Party Taps Facebook Users

Tina Nguyen covers student government. Contact her at [email protected]

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With ASUC elections more than seven months away, two UC Berkeley students have jumped on the Internet-campaign bandwagon in hopes of nabbing thousands of ASUC votes.

Sophomore Aaron Diek and junior Tom Shook announced their bids for the ASUC senate and launched their No Bullshit Party on online directory catering to more than 400,000 college students across the country.

By using the Web site as a campaign tactic, Diek and Shook tap into the more than 11,000 UC Berkeley students-nearly one-third of the entire campus-who use the Facebook.

"We're just trying to level the playing field," Diek says. "The other candidates have interns and fliers and signs. We're in it for the long haul, and we're just trying to get our names out there."

Diek and Shook are following the lead of former presidential candidate and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who won the media spotlight six months ago for using his Web site to gather millions of dollars for his campaign from Internet users across the country.

Since then, dozens more campaign Web sites have popped up, including political Web logs, fund-raising sites and traditional party Web sites.

Since establishing the No Bullshit Party last month as a Facebook group-one of the newest features of the multifaceted Web site-Diek and Shook have already gathered 57 members as of Wednesday night. That equals 57 potential voters for the elections. On Tuesday night, they had just 37 members.

Senate candidates usually need between 300 and 400 votes to win seats depending on how many candidates run and how many voters turn out, says Bret Manley, chair of ASUC political party Student Action, one of dominant parties on campus.

"I'm sure when the time to actually campaign rolls around, a lot more people will have heard of us and joined our group," Shook says.

Although Diek and Shook have yet to nab a spot with any of the more established ASUC political parties, they hope to latch on to another party.

Student Action and CalSERVE, the other major political party, have used their own Web site in past elections to post their literature and recruit volunteers. Student Action also has a Facebook group that is not geared toward campaigning.

But the Facebook's other tools-such as text messaging to other Facebook accounts and message boards-provide an easy way for communicating with the campus community, Manley says.

Diek and Shook are also using the site as a publicity avenue to avoid more "invasive" campaign tactics such as picket signs and fliers, says senior Andrew Adams, who serves as the party adviser.

While the pair are the only students who are currently campaigning through the network, Manley says he sees a place for Facebook in ASUC campaigns as the year moves toward election season.

"I don't think they're the only people trying to use the Facebook come election time," Manley says. "So the verdict is still out. I think it's definitely worth it trying the Facebook."


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