Deadline extension meets mixed reviews

By Danielle Fox / Staff Writer

During most electoral contests, candidates drop out one by one over time, but the Student Government Board is asking more students to enter the race for its upcoming election.

Nine students submitted campaign applications by the original deadline on Oct. 23 — half the number of last year’s applicants. To give voters more options, Aaron Gish, Elections Committee chairman, extended the deadline to submit applications to Nov. 2. 

The Elections Code grants Gish the power to do what is necessary to facilitate an efficient election if there are no specific sections of the code that apply to situations that arise during the process. 

Two additional students submitted applications for Board positions under the extension, bringing the total number of candidates to 11. There were no additional applicants for president of the Board, and current Board member Mike Nites is the only candidate running for Board president.

Gish said students still have the option to apply for late presidency. 

The code includes provisions for people to apply for late candidacy, whereby people can nominate themselves after the deadline, up until one week before the election. 

To apply late for the presidency, candidates must turn in a petition with 500 signatures and write a statement of less than 500 words explaining his or her reason for applying late.  Late Board candidates must turn in a petition with 400 signatures, instead of 200, as is required in the first round of applications, and also turn in the statement required of late presidential candidates. 

Some students who have already entered the SGB race disagree with Gish’s strategy to increase the number of candidates.

Lauren Barney, a candidate for the Board, said that Gish should have required students to apply as late candidates and not have extended the deadline.

“It shows that [the late candidates] are actually dedicated, and the Board is monitoring their dedication and quality of the candidate,” Barney said.

Barney said the situation was mishandled because there is already a section of the code that allows additional candidates to run.

“I have no problem with making it easier for people to get on the ballot,” Barney said. “I want to make sure another opinion on this subject is heard. There is a huge structural problem there.”

Barney said that she loves that the decision was made with the student body in mind, but also said that she does not agree with how the committee is “negating the fact that there is an installed system.” Gish said that members of his committee and the Board believe that the relatively small number of prospective candidates in this year’s election constitutes an extenuating circumstance and that they should do everything within their power to prevent an uncontested election.

“Although this wasn’t technically breaking the rules, I can understand people’s concerns,” Gish said. “I’m driven by the rules in the code, but I can see the larger image.”

Barney said that she thought Gish did not adhere to the code because the original deadline had already passed when he decided on the extension. 

Joe Kozak, Judicial Review Committee chairman, said Gish’s extension of the deadline did not violate any part of the code because the deadline date was part of the elections timetable, a series of dates for events related to the election that Gish has the power to change during the period leading up to the election.

Barney said she was concerned about how future chairmen might execute this power.

“What stops [elections chairs] from changing another aspect of the system? Like, ‘Ok, we are going to have two days of election now,’” Barney said.

Nites said that the complexities and intricacies of the rules can create disorder within SGB. He said that he thinks this is “one of the big problems with SGB.”

“We have a lot of guidelines and rules that are up for interpretation, and maybe those just need to be clarified with what is considered Aaron’s discretion and not,” Nites said.

Nites said he believes it was Gish’s decision and was satisfied with how Gish handled the situation. He added that he does not think the extension will impact his campaign for president. Though Nites is currently running uncontested, he said he wants to run a strong campaign to help his slate members.

Barney said she believes the Board wanted to attract more student interest in the election because there will be referenda on the ballot. 

The referenda include three separate proposals to amend the SGB Constitution.

One proposed amendment would reduce the maximum number of candidates for Board member students could elect. Students can currently vote for up to five candidates, but would only be able to vote for three if this revision is approved.

Another proposed change to the constitution would raise the minimum grade point average for students in SGB from its current 2.5 to 2.75.

The last of the changes consists of a revision to the preamble of the constitution that would define the term “student” as any undergraduate not enrolled in the College of General Studies. The current text repeatedly explains that the constitution applies to the “non-CGS student body.” This change is intended to make the document more readable for students.

Gish said the primary concern was to give voters more options, but there was some truth to Barney’s assertion that the Board wanted more students to vote on the referenda on the ballot.

“I will admit it’s very important that people also be enticed to get out and vote because there are [referenda] on the ballot,” he said.

Jake Radziwon, a junior marketing major, applied late. Radziwon said he had picked up a packet before the original deadline, but was absorbed in family problems when it passed.

“Life just got in the way,” Radziwon said. “When the deadline was extended, I took it as a sign to throw my hat in the ring.”

Ellie Tsatsos, a junior biology and chemistry major, also applied late but was previously interested in SGB.  

Tsatsos said she was unsure at the time of the original deadline if she would graduate a year early, which would have prevented her from fulfilling a term. Tsatsos said she decided to remain a fourth year after the original deadline, and was then able to apply. 

Barney said she is not against late candidates and thought that the extra signature and essay requirements for late candidacy will produce higher-quality candidates. She said extending the deadline, on the other hand, might attract candidates who are not well-versed in student government and who will not be able to work with Pitt’s administration and students.

“If you are a student who had never even stepped in the SGB office, [you can] say, ‘Oh cool, I can pick up a packet and run for this campaign,’ all of a sudden,” Barney said. “Now that it’s so easy and not having to do any of the late candidacy stuff, it’s so easy to not know any of the basics for it and just say, ‘OK, here we go.’”

Gish and Barney agreed that the shortage of candidates should raise concerns among those involved with SGB.

“I think it’s something that we should definitely keep an eye out [for] and continue asking why that was the situation this year and look further into it,” Gish said.