters and table tents and engage their classmates personally. Also the high attendance at speech night probably helped spread the word about each of the candidates.”

Upwards of 100 students attended speech night, where the 18 freshman candidates pitched their bids for Senate and fielded questions from their peers. Their passion and platforms had both students and current senators excited.

“As opposed to what I’ve seen in years past, the candidates at speech night didn’t simply talk about joining a student government, they were running specifically to serve on the AAS. Most of them actually knew a ton of specifics about how we function,” said AAS President Romen Borsellino ’12. “These freshmen have read stories about us in The Student, attended our town halls, contacted their Senate-dorm representatives directly and have been engaged in conversations about some initiatives that we’ve taken on.”

The higher number of candidates was shocking to many on campus, including some of the candidates themselves.

“I was super intimidated! I had heard that Senate elections aren’t all that competitive, so it was a shocker when I saw that I was running against 17 amazing, highly-qualified candidates with lots of potential,” Won said.

The 18 candidates for the class of 2015 was only rivaled in recent years by the class of 2013, who placed 16 candidates on the ballot after the AAS ran a strong advertising campaign. The class of 2014, however, only had eight candidates run for the eight freshman senate spots, after lackluster advertising.

“When we ran for Senate, there was no advertising. All we had to go on was the email from the then-Elections Committee Chair, [Philip Johnson ’11] … Everyone was aware of the election because of the initial email, and so many people planned to run but forgot because they were never reminded. This year we reminded people with our posters, etc. and maybe that spurred them to continue their campaigns,” Gordon said.

Current senators are looking forward to working with the new senators, especially after they worked to familiarize themselves with the student body.

“The AAS this year, especially the executive board, is making a concerted effort to try and connect more personally with the student body and engage with issues that are important to students,” Gordon said. “The mindfulness of the candidates in this election towards such personal connections could have something to do with that.”

Current senators also urged freshmen who did not win seats not to not get too discouraged.

“The downside, as with any election, is that there were a lot of great candidates who didn’t win,” Borsellino said. “It upsets me to think about the fact that so many students were eager to serve who just didn’t get the chance. But I hope they understand that this is just the beginning. Honestly, some of the best senators that I have seen in my time here are students who initially lost their elections, but refused to give up, ran again the following year, and got elected.”

—Brianda Reyes ’14 contributed reporting