Stanford Review - Archive - Volume XXVIII - Issue 3 - Opinion
Flyer Policy Prevents Informed Electorate
by Ryan Wisnesky
In one month more than fifty candidates and special fees groups will vie forpositions in the ASSU and for thousands of dollars of fees. It would be natural to think that candidates would go door to door talking to students about their positions and be able to post flyers wherever students will read them. However, because of the policies implemented by Residential Education (ResEd), this is no longer possible.
Responsible for promoting discussion within student residences, the Office of Residential Education recently limited ASSU campaigning in dorms.
ResEd considers door-to-door campaigning to be solicitation. ResEd has adopted an unwritten policy of forbidding anything even slightly political from reaching students be it candidates, newspapers, or magazines. When asked about this policy, Director of ResEd Jane Camarillo replied, "We are using the same policy as last year and last year we did not allow door-to-door campaigning." (Many candidates last year did campaign door-to-door.) Further requests for information were ignored.
ResEd's stated mission is "intellectual stimulation through discussions of issues, and introduction to an array of stimulating people, [and] ideas...." Given that ResEd has prohibited candidates from campaigning door to door, one might assume that they would allow candidates to freely distribute flyers in the dorms. But this too is prohibited. Candidates are so severely limited that it is almost impossible for them to reach students in any way.
The ASSU Campaign Practices Code, compiled by the ASSU elections Commission based on rules made by ResEd and other departments, states that "Flyers placed under the doors of a residence or individual rooms are prohibited.
Furthermore, each candidate is only allowed to post one flyer per RA per dorm. That means in all Row Houses, each candidate is only allowed to post one flyer and these flyers cannot be posted in the bathrooms." For candidates, this is a major obstacle. As ASSU Elections Commissioner Gedioen Aluola said, "Many candidates feel that the bathroom is one of the few places where you can actually get a student to sit and read a flyer."
Because candidates cannot enter dorms to talk to students door to door, the Elections Commission is trying to find ways to bring the students and candidates together. One of the current proposals is to bring candidates into the dorms in the evening to have panel type discussions. Since every dorm has different issues it feels need to be addressed, the Elections Commission is trying to tailor its approach to each dorm. This way the candidates will have to answer to the student body instead of just running on a specific issue. "We want to make sure that the candidates don't just run on certain issues but [instead] address the concerns of the student body," remarked Mr. Aluola.
In addition to the dorm discussion panels, "We are creating an online handbook where each candidate and special fee group must answer four or five questions. Students e-mail us about what questions they want," said Mr. Aluola.
Student reactions to the policies of ResEd are mixed. When asked about the elections in general, many students expressed bewilderment. "I have no idea whats going on. Elections? What Elections?" asked Jim Grau, a freshman. This type of sentiment, especially when expressed by freshmen, has lead to concern by dorm leaders. The Elections Commission is well aware of the problem, and is actively seeking to let students know about the electoral process. There is information on the ASSU Elections homepage, but students must actively seek this information out, so its reach is limited. "We want to assist the candidates in reaching the students," stated Mr. Aluola.
One can only wonder how ResEd's election policies help foster political discussion. Although prohibition of flyer distribution in bathrooms may make sense from a cleanliness standpoint, are the needs of the campus for political discussion served if candidates can post fewer flyers than a dorm can for a party? Hopefully the Elections Commission will be able to address some of these problems; so far the commission seems to be doing a good job. But considering some of ResEd's more irrational policies, honesty and determination by students may simply not be enough.
Page last modified on Thursday, 02-Mar-2006 00:17:44 MST.