Students’ academic standing creates voting conflicts

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Student casting ballots are placed next to the gavel to determine SG representatives. Photo by Patrick Goodman.

“We want YOU to cast your vote,” read the email header from Student Government on Jan. 30 for the recent elections for SG representatives. Just below, a link in blue led to the ballot on the University of Dallas Forum website, where students click the box beside their desired candidate and vote for class representatives.

For Cristina Goerdt, however, the link led to the running senior representatives. For Goerdt, who has earned over 100 credits by her third year of college and expects to graduate with the junior class in 2020, her ballot was registered for senior representatives.

Similarly, other students with enough credits to elevate them into a higher class are polled to vote for class senators a year above their graduating class.

Alison Pettyjohn, chairwoman and vice president of SG, said the student constitution specifies that for undergraduate classes, “each senator will be elected solely by the constituency represented by that senator.” However, the constitution does not specify the nature of “undergraduate class,” whether it be by academic standing or by date of graduation.

“Past precedent has been that senators are titled as ‘Freshman Class Senator’ and likewise in terms of academic class and not graduation year,” wrote Pettyjohn.

Pettyjohn worked with the Office of Student Affairs and used lists provided by the registrar to separate students and their vote by credit status, as well as using a new Forum feature to create “eligibility lists.”

“Everyone who voted in the recent election voted according to … credit status at the end of the fall [2018] semester, including credits earned over Interterm,” wrote Pettyjohn. “Nobody was manually re-classified at any point during the election cycle.”

Katherine McGraw from the Office of the Registrar said that for a student entering UD, the “Class of…” is typically determined by entry term.

“[This] does not necessarily take into consideration if a student has AP, Dual or Transfer Credits that might move them to an earlier graduation list,” wrote McGraw. Other differences that can affect graduation time include students earning a B.S. with a concentration rather than a B.A., and those with double majors, said McGraw.

That is one reason I set up the ‘Verify Intent to Graduate’ classes that students could enroll in so we would have an idea, besides the degree application they file, of when they plan to graduate,” wrote McGraw.

In the future, McGraw hopes to create a Bannerweb program to help students graduate on time by providing all the information they require in a single page. For now, there is no way to contrast credits earned to class graduation of a student because not everyone has filed an “intent to graduate,” said McGraw.

“The registrar only tags students as belonging to a certain graduating class when that student indicates an intent to graduate, usually in their junior or senior year,” said Pettyjohn. This makes it “nearly impossible” to adopt a class categorized system, she added.

Any future change to the representation system would fall to future Executive Councils and Vice Presidents of SG, wrote Pettyjohn. They would have to “determine which process they wanted to use, given that the phrase ‘each undergraduate class’ is left ambiguous in the Constitution.”

Sophie Gart, who intends to graduate in 2020, had the same issue as Goerdt and was only allowed to vote for the senior senators.

“I’ve had senior standing for about a year now,” wrote Gart. “I haven’t voted for my appropriate class candidate during that time.”

Due to academic standing, Gart has been unable to vote for her own class senators in the last three elections of freshman, sophomore, and now junior year.

“I would prefer to vote for fellow juniors and support my class,” wrote Gart. “But at the same time I find it just as worthwhile to vote for the seniors. I just have found ways to support the people in my class I would’ve voted for in other ways.”

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