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Attempt to police social media an archaic practice

Submitted by Jacob Ellerbee on March 14, 2013 – 5:30 pmOne Comment

The Student Government Association presidential election has come and gone, however the election was met with a lot of head scratching and snickering.

The SGA Election Code says that its members and candidates cannot campaign off the premises of UALR. Page nine of the Election Code explicitly states: “The use of the Internet to campaign, with the exception of the one listed above (email), is prohibited. Candidates may not use Facebook, Twitter or any other media site to campaign.”

Students have to wonder, why would the SGA want to prohibit campaigning on social media? All of our heads are aimed at the ground when we walk to class, aimlessly surfing the web, tweeting and responding to texts. So, why would the SGA restrict themselves in its campaigning methods?

The main problem with this philosophy is that the SGA has attempted to control what goes out on the web and social media sites. The SGA even penalizes candidates if campaign material is found on the Internet.

A case in point: President-elect, Lauren McNeaill, was reprimanded for a photo someone posted on their personal Facebook account of a McNeaill flyer informing students the time and place in which they could vote.

McNeaill told The Forum in an email, “There was no way for me to control the actions of others, especially when I may not even be friends with them [on Facebook]. She [Chief Justice Aisha Siddiqui] said we were still responsible and that she would let us off with a warning.”

McNeaill has a great point. How can she, or anyone else for that matter, be in charge of mining the Internet to make sure no passersby take a quick photo of a flyer and post it on their various social media sites?

Another example: the SGA asked The Forum to remove our Facebook photos of the campaign materials we included in a series of photos documenting the election. We responded with an emphatic “No.”

The Forum has every right to post photos that were taken at a public place (UALR is a public institution)- a right guaranteed by the first amendment of the United States Constitution-which supersedes any rule or regulation created by the SGA.

If members of the SGA draft a resolution amending the fact that Internet campaign is prohibited, perhaps it would draw more eyeballs to the campaign material and increase chances of boosting voter turnout.

According to statistics provided by the SGA, out of the 12,427 eligible voters at UALR, 320 people cast a vote- a 2.58% voter turnout.

Members of the SGA need to dust off their book of codes, rules and regulations and step into the digital age.

 

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