Proposed USG Bylaw may stop student organizations from endorsing candidates

Madeleine Swanstrom, Staff Reporter

A proposed bylaw would fundamentally change the way Tulane’s Undergraduate Student Government functions, according to those who oppose it. 

The new bylaw, entitled “Awards and Elections Committee Bylaw Proposal to Implement the Endorsement of Newcomb-Tulane School Governments for USG Executive Elections,” was written by Senator Samuel Levin, Executive Vice President Molly Lynch and the Constitution and Bylaws Review Committee. The proposal makes several modifications to the USG electoral process. 

The changes include prohibiting endorsements of candidates by “individual organizations, coalitions, parties, and any other organization affiliates,” with the exception of school governments. This means only school governments, which are composed of elected students, would be able to give endorsements. 

According to Lynch, her and Levin’s intent was to give all students at Tulane a voice through the proposed bylaw change. 

In past elections, student organizations have been allowed to send out endorsements to their members.

One such organization is the Progressive Voter Coalition, organized to inform student voters aligned with progressive values on the candidates’ stances. It is composed of progressive student organizations such as Green Club, Divest Tulane, Tulane College Democrats and others. USG Director Francis Jones was one organizer of the Progressive Voter Coalition. 

“It can be hard to get information about stuff going on in USG if you’re not directly involved,” Jones said. 

Paige Davis, active member and program director of Tulane Democrats, emphasized the sense of belonging and personal identification students often feel with the organizations they choose to join and the role this plays in what they want to see in future Tulane leadership and vision.

“I think it’s unreasonable to tell student organizations that they aren’t allowed to endorse candidates,” Davis said. “Students at Tulane join these organizations because they have some belief that is important to them, [so] endorsements from organizations are an easy way to tell who shares those values and opinions and has the same vision for Tulane as them.”

There are already measures in place to ensure a fair election process for USG, such as restrictions on when to begin campaigning. 

Jones believes parts of the new legislation would make the electoral process undemocratic and make it difficult for outsiders of the student government clique to be elected. 

Endorsements, according to Jones, allow candidates who aren’t already a part of USG a fair shot in the elections. 

Jones said that school governments and USG are closely connected. He worries that, if the bylaw proposal was enacted, candidates who are not insiders to USG or school governments would not stand a good chance of being elected. 

President Madeline Hicks deemed it “strange and dangerous” to dispose of student organization endorsements of candidates. 

“If we were to allow — as the original legislation states — for school governments to endorse, but ban student organizations from endorsing and campaigning, we are limiting student voices to those who already have the privilege of representing the school,” Hicks said. 

Jones and Hicks worked together to write an amendment that they would try to pass should the new bylaw be enacted. Jones said that the amendment would preserve the intent of the bylaw change, but “in a way that preserves the democratic process.” 

The amendment would propose restrictions on the electoral process to reduce corruption, says Jones, but would allow student organizations to endorse candidates. School governments would not be allowed to endorse candidates. 

Hicks said that endorsements were a “tricky” issue, and that student organizations should be regulated in regard to endorsing candidates. 

“For example, we wouldn’t want an organization to be able to endorse without a vote of their board or body, and we wouldn’t want it to be for promises made, financial gain or personal relationships,” Hicks said. 

Because endorsements increase voter turnout and competitiveness, however, Hicks believes they are generally positive with proper regulation.

“A fair and democratic system is only possible through frequent and competitive elections where everyone gets a voice,” Hicks said. 

Lynch, co-writer of the bylaw, said the proposal isn’t fully formulated yet. 

“I would also like to reiterate that nothing has been put in stone as there are still discussions taking place within the organization to determine the best way forward,” Lynch said.

At the senate session on Tuesday, the bylaw proposal was tabled, meaning it will be reconsidered at a later date — a standard procedure for proposed bylaws. 20 speakers at the meeting each spoke for one minute to provide their perspective about the bylaw. None were in favor except three USG members whose names appear on the legislation.

Additional reporting by Alexa Christianson.

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