SGB candidates utilize Facebook

By Gretchen Andersen

The best way to reach students isn’t on campus, it’s through Facebook.

Candidates for… The best way to reach students isn’t on campus, it’s through Facebook.

Candidates for Student Government Board are using the social media site, as well as other venues, to reach out to student voters.

The campaigns for Student Government Board and presidency began late last week, and the election will be on Nov. 18.

Vote Unity, Vote Truth, Vote Family, Vote Virtue and Vote for Students Strong all have created Facebook “like” and event pages.

If the number of “likes” have the power to predict the Nov. 18 election outcome, then Vote Truth for SGB, a platform that has Molly Stieber for president and John Hasley and James Landreneau for Board members, is in the lead with 392 “likes.”

The race, however, is close. All groups have between 200 to 400 “likes.”

Despite the amount of “liking” that’s going on through the Internet, some candidates from previous years attribute success to the old-fashioned concept of person-to-person contact.

Charlie Shull, current SGB president, said endorsements from student organizations were the most important aspect of his campaigns in 2008 and 2009.

Shull has campaigned in three elections, successfully for Board member in 2008 and president in 2009, and once unsuccessfully for Board member in 2007.

Shull said that after his loss in 2007, he campaigned differently for the the next two elections.

“I began trying to understand the leadership of the organizations, and that made me more knowledgeable of their needs and wants,” he said.

Besides using Facebook and endorsements, slates also have been talking to students. Hasley, current SGB Board member, is running for Board under the Vote Truth slate.

Hasley said he has been going up to students individually, speaking to them about his platform. He has also used Facebook and met with student organizations.

“I’ve spent probably eight to nine hours in Market Central; I try to do an hour to an hour and a half each day,” Haseley said. “I try to go to high-volume places where students are during leisure time.”

Ryan Gayman, of the Vote Unity slate, said he “likes to sit down and have a conversation with people” and would love to engage with students to talk about what his slate is about and his personal platform.

“I want students to let me know what I can do for them. After all, that is what SGB is all about,” Gayman said.

Henry Brinkerhoff, a Pitt senior, said he hasn’t been approached by candidates or followed the election, but he said he is looking for someone who will do “the things they can actually do.”

“All they really do, it seems, is allocate funds. It seems they do the opposite of their platforms,” Brinkerhoff said.

Whatever issues the candidates choose to base their platforms on, they use them to draw endorsements from campus organizations.

But endorsements don’t necessarily mean financial contributions.

Although some campaigns do receive money — The Campus Bookstore contributed to Board candidates Brittany Quinn and Sean Kiray’s slate — a lot of the money spent on T-shirts and fliers comes from the candidates own pockets.

Shull said that on average he spent $400 of his money each year, except for in 2008 when his fraternity donated $25 to his slate and $25 to him. David Gau, a current Board member running for president, said he didn’t spend more than $100 — of his own money — during his campaign last year with United Pride.

The amount of money spent is not an indicator of success, however. Current SGB Board member Dave Petrone said he didn’t spend any money last year.

Gabriella Grosso, running under the Students Strong slate, said in an e-mail that she hasn’t spent any money yet, but plans to spend her own money on T-shirts, banners, the campaign event they are planning and fliers during the paper campaign because she believes what she is doing is “important and worthy of all money spent.”

Halim Genus and Zach Weber of the Vote Family slate said they have not spent any funds yet.

“[Spending] is not a large part of our campaign by any means,” Weber said. “We are trying to focus on students and what we can do to improve SGB, show we are all under the same roof.”

There is no cap on spending for candidates.

A good chunk of the money spent on campaigns will go toward the paper campaign — which has been extended in this year’s election.

While last year it was only the day before and the day of the election, this year’s paper campaign has been extended to five days, said Elections Committee Chair Lena Wickenden.

According to the “SGB Elections Code and Committee By-Laws,” the paper campaign is a set period in which candidates distribute posters, fliers, buttons and stickers.

Wickenden said the paper campaign is an additional tool to reach out to student voters. It will begin on midnight, Nov. 13.

The campaign was extended to increase voter turnout, Wickenden said. Last year, only 13 percent of eligible students voted in the SGB elections.

Wickenden said she changed the policy with hopes of increasing awareness about the election and voter turnout by at least double this year.

“[This year’s five-day paper campaign] goes against going green — but I figured if it doesn’t work we can go back,” Wickenden said. “But this is a way for students to be informed about the election.”

In a way to promote an environmentally friendly campaign along with their own messages, many slates and candidates, including Vote Unity and Vote Truth, are ordering T-shirts. Matt Koller, campaign manager of Vote Unity, said T-shirts are very visible and a cost-effective way to advertise “because it is noticeable even if 50 to 100 people wear them,” he said.

Election Day is less than two weeks away. Stieber said it is important for candidates to remember why they are running during the campaign.

“It’s not easy. You have to stay positive,” Stieber said. “The most important thing is to remind yourself why you are running and why you want to represent students.”

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