Members of the Undergraduate Student Government executive board plan on streamlining legislation and giving students better representation with changes in the structure of residential senate seats, starting with the fall 2015 election cycle.
Elections will take place from Sept. 15 at 9 a.m. to Sept. 17 at 5 p.m.
The number of seats for senators representing students in residence halls was reduced from 31 to 20. Several seats will represent groups of residence halls based on campus location and number of students, said Elections Oversight Committee Chair Bennett Cognato.
According to the 2015 elections packet given to all prospective candidates, new constituencies consist of the Storrs Center seat – including Buckley and Shippee, the Hilltop Halls and Garrigus Suites seat, and the Greater Hillside seat, which represents West and Connecticut Commons.
All 20 residential seats and seven academic seats left unfilled from the spring are up for election.
“We didn’t just cut the seats,” Cognato said. “If we have three seats in one residential area and we’re only filling one every time, are we still doing the job we need to do?”
This new system allows each seat to represent approximately 850 students, Cognato said.
Senators elected this semester will also be organized into councils, Cognato said. These unofficial groups will assemble senators with similar constituencies to ensure adequate representation is given. One such council will be the Off-Campus Council, bringing together commuter students, Husky Village and Charter Oak, Mansfield and Northwood Apartments.
This change allows for a more efficient senate and better representation of students living on campus. It also allows for more competition between candidates, Cognato said. According to results from the last fall election, six senators ran unopposed and 15 seats were won by write-in candidates.
33 candidates are signed up to run for the open seats, Cognato said, but that number may change by the time elections start. If all seats are not filled, USG may explore other avenues to bring new members in during the semester, including special elections, Cognato said.
Cognato and Vice President Adam Kuegler said that increasing voter turnout has been a focus of this year’s elections. USG members were present at convocation and the start-of-year ice cream social, and will have a strong presence at the Involvement Fair on Sept. 9 to spread the word about the organization.
“We want people to feel like their voices are being heard,” Kuegler said.
Candidates exert the most effort trying to connect with potential voters on a personal level. USG encourages those running to spread the word about elections and get their possible constituents to vote.
USG took measures to ensure the elections are as inclusive as possible. Outreach attempts have been made to cultural centers on campus, and all gender-binary language has been removed from the election packets.
A focus was also put on retaining members in the organization.
“People from diverse backgrounds that are in our organization can go back to their constituencies and their friends and talk about how USG has a welcoming environment,” Kuegler said.
Nicholas Shigo is associate news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.