On-campus soliciting continues despite COVID

On-campus soliciting continues despite COVID

Kellen Brandt, Features Reporter

This election season and flu season approach in the midst of a pandemic, some students in on-campus housing are wondering why door-knocking is still allowed for campaigns.

Housing and Residence Life Director, Paula Scheevel, recently sent an email to students living on campus explaining the Solicitation/Canvassing Policy for Winona State University Residence Halls.

“I sent a notice to the students last week, basically saying it’s campaign season,” Scheevel said. “This is our process and our policies so that you understand, you know what’s going to be taking place and then this is how you can choose to handle it if you want.”

This policy was created by Winona State’s Residence and Housing Association (RHA) since it is legally required to allow political candidates into multiple-unit dwellings.

“Residence Housing Association put into place reasonable polices for Winona State in accordance to this law,” Scheevel said. “Student voices developed the policy.”

Anybody wanting to come into the residence halls for canvassing or soliciting must follow the previous policy and go to an RHA meeting to be approved to come into the building.

President of RHA, Amanda Grober, said that some minor changes have been put into place for this process.

“COVID has not changed our process, we’re still welcoming people, but now just asking them to wear masks, social distance and only have two people per floor,” Grober said. “Anyone in the building still needs to check in, wear a nametag and follow the original policy too but these were additions to the policy due to COVID.”

Scheevel said fewer people have been coming into the building this year than in years past. Local and regional campaigns have been requesting to drop-off literature instead of coming into the buildings.

“Knowing that COVID exists in our world right now, they aren’t requesting going door to door, but they want to have literature available for the students,” Scheevel said. “People understand the spread of the virus and don’t want to do anything to harm themselves or anyone else.”

Grober and Scheevel agreed if it were not for COVID-19, they believe there would be a lot more traffic with it being an election year.

Grober said Residence Housing Association made “No Canvassing or Soliciting” posters for students if they want them. These posters say, “NO CANVASSING OR SOLICITING” in large font at the top and then in smaller letters below says “Students, please post this flyer on your door if you do not want candidates stopping by your room.”

Under RHA rules, candidates must respect these posters and are not able to leave flyers at their door, knock or slide information under doors with these posters.

Some halls have these posters at the front desk already printed for students to take. Students can otherwise print them themselves.

Grober does not have a no canvassing or soliciting poster on her door and stated that she has not seen many in the residence halls.

Like Grober, Kayce Redican, a junior elementary and early childhood education major with a coaching minor, does not have a poster on her door either. Redican is a resident assistant in the Quad.

“I think it is a good idea to know what campaign people are running for and why I should vote for them,” Redican said. “However, I do understand why people have a no soliciting poster on their door.”

Like Redican, Jillian Volk, a junior majoring in social work and minoring in women’s, gender and sexuality studies, also chose to not have a no solicitation poster on her apartment door.

Volk said her and her roommates are all very interested in politics and even though they all know who they are voting for, they still want to learn about all the candidates and hear what they have to say.

“It’s good to stay informed about politicians who maybe don’t share our opinions but for all we know they could win,” Volk said. “If the solicitors are campaigning for people we support, we will listen to them and do what we can to support those candidates.”

Redican stated she has not seen many posters on doors in the Quad and said it may be due to residents not knowing about them.

“A few of my residents do have the no soliciting sign on their door, however, I don’t think many residents actually know about them and that they are available if residents want them,” Redican said.

Redican said she expects more people to door knock in October and early November.

Volk said she would like to hear more about local candidates but is keeping in mind safety precautions with COVID.

“I love hearing about political stuff and it’s really cool to see other people who are passionate about their ideas,” Volk said. “I would only talk to them if they are wearing a mask and are social distancing to the best they can though.”

Volk said she thinks local candidates should speak more to college students in Winona since they make up a large percentage of the voter population.

“I think local candidates should speak more, especially to the WSU students,” Volk said.

Volk said solicitors “can be annoying” but said she also realizes they can be good and inform others about politics.

“We all know a lot usually about the people running for president but not a lot usually about the mayor for example,” Volk said. “It’s good to stay informed on politicians, especially local candidates.”