Pawelko Defeats Philllips

Current Lawrenceville SGA President Laura Vendetta embraces President-elect Brian Pawelko after he was announced victorious last night in the SRC.  A total of 958 students voted.

by Steph Mostaccio

In a head-to-head battle between Brian Pawelko and Danielle Phillips for the title of Lawrenceville SGA President, Pawelko came out on top.

He is thrilled and ready to serve the students.

“I’m happy it all paid off,” Pawelko said. “It was my hope as a freshman that I would be SGA president. So I’m really overwhelmed right now.”

Pawelko’s first order of business as Lawrenceville SGA president is parking.

“I think we need to get on the parking issue,” he said. “It’s been looming over our heads.”

Other important issues Pawelko wants to tackle as president include those related to the alcohol policy, housing and academics.

Current Lawrenceville SGA President Laura Vendetta said that based on both candidates’ leadership and experience, the students would have been in good hands with either one.

However, the title of SGA president requires more than just leadership and experience. Vendetta advised that the best way to carry out the duties of the position that requires “you to be the fire underneath everyone else,” is to be driven.

“I didn’t know how much time, organization and communication was involved with being president,” she said. “It’s a position you can’t fall behind in.”

In the race for Lawrenceville SGA vice president, Jonathan Chebra was the victor. He was thrilled to attain the title and is prepared to take on the demands that it requires.

“I think we can make some big steps,” he said. “It’s going to be hard, but I’m going to work for it.”

Alex D’Amico was named Lawrenceville SGA treasurer, and Frank Romano Jr. is the secretary.

According to Cassie Iacovelli, assistant dean of Campus Life and Lawrenceville SGA adviser, the student government always hopes for a large voter turnout.

The number of students voting has increased significantly since 1996, when fewer than 350 students voted. Turnout nearly doubled to 651 in 2002 and peaked at 992 in 2005. Voter participation fell to 788 in 2006, but then increased to 803 in last year’s elections. This year, ­­­958 students voted, which fell short of the 1,000-vote goal.

Iacovelli attributes the change in voter turnout to the number of candidates. She noted that the year turnout dropped to 751, the race for SGA president was uncontested.

“So if you have unopposed candidates, there’s not that sense of urgency,” she said.

This year, none of the top executive board positions was uncontested. However, a continuing problem is the interest in class council positions. Several council candidates were unopposed, and many posts — including senior class vice president and treasurer, and junior class treasurer — did not have any candidates at all.

According to Iacovelli, filling class council positions is difficult because many students question the purpose of those titles.

“It’s a little challenging to establish a class identity,” she said. “At Rider, we tend to operate on a Greek, commuter, resident basis more so than the Class of 2008, the Class of 2009.”

Learning that many students don’t identify with their class pushed Cara Giovinazzo to run for senior class president.

“That struck me as a little off, not right,” she said at Tuesday’s Senate meeting.

Matt Semel defeated her in the race for this position. However, Giovinazzo was elected senior class treasurer through write-in votes.

One thing that changed in addition to the number of candidates was the marketing campaign, which according to Iacovelli, was more efficient this year.

“There was a lot more effective communication to get the word out for candidates as well as the college community for the upcoming elections,” she said.

Promoting the candidates and the elections fell on the shoulders of senior Matthew Hanson, Lawrenceville SGA elections and recruitment chair. He used both old and new marketing strategies. As in the past, he sent out e-mails to various clubs and organizations, student leaders and the Leadership Development Program. SGA also gave Battle of the Building and Greek Week points to resident and Greek voters, respectively.

This year, Hanson also distributed business cards that included information regarding election sessions, created slap bracelets with voting information and required each candidate to post a profile on the SGA Web site.

Senior Meghan Gleason has noticed the increase in marketing. In fact, she said the elections this year have been marketed more than she has ever seen in her time here at Rider.

“You definitely know who’s running, and over the years, it’s progressed,” she said.

Hanson noted that one of the primary reasons for the new marketing tactics is to increase voter participation.

“I’m trying to remind people that they should be voting,” he said.

It is important for students to vote and have a say because SGA members make decisions that impact the University as a whole, according to Hanson. He stressed the importance of all students — even seniors — participating in the elections.

“Even though they’re graduating, it’s important that they vote because the SGA executive board makes decisions that will affect the University for years to come,” Hanson said. “When alumni come back, they will see the changes.”

According to senior Hallie Murphy, a commuter, turnout could increase even more if there were more access for commuter students on election day.

Iacovelli noted that the discussion about online voting comes up every year and has been turned down every year. Last year’s SGA members thought that since Rider uses the same voting booths that are used in state general elections, the SGA elections provide an opportunity to teach first-time student voters.

“If we went to online, we would probably lose that teaching moment as well as the community gathering opportunity,” Iacovelli said. However, she did not rule out the possibility of online voting in the future.

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