Voting for the BYUSA presidential election begins on March 1, and the election coordinator Kylee Marshall said students should be informed and involved in this year’s election process.
Marshall said people sometimes mistake the BYU Student Service Association as a student government. However, the association isn’t trying to impact policy changes, like allowing beards on campus or providing more vending machines in the library. Instead, BYUSA’s focus is to serve the student body and help bring a “Zion community,” or unified and service based community, to BYU.
The candidates for BYUSA president and executive vice president, run and campaign together to serve the student body through activities that get students involved, according to Marshall.
Former 2015-2016 BYUSA president Brennan Staheli said he originally did not realize he had the option to run until his student leadership mentor told him he was qualified and encouraged him to run.
“It wasn’t ever a role that I had aspired to,” Staheli said. “Having worked in student leadership for a couple years, though, there were areas important to me that I felt could be improved.”
Staheli said the campaign process was difficult, but definitely worth it.
“It was hard talking about myself so much, so I tried focusing more on the vision and what we wanted to achieve,” Staheli said.
Current BYUSA president Avery Harding said her campaign was all about helping students find a place at BYU.
“BYUSA is students serving students,” Harding said. “It’s the umbrella here and we wanted to create a place for people who needed help. We were determined to do that for the students.”
Potential BYUSA presidential candidates must have at least one semester of BYUSA experience and one semester of leadership experience, in a different organization or on campus. Candidates must also have at least a 3.0 GPA and be compliant with the BYU Honor Code.
The 2017-2018 application process for BYUSA president began in October 2016, when potential presidential and vice presidential candidates started submitting their applications. Interest meetings were held throughout Fall 2016 to help people understand the details of campaigning.
All applications were due in November, and by December, each team had to submit a blueprint of their campaign plan and presidency plan. They
also met with the administration to discuss their plans.
In January 2017, the candidates received training and were allowed to announce their candidacy. This year’s candidates include Ryan Hernandez and Mackenzie McCoy, Dillon Ostlund and Katelyn Strobel, and Matt Youngberg and Alex Goschen.
Campaigns must follow certain guidelines during the election period. All videos and social media posts must be approved by the administration and planned out before candidates can post them. The election coordinators also encourage candidates to use student volunteers to help students develop and show their talents, according to Marshall.
“I feel the most important and comprehensive rules stated in the election handbook are consistency, courtesy, cooperation and compromise,” said Student Leadership Director Nathan Ward.
Ward said the rules of the campaign are a means to an end and help remind candidates of the BYUSA purpose, which is to help students serve students in Christlike ways. He said the way the candidates conduct themselves and interact with others should be a reflection of someone who is trying to lead an organization with a fairly lofty charge.
BYUSA election rules also help ensure each pair of candidates are on a level playing field as they compete for votes, according to Ward. These candidates and their supporters work hard to follow the rules and play fair so that the experience remains positive and uplifting.
“No one rule is more important than any other,” Ward said. “Candidates’ attitudes toward the rules (are) the most important factor in the success of each election.”
Marshall urged BYU students to get involved and become aware.
“I personally love how elections are run at BYU because it really is focused on students learning and developing, rather than ‘who can outsmart the other,'” Marshall said. “I wish more people were involved because it’s a cool opportunity, and one I will never forget being a part of.”
BYUSA election polls open the first week of March. Primary and final elections will take place on March 1-2 to determine the new BYUSA president and vice president.