Last week officially marked the beginning of election season at Howard, where students campaign for Royal Court and student government positions. Student candidates have begun posting flyers, personal missions and platforms on social media, as well as hosting events on campus to win students’ votes.
Students like Ahmod Newton, a freshman finance major from Philadelphia, have enjoyed candidates’ campaigns thus far. “As many people can attest, Howard University has quite a number of unique people. I definitely love seeing their personality come to the forefront of their campaign, especially seeing the level of uniqueness with their flyers,” he said.
Newton is eager to see how each candidate develops their campaign, but he hopes that once candidates are elected, they will help students in other colleges get more career opportunities and exposure as the School of Business does for him.
“It’s unnecessarily hard for students of other majors to really gain the same level of exposure and opportunities that I have,” Newton said. “I’m definitely hoping to see an influx in the number of opportunities that come my and my peers’ way.”
Other students like Keith Golden Jr., a sophomore journalism major and photography minor from Riviera Beach, Florida, would like for candidates to “genuinely make changes” once elected into their positions.
“The only thing I care about is if they actually mean what they say. A lot of people talk about change and making an impact, but people talk about it so much I don’t know if people are going to be about it. I’m just interested to see if people actually do something about what’s been going on around our campus,” Golden said.
Commissioner of Howard University Elections Commission and senior political science major Sarah Slaughter suggested that students attend “Speak Outs” and “Crossfires,” events where candidates speak about their platforms and challenge each other. “Speak Out” events happened last week, and “Crossfires” are scheduled to take place over the course of this week.
Slaughter also noted that students can watch these events live on the Election Commission’s Instagram page. “Additionally,” she added, “we encourage students to stop by the tabling events happening all over the Yard and in some academic buildings. There, you meet your candidates face-to-face and ask them any pertinent questions.”
According to Slaughter, the Elections Commission enforces all rules and regulations contained within the Election Code. They listen in on any filed complaints along with ensuring candidates meet the necessary requirements with the overall goal to “create a safe and fair election in which candidates and voters feel heard and respected.”
According to the Student Election Code, candidates are required to attend all Speakouts and Crossfires.
The Student Election Code also states that the Elections Commission must approve all original campaign materials prior to distribution and reproduction. Candidates can also accept endorsements, as long as they are not financial from student government organizations, or a student elected official.
Kayla Farris, a sophomore journalism major from Columbus, Ohio, is also excited to be kicking off election season. Farris is running to be a Howard University Student Association Senator, representing the School of Communications (SOC).
“This is my first time campaigning on Howard’s campus, and I’m enjoying the experience so far. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to run for office and represent the students of SOC,” Farris said.
Hugh Gaffinet is a junior history major from the Bronx, NY. For Gaffinet, who is running for HUSA Vice President, the first week of campaigning has been “beyond exciting.”
“It’s been incredible getting to meet our Howard family and seeing what issues capture their attention the most such as inclusivity in student government, an inability to build true community on campus, transparency, and transportation access,” Gaffinet said. “Being able to present to our community a platform that comes directly from student grievances has been an incredibly rewarding experience.”
While this week has been exciting, preparation for the election season has had its ups and downs for candidates like Farris and Gaffinet.
“Because this is my first time campaigning at Howard, I felt like I was slightly under-prepared coming into election season,” Farris said. “I’ve run for office back in my hometown before, but I think we can all agree that Howard is a whole different beast. I know I have the passion and a plan, but sometimes all the glitz and glamor of election season can be a little intimidating.”
Farris noted how many candidates hand out free items, food and gifts to students on the Yard and in their schools to attract students and advertise their campaigns. According to the Election Code, any candidate for a HUSA or Trustee Position is precluded from spending more than $7,500 and all other candidates are precluded from spending more than $5,500. For Farris, though, the aspect of campaigning has proven to be costly.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘I don’t have the money to buy free dinner for the whole school. So the biggest challenge for me has definitely been finding ways to offset the costs of campaigning in such a high inflationary period,” she said.
The process was also tough for Gaffinet, as he faced challenges with students’ lack of trust in student government. “One of the challenges I personally faced was convincing individuals that engaging with HUSA is worth their time,” he said. “However, I was once someone who was apathetic about student government, because of the potentially elitist and insular nature.”
According to Slaughter, voting will take place on March 30. Election Buddy, an online third-party voting platform, will send students an email at 8 a.m. that Thursday. Students will have 12 hours to cast their vote and the results will be announced on March 31.
Copy edited by Nhandi Long-Shipman