Candidates get special dorm access

Unlike most groups, political candidates are allowed to solicit in residence halls.

Cati Vanden Breul

In an attempt to gain support from students, local mayoral and city council candidates are taking advantage of a state statute that gives them access to campus residence halls.

Although most groups are not allowed to solicit in residence halls, candidates for public office are allowed to go door-to-door and talk to students about their platform.

It’s important that students have an opportunity to hear from the candidates personally, said Susan Stubblefield, assistant director of Housing and Residential Life at the University.

“We wholeheartedly support the electoral process,” Stubblefield said.

But students do have a choice of whether to listen to the politicians, she said. Residents are usually given notice when candidates will be in the building, and can put signs on their door telling them not to knock.

Candidates are required to let residence hall directors know they are visiting one business day in advance and must check in at the information desk upon arrival, Stubblefield said. If residents want to escort a candidate through the building, they may do so at any time, but this rarely happens, she said.

To gain access to residence halls, candidates must be present when the campaigning takes place. They cannot send a group of supporters to hand out literature or knock on doors.

Cam Gordon, Green Party candidate for City Council in Ward 2, campaigns in residence halls frequently and said he enjoys talking to students and hearing what issues they’re concerned about.

“Not only is it a great opportunity for students to have face time with candidates, but it’s also a great opportunity for me as a candidate to talk with them and learn how I can better serve them,” Gordon said.

He said he hopes students will take advantage of the candidates’ presence in the residence halls to ask particular questions and get answers.

Candidates often bring along student supporters when campaigning in residence halls.

Max Page, president of student group University DFL is helping Cara J. Letofsky – Gordon’s opponent – in her bid for City Council.

He said students would be missing out if candidates were not given access to residence halls.

“If they’re not involved to knock on doors, you lose the personal touch that’s involved with that,” Page said. “And a piece of campaign literature will not have the same effect or engage the person in the same way.”

Some said campaigning in residence halls is one of the most effective tactics to get students interested and voting in elections.

College Greens President Jesse Lickel, a Gordon supporter, said students will be able to make more informed decisions by talking to the candidates in person.

“If they don’t know anything about the candidates, they either won’t vote or they won’t know enough to vote based on the issues they support,” Lickel said.

But Bobby Ciatti, former Pioneer Hall community adviser and current resident of Mark G. Yudof Hall (previously Riverbend Commons), said he does not think candidates should be given special access to residence halls.

“I think it’s a nuisance,” Ciatti said.

It would be OK if candidates set up tables in common areas, but they should not be allowed to walk in the hallways and knock on doors, he said.

“Students should be able to seek out knowledge on their own,” he said.

In addition to political candidates, student groups interested in talking with students can set up informational tables in the residence halls. But no commercial solicitation involving selling of any kind is permitted, according to Housing and Residential Life guidelines.