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05-04-21-college-hall-summer-marija-westfall
Elections for the new Undergraduate Assembly representatives will take place from Sept. 17 to Sept. 19. Credit: Marija Westfall

Penn Student Government candidates are participating in in-person campaigning for the first time since fall 2019 with this year’s New Student Elections.

Campaigning for the New Student Elections — which began on Sept. 14 — will look the same as it would in a typical year, although candidates must continue to abide by the University’s COVID-19 guidelines, College senior and Nominations and Elections Committee Chair Zarina Iman said. Voting will take place for first years and transfer students to elect their representatives to the Undergraduate Assembly and Class Board from Sept. 17 to Sept. 19.

The resumption of campaigning signals a return to normalcy for PSG after COVID-19 disrupted several elections in a row. 

This semester’s elections are the first New Student Elections held since fall 2019; last year's New Student Elections were canceled because the Class of 2024 was largely not on campus and had not yet met each other. The NEC also opted to violate its bylaws and postpone the spring 2020 General Elections due to COVID-19, instead opting to hold them in the fall of 2020.

Similarly, for the spring 2021 General Elections — in which the Class of 2024 could finally participate — the NEC continued to prohibit in-person and monetary campaigning. Monetary campaigning includes purchasing materials to campaign, including flyers and poster boards.

Now, with the New Student Elections for the Class of 2025 and transfer students, campaigning will return to normal, with in-person and monetary campaigning once again allowed, Iman said.

The elections will fill nine seats reserved for new students on the UA, the student government body that distributes funding each year and advocates for student needs to administration, and the 2025 Class Board, which provides social programming for the class.

College first year Liam Dell, who is running for 2025 Class Board Executive Vice President and UA New Student Representative, said that the ability to campaign in person has been crucial for him so far. In addition to placing posters across campus, Dell has worn a shirt matching his poster around campus to promote his candidacy. 

“The idea is to try to get your name out to as many people as possible because even just people knowing your name will be enough that over people who they don't know their name, they will choose you on the ballot,” Dell said.

College first year Jacqueline Davis, who is running for 2025 Class Board Vice President of External Affairs and UA New Student Representative, said that her campaign so far has relied on placing flyers and posters around campus, in addition to creating a website for her campaign.

She said she believes the ability to campaign in person, even with COVID-19 guidelines in place, has helped her bids for seats on student government. The only current limitation on students’ campaigning that differs from a normal year is the requirement to wear masks indoors, in accordance with University policy. 

“​​A lot of the conversations I've had with people have been outside, so I can see their face, and it hasn't really changed anything,” Davis said.

Dell agreed, saying that because the elections take place early in the fall semester and the weather has been nice, most of his campaigning has taken place outdoors. Mask rules have not hindered his campaign, he added.

Davis added that she and many other candidates have also prioritized promoting their campaigns on social media. Dell said that because the last few elections have taken place entirely on social media, it continues to play a big role in how students are campaigning

“A lot of the current systems that are in place are social media-based, and I think that's helpful for the COVID-19 world,” Dell said.

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