Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 18, 2020

SGA removes petition requirements for candidates

By CLAIRE GOUDREAU | September 12, 2020

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COURTESY OF CHRIS H. PARK

This week SGA approved changes to the Committee on Student Elections Constitution and passed two bylaw amendments.

The Student Government Association (SGA) held its weekly meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 8, discussing election proceedings, committee bylaws and resources for survivors of sexual assault.

At the meeting, SGA members unanimously passed changes to the Committee on Student Elections (CSE) Constitution, which included removing all petition requirements for candidates. In prior elections, students had to collect a specified number of peer signatures for their name to be listed on the ballot.

CSE Chair Ananta Srivastava, who introduced the changes, explained that petitions were an unnecessary step that was made even more difficult by the online semester. She asserted that if candidates took campaigning seriously, there was no need to collect an arbitrary number of signatures.

Executive Secretary Breanna Soldatelli disagreed with Srivastava, arguing that while collecting signatures was annoying, it was a key step in the election process.

“Petitioning adds an important part of actually getting exposure,” she said. “You have to dedicate the time to do it and get your name out there so people aren’t just voting for faces they recognize — they’re voting for people that they have talked to.”

Senior Class Senator Keidai Lee rebutted Soldatelli’s point, arguing that petitioning does very little to inform students about candidates’ platforms.

“Realistically, from what I saw, nobody really goes up to you and actually talks to you about their platform. They really just say, ‘Here, sign this,’ and they move on. It becomes a numbers game, and that concerns me,” he said.

According to Lee, large numbers of petition signatures come from social events like Greek life parties where students are not interested in talking about candidates’ platforms, undermining the petitions’ main purpose.

Senior Class Senator JJ Tie agreed with Lee, noting that when the petitions were suspended last semester, she felt more comfortable running despite being a transfer student who knew very few people.

“The petition in place would exclude a lot of people like me who are willing to work hard but are just not familiar with people or are uncomfortable coming up to people and asking for their signatures,” she said.

The changes to the CSE Constitution also now allow candidates to use private social media platforms for campaigning with CSE approval. Dating apps are still not allowed for campaign purposes.

SGA members also discussed how to best moderate the Women and Gender Minorities’ Caucus (WGMC) Online Survival Guide, which will contain blog posts submitted by the community about sexual assault experiences and advice.

Senior Class Senator Julia Zeng, who introduced the bill to create the Online Survivor Guide, told her fellow members that she had added new clauses allowing WGMC to moderate all submissions and comments. This would allow the caucus to add trigger warnings, reformat blog posts and delete spam or hate messages on the website.

“I’m also very concerned about the trolls because... anything online that’s anonymous can go very badly,” she said.

The bill was ultimately tabled.

Executive President Sam Mollin also introduced two amendments to committee bylaws. The first clarified the process for removing committee chairs, allowing committees to do so without consulting the Senate. The second required committee co-chairs to submit cooperation plans at the beginning of every school year. Both amendments passed.

According to Soldatelli, the fact that SGA regularly fixes oversights in its bylaws is an encouraging sign.

“It’s really good that we’re looking back at our bylaws and correcting things that have possible issues, even if they’re not issues right now,” she said. “I think it shows a lot of initiative.”

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