Durham, NH — On Feb. 1, the Student Senate at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) sent out an email regarding the search for “new Student Leaders for next year, including Student Body President and Vice-President (SBP/VP) and the University System Student Board Representative (USNH Board Rep.).” Students who were interested had to file a petition for their candidacy by Feb. 25.
However, as of March 1, there was only one candidate for each role – Sophia Spina for SBP, Gabby Corricelli for VP, and Reshma Giji for USNH Board Rep, which has resulted in the extension of the petition deadline to March 11 by the Student Senate Election Committee.
Leading the Student Senate Election Committee is Senate Speaker Igor Garcia. Aside from being in charge of verifying students’ votes for a specific candidate during an election, he clarified that the role of the committee is also to oversee the candidates, making sure that they are not breaking any protocols (such as defamation towards other candidates or exceeding campaign budgets) during their time of candidacy.
“We also help candidates during their campaigns such as printing flyers for them. But because of the coronavirus (COVID-19), we will be prioritizing online contents for this election,” he added.
Garcia believed that the low amount of involvement in this election was because of COVID-19. “I wasn’t that involved last year but we basically also couldn’t get enough candidates because the pandemic started right around the time for our General Election,” he said.
The Student Senate has become more lenient this year in order to increase the number of candidates for the leadership roles. “Instead of needing 300 [signatures] we have lowered that to either 50 or 25 signatures with endorsements from two student organizations,” said Garcia.
In the past election, Nick Fitzgerald, current SBP along with current VP Tyler Silverwood, ran for their position with four main goals which were public safety, transparency, merging the gaps between student governments, and the increase of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives on campus.
However, according to Garcia, candidates are not required to publicly explain their goals. “We don’t really require candidates to do that. It’s based on their campaigning, what would get you to win?” he explained.
When asked about the current candidates’ involvement with the Senate prior to the election, Garcia said that the organization has seen a lot of new faces in fall of 2020. “Sophia and Gabby are both senators and were heavily involved ever since their freshman year, they are juniors now,” he said.
For someone who is very passionate in serving the student body, Garcia said that he would like to see a leader who “wants to be involved with students instead of using the platform to carry out their own agendas.”
“I have seen at least the past couple leaders have been really involved with students, and so I just hope that the next SBP and VP would do that and make students’ experience and the university better,” he said.
As of March 10, Garcia stated that there are other people who showed interest in becoming a candidate for the leadership roles during the extension period. However, the identity of those candidates will remain anonymous “until the Election Committee confirms the candidate.” Garcia said that the information of additional candidates will be available to the public in an email that will be sent out by the Student Senate on Sunday, March 14.