Candidates claim residence halls are shutting them out

Lucas Kunach

With elections upcoming, candidates are making a final push to reach voters. But some candidates say they feel they are being unfairly kept away from University residence hall voters.
Despite a University policy allowing “reasonable” political solicitation inside residence halls, many candidates and student political groups have been denied access. While the University claims the groups seeking entrance did not follow required policies, the groups argue the University offered inconsistent procedures and misinformation.
The University’s political solicitation guidelines are based on the Fair Campaign Practices Act of 1976. The statute states that it is unlawful for any person “to deny access to any apartment house, dormitory, nursing home, mobile home park … to any candidate who has filed for election to public office … solely for the purpose of campaigning.”
The University policy statement is an “attempt to furnish consistent procedures in all residence halls for candidates.” This includes “reasonable numbers of persons, reasonable hours and prior appointments.”
Political solicitation is the only kind of solicitation allowed by the policy.
Susan Stubblefield, coordinator for Housing and Residential Life, said the University policy was formed to allow candidates residence hall access.
“With some minimal advanced notice,” said Stubblefield, “a candidate can do some campaigning in otherwise private areas.”
Before a candidate is allowed into a residence hall, they must first be aware of the proper procedures. “It is basically the responsibility of the candidates to be aware of the policies and state statutes,” Stubblefield said.
Many political groups claim the University has not been efficient in distributing information about the political solicitation policies.
College Democrats President Adam Tillotson points to his organization’s failed political literature drops at Middlebrook Hall and Superblock residence halls. In those cases, Tillotson said, hall directors and resident assistants misinformed them of University policies.
“According to the political solicitation manual, it seems that all they want is advanced warning that we’re coming,” he said.
While Tillotson’s group did not give advanced warning, he claims the College Democrats were told that their solicitation was not permitted at all.
College Republicans Chairman Julien Kubesh reported similar treatment. He said he was told that solicitation was “not possible”.
Rob Fowler, Republican candidate for District 59B, said the lack of awareness regarding the University policy impedes his campaign.
“I’ve dropped literature at all of the private places (in the district), but I’ve saved dorms for last due to all the red tape, when in theory, it should be the exact opposite,” Fowler said.
The University policy regarding political solicitation inside resident halls states that it “encourages all student residents to become politically informed and involved in the electoral process.”
But Fowler said of the available population residing on the East Bank campus, only 10 percent voted in the 1996 general election.