Chants and flyers saying “NO” and “YES” on Question #3 turned the campus into a political war zone on Tuesday and Wednesday during the Student Senate elections.
Students overwhelmingly voted “No” on Question #3: 468 to 88. The 84 percent “No” vote will keep the Student Senate from assuming direct financial control of The Free Press and WMPG.
The campus media entities began campaigning soon after discovering the question would appear on the ballot, asking students whether or not to dissolve the SCB, the governing body of WMPG and The Free Press.
According to Commuter Sen. Mike Norton the Senate did not put effort into campaigning for question three.
Some senators, however, put “Vote Yes on 3” signs around the Portland campus during Tuesday’s election.
However, The Free Press and WMPG representatives started campaigning on Monday. Some faculty were informed about the issue and asked to announce it during classes. Flyers were passed out in resident halls. Flyers were also placed on cars in all student parking lots in Portland encouraging students to vote “No” on the question.
“It wasn’t until later in the day we were informed that putting flyers on cars is against University policy,” Steve Peoples, executive editor of The Free Press said.
The “Vote no on 3” became a grassroots campaign.
Peoples said staff members handed flyers outside the polls and urged students to “vote no on 3.”
Peoples said that many students were not aware of the election.
Chanal Croteau, a junior foreign language major, said “I didn’t know elections were going on until I read the paper.”
“With everything that happened this year with the newspapers getting stolen, if the Senate gained control of the paper it would be a big mistake,” said Croteau.
“Once students understood the issue,” Peoples said, “they realized they didn’t want to give the Student Senate direct control of campus media.”
However, this year’s election had better voter turn out than last year; a total of 567 votes were cast.
Neal Mosley, a senior Geography and Anthropology major, made a special trip to Gorham just to vote.
“I read the newspaper quite consistently,” he said. “The Senate does a good job, but I don’t like the idea of them controlling communication.”
The Senate Chair Marcy Muller said in counting the ballots she noticed many people only voted on the referendum questions, instead of for the Senate candidates.
Commuter Sen. Ben Hoffman, one of the leaders in the campaign to dissolve the SCB, declined to comment on the election results.
Commuter Sen. Sarah Hines said the Senate, the SCB, The Free Press and WMPG are connected and each need to respect each other.
“There is a lack of communication,” Hines said. “The SCB hasn’t been there to uphold what students want.”
However, after diligent campaigning by The Free Press and WMPG staff, students decided to keep a buffer between the Senate and the campus media entities.
Prior to the election the SCB made alterations to its constitution. Beginning next year it will meet monthly and only student members will have voting power.
“Students said in a convincing way they support free campus media,” Peoples said. “It was a landslide victory.”
The Senate could decide to dissolve the SCB again as early as next year. The issue would then have to be put to a student referendum again. But there has been no indication such a vote will take place.
Gorham editor Erin Zwirn can be reached at [email protected]