After months of preparation and weeks of research capped off by more than two hours of intense deliberation, ASG overwhelmingly passed a nine-page bill making a series of changes to the annual student body election process. Principal among these actions was a change to the election itself, which will eliminate write-in options this year and involve ranking candidates. The bill also set restrictions and guidelines on the 10-day campaign period leading up to the April 18 election and clarified the rules of "pre-campaigning," or candidates' discussions with student leaders on campus, during winter quarter.
"Basically, last year the rules on pre-campaigning as opposed to verbal campaigning were a little vague, so different candidates interpreted the rules different ways," said Medill senior Brad Stewart, vice president of ASG. The bill defines pre-campaigning as "actions taken by a candidate for the sole purpose of developing a platform," distinguishing it from "verbal, non-verbal or electronic campaigning." The bill clarifies that the former, unlike the latter, is legal after the second ASG Senate meeting of winter quarter.
"This is all so we'll have a better clue from the beginning on who's considering running, and candidates can be clear on whether they're violating campaign rules," said Weinberg senior Ian Coley, who authored the legislation and chaired the recently-formed Campaign Reform Ad Hoc Committee. "We're just taking a big gray area and making it more black and white."
The legislation, which was amended several times during the course of the evening, also placed restrictions on how much chalk and flyering candidates could use in their campaigns. The bill originally set a cap of 50 sticks of chalk per campaign, until Stewart introduced an amendment to allow campaigns to exceed that number if they dipped into their own funding to pay for it.
"Fifty pieces of chalk is not nearly enough, and it's an advertising method we should be promoting for how much more sustainable it is than flyering, which is a huge waste of paper," Stewart said. "Last year in our campaign we probably used about a thousand to 1,500 pieces of chalk – 50 pieces would have been used up in the first two hours of our first night of campaigning."
Other changes to election policy introduced by the legislation included clarifying the roles of election committee members, empowering them to hold candidates responsible for violating campaign rules, as well as increasing the number of signatures required for candidates to gather before running from 200-300 to 300-350.
"We figure that if ASG is supplying campaign materials to candidates, and especially after looking at the way our sister institutions run their elections, the raised number of signatures should be a symbolic way for candidates to buy in to the fact that they're meritorious of the supplies," Coley said.
Between the campaign reform legislation and other items brought before Senate for action, the meeting ran a total of four and a half hours, exceeding its usual three-hour limit. Senators trickled out of the meeting as the night went on, barely leaving enough for the 50-percent-plus-one minimum needed to pass the legislation at the end of the night.
"Yes, some people had to leave, but I think tonight was ultimately a great example of how when there's work that needs to be done, we're willing to stay around as long as we have to to do it," Coley said. "I was impressed by the stamina of a lot of senators when staring down the barrel of parliamentary procedure .... When senators arrive they shouldn't expect meetings to go until 11:30, but I consider it a rite of passage."
Other actions taken at the Senate meeting included:
- The passage of a resolution encouraging the University to create a $50,000 Sustainability Fund aimed at funding environmentally-minded student projects
- The passage of emergency legislation to fund "exam relief" programs at Norris during Finals Week, including yoga classes and the distribution of slippers and pillows
- The passage of a resolution urging the University to dedicate a "permanent site" in recognition of murdered former Northwestern basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong
- The nomination, election and confirmation of Weinberg junior Siddiq Ather as ASG's new financial vice president, replacing Weinberg senior Girish Pendse
- The nomination, election and confirmation of Weinberg junior Neel Lalkiya as ASG's new student groups vice president, replacing Weinberg senior Lauren Masterson
- The selection and appointment of the following seven students to this year's ASG election commission: Weinberg senior Jason Richardson, McCormick junior Abby Klearman, Weinberg sophomore Petros Karahalios, Weinberg sophomore Dana Leinbach, Weinberg sophomore Alex Deitchman, Weinberg junior Tori Zuzelo and McCormick sophomore Alex Lower.