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SGA takes first new steps to improve election process

Survey offers chance to voice opinions on campaign and election conduct

   With the spring semester now underway, the Student Government Association (SGA) has begun taking steps to improve students’ experiences with their own student government. Particularly, it hopes to improve the way in which students vote for their future representatives.

On Thursday, Jan. 22, the SGA released an Elections Student Experience Survey, inquiring about students’ perspectives on previous SGA electoral campaigns. The online survey, available on the myUMBC website, offers student-voters the opportunity to express their personal concerns or recommendations for the campaign and electoral processes.

Evan Leiter-Mason, a sophomore political science and economics major and the SGA Election Board Chairman, stated that the survey was prompted by several student-voters’ negative experiences amid last spring’s SGA elections. These negative interactions had been expressed to both the Election Board and members of UMBC’s administration.

“In particular, [these] problems included the way many students were made to feel unsafe in campus spaces by the campaigns,” Leiter-Mason said. In addition, he stated that last spring’s elections revealed concerns from students over how the Election Board resolves disputes related to the election process and results.

“The Election Board is working to craft a comprehensive response that addresses those two issues as well as other general problems,” said Leiter-Mason. “The purpose of the survey is to enable students to make their voices heard in this reform process and to help guide the Election Board in its deliberations.”

The survey specifically asks students to share any instances of being “harassed or made to feel uncomfortable” by peers involved in campaigns from past elections. Additionally, it allows survey-takers to propose ways by which they hope the campus electoral process is improved.

According to Leiter-Mason, the Election Board hopes to receive feedback concerning both interactions with SGA candidates’ campaigns and the elections themselves.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time that the Election Board has initiated a formal process of soliciting student input to correct election procedures and policies,” Leiter-Mason said. “But outreach has always been an important priority for the Election Board through its efforts to recruit candidates, inform voters and engage the student body in our shared civic community.”

The Election Board’s survey has already yielded feedback from students regarding last spring’s SGA elections. Thus far, the responses have confirmed a sense of dissatisfaction from the campus community toward the way the campaigns were handled.

“Students are extremely upset about the way campaigns related to them in last year’s election,” said Leiter-Mason. “Personally, my hope is that we can find a solution that lets the election be about students’ collective vision for the campus and not about gaming the system.”