By Maya Brown and Brianne Ledda
The State University of New York Student Assembly (SUNY SA) has postponed student government elections until September, according to a March 26 memo from SUNY SA President, Austin Ostro.
This action applies to Stony Brook University’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG).
Campus student governments must reschedule their elections between Sept. 8 and Sept. 20, according to the Election Postponement Policy. The dates and timelines must be set before the end of the spring semester.
“Expecting students to fully engage in the electoral process at this moment is simply unrealistic,” Ostro said in an email to student governments. “Holding elections in the midst of this crisis would serve to disenfranchise many — leading to results of questionable legitimacy.”
USG was already planning to move the election process online and had intended to postpone part of the election process. Ostro wrote in an email to The Statesman that although many schools are technologically capable of holding elections online, SUNY SA was concerned about student participation in the electoral process.
“Students are facing an unprecedented disruption to their lives, and holding elections at a point where students can fully engage is preferable,” he said.
Muhammad Tanveer, chair of the Elections Board, said he was disappointed that elections would be postponed.
“The Elections Board had worked closely with USG to formulate a plan to move the election online,” he said. Since positions will not be filled until Fall 2020, current positions will go into the summer.
SUNY SA is encouraging student government officials to continue in their roles throughout the summer, regardless of eligibility status. Summer responsibilities vary from campus to campus, but Ostro said that supervising professional staff, managing student government finances and planning for the start of the fall semester are “fairly universal responsibilities.”
Campus student governments were directed to draw up plans to pick interim officers for positions that will be left vacant.
Shaheer Khan, president of USG at Stony Brook, said that plans for the fall semester have yet to be discussed. USG needs to review which members of the executive council would be willing to serve again.
“Based on the spots we have filled, then we’ll come up with a procedure to really fill the empty interim positions,” he said. “That can be within the senate, assistants within USG, members of the campus community that we see are active and are willing to serve. There are many options, we just don’t know which one is the right one to take at the moment.”
Ostro recommended that student governments restart the campaign process in the fall “due to the time that will have elapsed,” though SUNY SA is allowing them to establish their own policies.
“Campus student government rules on campaigning apply, that was not addressed by the SUNY Board,” Ostro wrote in an email to The Statesman. “Current student government officers should work with candidates on transition plans so that those elected can hit the ground running in the fall.”
Khan said that USG will most likely start a new election cycle in the fall.
“More students will be inspired to want to serve their communities,” he said. “We wouldn’t want to hinder anybody’s ability to be within USG.”
Stony Brook University maintains an independent Elections Board that ensures all USG elections are conducted fairly and in accordance with policy and guidelines.
“The Elections Board will continue to oversee USG elections and will continue to work to ensure election integrity,” Tanveer said.
Khan sent an email announcing the decision to the rest of the executive council and the senate.
“With many students not being on campus, having their family members falling ill, and not having stable access to technology, it seems as though moving forward with an election would make the process unfair and unequal for both the students who are running and the students who will be voting,” Khan said in the email.
Student governments were directed to assess their budgets for the rest of the Spring 2020 semester and to refund money that was allocated to activities and programming that will no longer occur.