Candidates in the 2012 UMSU election were split on the ban of social media from their campaigns in this year’s election.
In an article published in the Manitoban in early February Michael Safiniuk, CRO for the 2012 UMSU elections, said that he felt there were not sufficient policies in place to support the use of social media as part of campaigning.
“There has to be a structure and rules in place to use the social media and [UMSU] has not gone through that process yet,” Safiniuk said.
Daniel Nevadov, chair of the UMSU policies and bylaws committee, explained that it is traditionally up to the office of the CRO and the UMSU candidates to decide upon whether or not to allow the use of social media as part of campaigning, “just so that the current executive and current council don’t have any influence on the elections.”
“When it comes to the use of social media, the bylaws are pretty ambiguous. They’re very specific about posters and banners, but all other campaign material kind of pushes over the CRO’s plate and their mandate,” he said.
Any student can bring forward a motion to have the policy and bylaws committee review the elections bylaws and possibly develop polices related to social media, he explained.
“If that was brought forward, that would go on our to-do list,” he said.
Candidates did vote to allow the use of private messaging through Facebook. Candidates were only allowed to message five people at a time, and the messages had to be approved by the office of the CRO before they were sent.
“They wanted to get the message out through Facebook, to their contacts, encouraging them to come out to vote, and just providing them with the type of information for students to use to go and get more information,” Safiniuk explained.
Though widespread use of social media platforms was prohibited from campaigning during the election, Safiniuk pointed out that candidates were able to make use of UMSU list serves, which have access to close to 24,000 students, a new rule this year.
Jennifer Black, vice-president (advocacy) elect of the United slate, said that she found the rules surrounding social media very restrictive.
“When you’re on the UMSU executive, you use Facebook to advertise for your events and promote the union . . . I don’t really understand why you can’t use it as a tool for the elections,” she said.
She went on to say that she felt the rules surrounding the use of private messages made the process “more tedious and time consuming.”
“That just doesn’t make sense to me, because you can still access the same amount of people,” she said.
Black said there was little consultation with candidates on whether they wanted social media to be part of campaigning or not.
“In the all candidates meeting we were basically given the choice between having Facebook used with the restrictions that are in place now, or not having Facebook use at all. There was really no room for negotiations there,” she said.
By contrast, members of the Free Radicals slate said they were not in favour of the use of social media during UMSU elections.
Chantal Shivanna Ramraj, who ran for vice-president (external) with the Free Radicals, explained that her slate felt that the use of social media would detract from the in-person aspect of campaigning.
“I think the general feeling was that we like the face-to-face interaction a lot, and I think that if anything Facebook should be a supplement to those kinds of interactions and not become our community,” she said.
“Generally like the idea of grassroots, local campaigning, and that completely [comes about] through talking about what’s going on here and us talking about what’s going on at the university. These spaces are where the focus should be, not online.”