Stony Brook’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) will be taking its elections process totally online amid coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns and intends to postpone part of the election process.
The USG Election Board sent an email to candidates yesterday, March 10, notifying them of the potential alterations.
“Due to the current situation with the coronavirus … the Elections Board has decided to move the elections towards a more online process,” the email stated. “We are currently working out the details and will send a full update soon.”
“Although elections were already online, now petitions will also be moved online,” political science senior and USG President, Shaheer Khan, said. “We’re not marrying to one solution, and we’re trying to take the administration’s lead.”
Khan explained that although actual elections were already conducted remotely, petitions are likely to be conducted via Google Forms. He added that these new changes are in light of an email sent out by the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Nicole Sampson, reminding students to keep person-to-person contact limited to a 6-foot distance.
Universities across the tri-state area have been closing their campuses and switching to remote courses in response to the outbreak, including Long Island’s Hofstra University and Rutgers University in New Jersey. SUNY and CUNY schools are moving online after March 19, according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“Once USG makes some sort of official word, people will start believing things that are not school’s official word,” USG Chief of Staff, Carlos Cobo, said. “We want to take the university’s lead, especially with something as sensitive as this.”
Candidates for elections were informed that the due date for their intent for candidacy forms are being pushed to Thursday, March 19.
When asked whether or not he was concerned about how USG elections would be affected if the university goes remote, presidential candidate and junior political science major Huntley Spencer said, “The whole point of USG is to be the voice of the students. If the students aren’t here to elect … there’s nothing we can do about it.”
As the school continues to update its precautionary protocols, the USG Election Board Chairperson, junior applied math and statistics major Muhammad Tanveer, wrote in an email to a Statesman reporter that they plan on keeping students and candidates informed of any further developments regarding USG elections.
USG has also made recent modifications to its constitution, which includes the implementation of positions for ‘at large voting Senators.’ The by-law process could also impact election timing due to standardization.