On Friday, February 7th, Sarah Lawrence College community members were asked to participate in the online voting polls in order to fill several student government positions. Among the open positions were the roles of Senate Chair, Treasurer, New Student-at-Large, Sophomore Class President and lastly Senior Class Presidents, which were won by Ari Jones and Katie Flaherty.
That same Friday night, Ari and Katie hosted a party in the blue room for seniors, with the intention of starting the semester off right. At the green and white themed party, there was beer and pizza served, as well as a dance party and a computer stationed in a corner for those last few students who had not yet cast their votes. Normally when students are interested in hosting an event, they receive the go ahead as well as some money from the Student Activities sub committee. However, since this specific event was requesting that beer be served, the proposal had to go all the way through to Senate, perhaps giving the appearance that Senate had chosen a specific party to back.
“We really wanted to make sure that the event did not in any way say that it was a ‘vote for us’ party,” said Ari Jones, senior class co-president, “it was always a senior party with a nod to the election day with green and white and a nod to the seniors with beer and pizza.”
The timing of the party, however, raised many questions about the violation of bylaws both inside and outside of Senate. As it turns out, the bad timing was just a case of poor scheduling, due to snow days and meeting cancellations. “It wasn’t until after we had set the date and booked the space that the election date was decided,” said Katie Flaherty, senior class co-president.
Having Senate financially back a party through the Student Activity fund was a viable option for all candidates, as well as any and all students interested in hosting an event. However Kat Stephens, senior class president candidate, who ran along side of Anissa Latif, felt that this was not the best option for their own campaign. “We could have done that, but we chose not to. It didn’t seem to be something that was as sound as the way we wanted to engage the position, especially coming out of last semester where there were a lot of questions, we wanted to approach things differently.”
“There was never a precedence set,” said newly elected Senate Chair, Nate Montalto, as to why there has been such a gray area in terms of election ethics. “I would classify it as more than a gray area, I would say that it is something that is just not even talked about because it was something that was never considered, because it’s never been a problem before.”
While there have been questions as to the validity of the campaigning this year, this controversy has made it so that Senate will be overlooking and rewriting the bylaws as they exist currently, focusing on clarifying the do’s and don’ts of voting protocol.
“We will be discussing amending our bylaws to include a section on election ethics, that define exactly what can and cannot be done in an election because we don’t want a confusing and uncomfortable situation like this to ever come up again” Nate said about the upcoming Senate meeting. “What the senate will hopefully adopt are rules that say basically senate money cannot be used for anything where there is an appearance that it could be a campaign event.”
by Lauren Gray '16