The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Administration changes dorm campaign policy

In accordance with Minnesota state law, Macalester changed its policy last week to allow political candidates to campaign door-to-door within residence halls. This is the first time the policy has been discussed since 2006, but concerns regarding student awareness of the change have complicated the situation as Election Day draws nearer.

“Some students brought to our attention that our [then] current campus policy was not consistent with guidelines set out in the MN state law about candidates’ rights to campaign door-to-door,” said Associate Dean of Students Lisa Landreman.

One of those students was Danny Surman ’14, Campaign Manager for Andrew Ojeda’s [’13] run for State Representative. Surman* came across Macalester’s policy while researching the matter at nearby institutions.

“I’ve been working all semester long on coordinating campus canvassing all over the state,” Surman said. “When we got around to Macalester I noticed that the policy didn’t really jive with most other schools.”

The campus policy prior to the change stated that “Candidates or their representatives cannot solicit and campaign on the Residence Hall floor or go ‘door-to-door.’” It went on to state that “Candidates cannot use the floor lounges for campaigning and soliciting.” However, MN statute 211B.20 says that “Candidates may request to solicit in Residence Halls. Candidates should receive approval no later than 48 hours from the requested activity.”

Until now, discussion of the school policy had not come up since 2006 when Macalester alum Jesse Mortenson ’05 ran for a State House seat on the Green Party ticket. When Surman contacted Landreman at the beginning of October to bring up the issue for the first time in six years, Dean of Students Jim Hoppe began research.

“The first thing I did was check with the other schools in the state,” Hoppe said. “The last time there was a question we had done the same thing; in 2006 my impression was that more of us were like each other in our policies than not, so I wanted to see if that had changed.”

After finding that most schools had since changed their policies, Hoppe coordinated with Landreman and Residential Life to draw up a new policy, which was put in place last weekend.

“As a result we reviewed the law, our policy and guidelines implemented at other Minnesota schools,” Landreman said. “In light of the upcoming election and students’ desires to campaign for their respective candidates, we wanted to respond quickly to be in compliance with state law but also needed to ensure the safety of our on-campus students.”

Student contact with administrators began on Oct. 5. Hoppe said that the entire process of revisiting and revising the old policy “took about three weeks from start to finish.” Macalester’s policy now reads: “In accordance with state law, candidates may request to solicit in Residence Halls. Candidates should request approval from the Director of Campus Life, or designee, no later than 48 hours from the requested activity. Candidates, and up to two campaign staff, may solicit students by going door-to-door in residential facilities, provided they are accompanied by a member of the residence life professional staff. Candidates cannot use the floor lounges for campaigning and soliciting.”

Students were informed of the change on Oct. 24 via the Daily Piper. This proved problematic for Ojeda’s campaign, particularly when students living on campus received an email on Oct. 22 stating that Representative Erin Murphy would be campaigning in the dorms the night of Oct. 23.

“It was kind of an issue of equal access, especially this close to the election,” Surman said. “Because of the days that we lost not finding out about that, we’re now not going to talk to all Mac students about it, which I think is really disappointing.”

Ojeda’s campaign was later able to door-to-door campaign in dorms on Oct. 30.

Reasons for the time lapse between the policy change and the formal announcement to the student body are still unclear, though Hoppe said he takes responsibility for the delayed communication.

“We should’ve just moved on quicker,” Hoppe said. “The only excuse I have is that it’s a busy time of year, and it hit at a time when a lot of folks on staff were gone at conferences.”

Surman’s lingering question is how Murphy’s campaign knew to contact the school through such a small window of time, given that the new policy requires 48 hours of advance notice.

“I don’t blame Representative Murphy in any of this, I don’t blame Hoppe because he didn’t have anything to do with it,” Surman said. “But it seems like an awful big coincidence that Representative Murphy, a mere day or two after the policy changed, called ResLife for something that you normally don’t start at the last second like that.”

Though Hoppe is certain that Murphy’s campaign contacted ResLife, his best guess is that it was a coincidence.

Keith Edwards, Director of Campus Life, confirmed that someone in connection with the Murphy campaign contacted Macalester on Oct. 21, asking to go door-to-door in residence halls on Oct. 23.

“My assumption is that it was just luck that she contacted [the school],” Hoppe said. “I don’t know that I remember this correctly, I just know that they contacted the staff in the Residence Life office because I looked at how we were going to implement that policy and gave them the direction.”

Although Murphy could’ve been the first to use the amended policy to her advantage she and her staff were unable to make it to campus on Oct. 23 as scheduled. Murphy says she was not alerted to the policy change, and either her campaign or staff from Obama for America made contact with the college to ask if she could come knock on doors. As of press time Murphy was scheduled to be on campus as part of the Get Out the Vote (GOTV) rally on Nov. 1.

“I am happy the school has changed the policy so that we can talk directly to students in preparation for the election,” Murphy said. “But honestly, I didn’t know the policy had changed. Folks from Obama For America may have known, but I did not know.”

Ojeda’s campaign then used the new policy on Oct. 30 to door knock in dorms.

“Having candidates being able to come to campus increases the sense of community and civic engagement among students,” Ojeda said. “It increases the dialogue and gives students an opportunity to join in the discussion.”

*Editor’s note: Danny Surman was formerly an Associate News Editor for The Mac Weekly.

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