In normal years, the weeks leading up to student council speeches and elections would be filled with conversations in the hallways, discussions in classes, and posters plastered on the walls all over the building. Broad promises and flashy slogans under pictures of the candidates, American flags, and Greenhills logos would stare back at you from bathroom sinks, bulletin boards, and water bottle fillers. However, this year, with all of us stuck at home with online classes, campaigns for student council have had to take another route.
Though online classes are generally well managed, they don’t leave much room for quiet campaigning. This has left candidates to find other ways to connect to the electorate through platforms like GroupMe or various social media apps. GroupMe is the preferred way of a few candidates, and was utilized by Treasurer-elect Max Rothe van Deventer, who used the 11th grade GroupMe to keep everyone informed on his campaign. Messages started being sent around two weeks ago, and since then, have come from class groups, sports teams, and even just club chats.
While GroupMe is a good way to reach a certain group of people, social media is another tool that many candidates have taken advantage of during this race. From Snapchat stories to Instagram DMs, I talked to a few candidates about their strategies for reaching out to the student body. Student Council President-elect Finn Feldeisen talked to me about how he made sure his platform was heard when he could only talk for two minutes during the actual speech. “I've made a google doc that really lays out my goals and values,” he told me. “Spreading that has been a main objective of mine.” He also remarked that “Snapchat and Instagram are huge with people around our age, so I've really been trying to utilize those platforms to get people aware of my message,” which is a sentiment that many candidates shared. Secretary-elect Hala Shariff spoke about making a website to lay out her goals. She mentioned that, since not everyone would want to look at a whole website or doc, she created a virtual poster just to let people know she was running. Social media was used much more during this StuCo campaign season than in past years. However, there are some who expressed concerns over this new way of campaigning.
Though social media is popular among our generation, not everyone is on every single platform, or even any at all. This inequality of access to the campaign documents and virtual posters was brought up by Vice President-elect Ryan Wang, who expressed concern over the way that campaigning over social media decreased the amount of potential voters participating in the campaign. While he uses a variety of platforms, “social media doesn’t reach everyone,” Ryan observed. “People aren’t on it, and their voices aren’t heard, their ideas aren’t heard.” And as far as both Finn and Ryan were concerned, not being able to communicate with people face-to-face was a major pitfall of this year’s campaigns. “I like being able to talk through things,” Finn added.
As for whether this mode of campaigning would stick around through years when we will be together in person, everyone was in agreement: virtual campaigning is here to stay. Even though it can never replace personal interaction, social media allowed candidates to reach a wide audience with clear campaign goals. While it can present some problems, Max spoke for many in saying, “this year's election showed that you can effectively get a point across virtually”. Through a pandemic, the Greenhills Student Council experienced a new sort of election, with technology and social media at the center. As Finn said, “this will assist in ushering in a new era of more tech-savvy officers”. In the future, we can look forward to elections with clearly laid out goals, proactive officers, and technology based campaigns.