By Reubin Turner
Several candidates for the upcoming student body elections raised concerns about their ability to campaign at a mandatory candidate meeting on Tuesday.
At the meeting, the university’s Electoral Commission gave strict guidelines for the candidates to adhere to during the campaign season, which included specific prohibitions on the use of all personal social media accounts in relation to campaigns.
According to the Electoral Code, the commission is responsible for administering and supervising all elections and nominations for the Baylor student body. During the meeting, members of the commission went over sections of the code, highlighting social media restrictions during the campaign period.
At the meeting, Electoral Commissioner Sarah Park, a senior, said candidates were strictly prohibited from posting any references to their campaigns on their personal social media accounts. If they wished to use social media to campaign, they would have to create separate accounts.
She then modified her statement, saying that candidates were only prohibited from posting pictures about their campaigns or specifically asking students to vote. She said they were still allowed to link to a separate campaign page.
Perhaps the most contentious interpretation of the code, however, was the rule that stated all Baylor students were not allowed to endorse or make references to a campaign on their social media accounts. If this were to happen, the candidate whom the social media post referenced could be penalized – even if the friend in question was not related to the campaign in any way.
Austin sophomore Walker Schmidt, who is running to become a junior class senator, was at the meeting and said many parts of the limitations don’t make sense and are insulting. Schmidt said it was brought up several times during the meeting that the friend of a candidate could purposefully endorse his friend’s opponent, causing the the opponent to be in violation of the code.
“There are just so many things about this code that don’t make sense,” Schmidt said. Schmidt also said the commission should take a serious look at whether or not they are violating the rights of others.
During the meeting, Park stated it was not the commission’s intention to limit the means for which candidates could campaign, but to make the campaign process as fair as possible.
Members of the commission urged candidates to be cognizant of the fact that the commissioners themselves did not have an interest in the campaign, and that they only wanted to make sure the campaign was fair.
During the meeting, Woodville junior Kristyn Miller, the external vice president, asked the commission what the punishments were for those who broke these rules concerning social media.
“We’re not the police,” Park said. But if reported, the commission would call the candidate to a hearing to decide further action.
“I would hope the candidates wouldn’t, but if they did, the candidate would have to go through a hearing with the Electoral Commission, followed by possible action by Judicial Affairs,” Park said.
Lombard, Ill., senior Danny Huizinga said what’s confusing to him is the fact that in the past elections, almost all candidates posted campaign pictures on their personal social media accounts. When he tried to provide evidence of this precedent to the commission, they declined to receive it.
“Trying to control what all Baylor students can post online about a campaign clearly violates the principle of free speech enshrined in both the Baylor Student Body Constitution and the United States Constitution,” Huizinga said.
Park said the commission would meet Wednesday to further discuss the rules on social media and issue a final decision by the end of the day.
When asked by the Lariat about the rules, Park declined to comment.