Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) brainstormed ideas for campaign reform in future BSG elections and possible changes to the Student Activities Funding Committee’s (SAFC) Club Funding Guidelines at its meeting on Wednesday. 

BSG President Chris Breen ’15 opened the dialogue about the current bylaws for student elections with regard to social media and campaign spending. Currently, the bylaws state that candidates cannot provide gifts, hold election parties or send mass campaign emails using class, dorm and club mailing lists. They are also limited to $10 in advertising funding to spend at the Copy Center to print posters for their campaigns. 

However, there are no explicit bylaws for campaigning through Facebook, such as purchasing ads or promoting a post. Both of these activities come with a price tag. President of the Class of 2018 Ned Wang purchased targeted Facebook ads during his campaign in early October. This opened the broader question of regulating campaign spending in the age of social media. 

“This is about whether everyone in the election starts on a level playing field,” said Breen.
BSG discussed several possible solutions and changes to the bylaws and will revisit the issue at a later time. 

“The question is spending money at all during a campaign and we need to try to keep elections as simple as possible,” Breen said. 

President of SAFC Ryan Davis ’15 then changed the conversation to introduce two possible changes to its Club Funding Guidelines. 

The first falls under section IV: Travel. The current guidelines state that SAFC does not fund Zipcars or road trips outside of New England. Davis suggested that the limitation be changed to 500 miles outside of Bowdoin, but within the United States.

The second change is under section VII: Conferences and Retreats. Davis proposed to change the language that allows funding from “one conference per year” to “off campus leadership training,” which would encourage club leaders to gain more leadership experience while recognizing that conferences can be expensive. There is also a proposed distinction between competitive conferences and tournaments for clubs and groups that need to go to annual non-competitive conference workshops. 

In the upcoming week, BSG members will communicate the proposed changes to various club members for feedback. Assuming it receives positive feedback, BSG plans to vote on the changes to the Club Funding Guidelines in the upcoming weeks.