Student senate goes virtual: election ads to be on Facebook

By Andrew Maloney

Chika Umeadi, junior in LAS, has seen at least one student trustee candidate’s election flyers.

“I’m trying to remember who’s up already,” Umeadi said Wednesday. “Dan Weber? The flyers are all over the place, and I know he’s trying to work on environmental issues. Besides that I haven’t seen anything else.”

But Weber himself, a sophomore in LAS and student senator, indicated that there will probably be more candidates trying to get their names out in the near future. He also added that unlike last year, the candidates will have restrictions on how much they can spend in their campaigns.

“Right now, it looks like 10 people are interested in running (for student trustee),” Weber said. “Last year it was extraordinary. The trustee candidates spent, like, thousands of dollars. A lot of the senate candidates spent hundreds of dollars. But now it’s $150 for student senate and $500 for trustee elections.”

He said he believed some of the restrictions were unfair, noting that candidates cannot accept contributions from student organizations or other campus groups.

However, the individual candidates won’t be the only people trying to spread the word. The Illinois Student Senate as a body is allotting $2,107 towards advertising for the March elections. Part of that figure – roughly $1,407 dollars – will be used on print advertisements in the newspaper. The other $700 will be used for virtual ads on Facebook.

“Originally we had a certain amount budgeted for radio ads, but students today don’t really listen to the radio as much as they participate in Facebook,” Weber said. “They’re checking it two or three times a day, and given the nature of what people listen to and see, those ads should prove to be effective.”

Weber said the senate decided on the allotment at the beginning of the year, and if necessary, could direct more money towards promoting the elections.

Vikram Chaudhery, vice president-external of the Student Senate and senior in LAS, said the nature of some of the ads is to target students in colleges that often have trouble filling their designated seat in the senate. He added that Facebook ads could be an effective means for accomplishing this goal, and their pros and cons were weighed at last week’s senate meeting.

“This is the first time that we’re implementing Facebook ads,” said Chaudhery. “I think the argument that they made in senate for those is that you can target small specific groups, like by major by college. The downside, in my opinion, is that (the ad) has to be something that catches the eye, which is sort of hard to come up with on the fly.”

Chaudhery said that the senate had assembled a team of students in advertising and media to help spread the word about voting.

He also said an issue such as the national financial crisis, which has trickled down to the University, should motivate students enough to vote for their representatives. Umeadi also said this could be the most important concern for students. While some might be disillusioned by the political process, elections are still important.

“Students definitely should be interested,” Umeadi said. “As bureaucratic and as ineffective as some people think the student senate and politics in general is, it is our opportunity to get our voices heard and get things done.”