Elections for Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) Executive Assembly positions open today, with 16 candidates vying for eight positions. Due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), candidates have been campaigning remotely and have turned to social media initiatives in place of posters and in-person debates.
The current leadership of BSG had to alter its campaign rules as a result of students not being on campus. BSG President Ural Mishra ’20 noted that campaigning from a distance can present difficulties for candidates who may not have access to equal resources.
“When we first announced we were having info sessions, we let all the candidates know that if there’s something that hinders an individual’s ability to participate in the election, we would change rules accordingly and that they had to be prepared for that, just in case,” said Mishra in a phone interview with the Orient.
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Many candidates noted that having to campaign from a distance has altered their original campaign strategies.
“I was expecting to do a little more of a classic campaign where I go in the Union, talk to people, talk about my platform and what I’ve done and what I’m trying to accomplish, but now that’s not really possible,” said Marcus Williams ’21 in a phone interview with the Orient. Williams is the current BSG chair of diversity and inclusion and is running for BSG president.
“My first year, I ran for class council president, and a lot of that was door knocking, going to each of the first year-bricks, very much in-person campaigning,” said Wilder Short ’22 in a phone interview with the Orient. Short is the current chair of facilities and sustainability, and is running for vice president for student government affairs.
Without the convenience of having the student population together on campus, candidates are using a variety of social media platforms, especially Facebook and Instagram, to reach other students. Harry Sherman ’21, the chair of the treasury in 2018-19, is running for vice president for student government affairs and has primarily relied on Instagram to campaign.
“I played with the thought of creating a new Instagram account, but opted for using my current Instagram account,” said Sherman in a phone interview with the Orient. “And there’s a lot of my friends from high school and other schools that are probably just super annoyed and I’m probably losing followers. But yeah, it’s definitely the fastest way to reach people.”
Other candidates are also relying on their preexisting social networks to reach out to as many voters as possible.
“Other than social media, I’ve found it useful just to talk with my close friends and ask them to help me where they can,” said Steven Xu, Class of 2022 president and a candidate for BSG president, in a phone interview with the Orient. “Of course my close friends have their own friend groups and if they can share the word and put up my posters on their Instagram story or whatever, that helps spread the word.”
Though they’re all adapting their campaign strategies to fit the unique demands of the remote election, the candidates noted a few persistent challenges. Short, for example, finds it challenging to evaluate his headway when all of his connections are made digitally.
“I think it’s a bit easier to see tangible progress in person, whether that be posters up and about around different dorms, or having your friends meet up with other friends at a large dinner table,” said Short.
Sherman noted some awkwardness that his new campaign model presents.
“It’s hard when, with all that’s going on, the first thing that you really want to do with people that you haven’t spoken to in a while is check in,” said Sherman. “But it sounds really insincere when the next thing you have to send is, ‘hey, can you post this for me?’ And so it’s been tough. I’ve been trying to walk that line.”
Steven Xu ’22 is a member of the Orient staff.