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The polls opened on Wednesday morning, giving the UT community a chance to cast their ballots for the 2020 SGA election season.

Student Body President Natalie Campbell addressed the student body with a news release early Wednesday morning encouraging everyone to vote.

“It is important to continue with these elections despite our virtual setting because your representation is important,” Campbell said in the email. “We do not want there to be a lapse in that representation after the three of us graduate and before you return to campus physically.”

Students have until Friday, April 17 at 5 p.m. EDT to cast their choice on which campaign they would like to have represent them as the next student body president, vice president, student services director and executive treasurer.

Students can cast their votes at votesga.utk.edu. The results of the elections will be released later that evening after all the votes are tallied up.

Each campaign — Change, Promise and We Hear You UT — have used multiple social media platforms to reach out to students to not only inform them about their campaigns, but also address students concerns during the coronavirus pandemic.

Change

SGA - Change

Cody Ramangkoun, a junior studying industrial engineering, for executive treasurer (left), Karmen Jones, a junior studying English rhetoric and Africana studies, for student body president (middle left), Emma Kate Hall, a junior studying political science, for student services director (middle right), Raj Patel, a junior studying aerospace engineering, for student body vice president (right).

The following questions were answered by Robyn Helms, the communications director for the Change campaign.

How have you adapted your social media usage to fit this campaign?

Because SGA campaign season is all online, social media is the only way we can let students get to know us on a personal level. It also is one of the only ways we can hear from students about the changes they want to see. Therefore, we wanted our campaign to be as real and personal as we can through social media, while still being professional. We can’t show students who we are in person, so we have to communicate that through our social media.

What has the response to your campaign been like on social media thus far?

The response we have gotten on social media from our campaign has been very positive. We have had so many great conversations with students so far, and we can’t wait to continue them once elected. All we want to do is make students feel heard and valued. I think we have done that well through the initiatives we have already started, like our Redbubble fundraiser.

What strategies have you used to reach out to students?

We have not only connected with the exec of organizations through email and social media, but also, we have made it a point to make students feel welcome to reach out to us. We have made it very easy for students to let us know what changes they want to see, whether it is by simply clicking on a story post or DMing us a question.

What makes your campaign strategy stand out?

We aren’t waiting to be elected to help students and make change. We have already started doing that by providing more resources for students affected by COVID-19 and also raising money through our Redbubble shop. We want students to know we actually do care about them, and these initiatives won’t stop, win or lose.

What is the best way for students to get in contact with you?

DMing us on social media (@changeutk) has been the quickest way, but you can also send us an email at changeutk@gmail.com.

What should students expect from your social media campaigns over the next couple of days?

We are ready to give back to students and get them excited to vote for who is going to represent them next year. We also want to inform them more about why they should vote for us and also why they should vote in general.

Promise

Promise Campaign

The following questions were answered by Walker Hoover, the presidential candidate for the Promise campaign.

Tell me about how campaigning has gone for you all so far?

“Campaigning has definitely been different this election cycle. For starters, Carly, Christopher and I are all in different time zones, so it has been fun trying to navigate that aspect. However, we have enjoyed still being able to video call with organizations and have some sense of normalcy.”

How do you feel about your campaigning?

“We feel confident! We have surrounded ourselves with great leaders from all across campus and look forward to engaging with many student organizations.”

Do you feel that you’ve reached a fair amount of UT students?

“Yes! We have some wonderful people working on our social media team, and they have been doing a great job with outreach. We want students to feel a personal connection when coming to our page and found that home videos really resonate with students. It has been good to get senators and general campaign members involved in this video-making process, which makes them more excited to share our posts with their friends.”

What message do you have for students?

“We hope that students are staying healthy during this time and are keeping those affected in their thoughts and prayers. We understand that Student Government is likely the last thing on your minds, but it is important to stay engaged and informed on campaign platforms and to cast your vote for who you believe your next representatives should be!”

What’s the best way for students to get in touch to find out more about your campaign?

“The best way to get in touch and learn more about us is to follow our Instagram @votepromise2020. Our DMs are always open or you can shoot us an email to votepromise2020@gmail.com, and we would be more than happy to answer your questions or tell you more about ourselves!”

Any additional comments you’d like to add about anything about your campaign?

“As sophomores, both Carly and I are the only people running for SGA exec that you can hold accountable for what we are promising you. Next year, we won’t be worried about graduating or getting a job. We will be working for you just as hard as we are working to earn your vote now; you’ll know where to find us because we’ll still be around. Promise is a campaign that has brought our communities and shared experiences with us to SGA, not just our identity as members of SGA. It’s important to vote for the people you feel are genuine about their intentions and passionate about making a difference on campus.”

We Hear You UT

We Hear You UT

Tell me about how campaigning has gone for you all so far?

Molly Mays: “So far, campaigning has been slightly stressful, but we are feeling positive. It is weird trying to reach students completely online, but we are working hard to reach out so that students’ voices can be heard.”

How do you feel about your campaigning?

Sophia Rhoades: “I definitely miss talking to students face-to-face! Messaging people does not have the same impact, however, we are working to do our best to connect with students. Not only on social media, but also reaching out to people that aren't on social media.”

What strategies have you used to reach out to students?

Mays: “We have mainly focused on reaching out over social media with interactive posts and giveaways. We want to show students that we aren’t perfect, and we aren’t the regular SGA campaign, and I feel that we have been able to do this better than we thought over social media. We also been doing things like making a google form suggestion box for students to ask questions and make comments. We also have been having giveaways in order to spread our message more to the student body.”

Do you feel that you’ve reached a fair amount of UT students?

Gustavo Morrice: “Our reach has been large and was something we were confident about before we even started campaigning. One thing that helps us stand out to UT students and reach more is the variations of organizations that members of our campaign belong to. We aren’t made up of mostly SGA people or one or two organizations. Our campaign members organizations span all over campus in areas we wouldn’t have been able to reach without them.”

What makes your campaign strategy stand out?

Nikki Hernandez: “We have really tried to engage students in ways that show we are just everyday students wanting to represent them. We have wanted this experience to be as fun as possible despite everything being online. We think this has really been shown the past few weeks with our fun giveaways and at home videos. Our biggest strategy is our excellent communication with everyone on We Hear You UT and ensuring that everyone feels valued and heard. “

What message do you have for students?

Mays: “We want to hear what the students are saying. I have spoken about how SGA, specifically Senate, can get really caught up in the conversations about what students want, but there is rarely real action taken from these conversations. We not only want student’s voices to be heard, we want action to come from these conversations. We want to promote kindness and transparency throughout SGA and the Student Body.”

What’s the best way for students to get in touch to find out more about your campaign?

Hernandez: “The best way to get in touch to learn more about our campaign is on our social media that can be found at @wehearyou_ut! Anyone is welcome to send us messages regarding any questions or concerns they might have. Our messages are also open to anyone wanting to learn more about us or SGA overall. We want to have genuine conversations with students and show students that we are here to listen to them and make SGA a resource for all Vols.”

What should students expect from your social media campaign over the next couple of days?

Rhoades: “We have some fun giveaways that are coming up! We wanted to be able to give back to our peers and give them something to look forward to once we are able to socialize again!”

Any additional comments you’d like to add about anything about your campaign?

Rhoades: “We hope everyone is safe and healthy! We are in unprecedented times right now, and taking care of your health comes first. It is still important to vote this year because who you elect to serve you this upcoming year will not only shape student life this year but years to come.”

Campus News Editor Alexandra DeMarco, Managing Editor Caroline Jordan and Editor-in-Chief Gabriela Szymanowska contributed to this article.

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