New Coalitions, Controversies

After a peaceful first week back on the Farm, the second week of Spring Quarter ushered in Stanford’s annual eruption of fliers, campaign videos, and pun-laden slogans.  Even for Stanford’s most apathetic, apolitical students, the presence of the 2010 ASSU Elections was near-impossible to ignore.

Senate: SOCC takes 10 seats, SUN 4, and Independents 1

This year’s elections was marked the appearance of two new coalitions of candidates running for Undergraduate Senate: Students United Now (SUN) and Students with Experience (S.Ex.).

The phenomenon of Senate candidates uniting under common values and running as a group was largely unprecedented until last year, when a group of candidates ran a joint campaign as Students for a Better Stanford (SBS).

Stanford’s only longstanding exception has been the Students of Color Coalition (SOCC), founded in 1987.  However, unlike the new coalitions appearing this and last year, SOCC is also an official endorsement group, representing several communities of color on campus as well as one religious group, the Muslim Student Awareness Network (MSAN).

Four candidates from SUN, Will Seaton ’13, Stewart Macgregor-Dennis ’13, Carolyn Simmons ’13, and Rebecca Sachs ’13, were elected to the Senate.  One candidate not running with a coalition, Khaled Alshawi ’13, also obtained a seat on the Senate.

The remaining 10 incoming Senators were endorsed by SOCC. Madeline Hawes ’13 received 1159 votes, more than any other Senate candidate this year – followed by Deepa Kannappan ‘13, incumbent Michael Cruz ‘12, Juany Torres ‘13, Ben Jensen ‘12, Daniel Khalessi ‘13, Rafael Vasquez ‘12, Kamil Saeid ‘13, and Robin Perani ’13. Pat Bruny ’13 received 797 votes, the lowest of any incoming 2010 Senator.

Despite the disappointment of non-elected candidates – many of whom invested weeks of time and effort into their campaigns – some try to see the positives of having run, regardless of the outcome.  This includes SUN’s Showly Wang ’13, who, with 790 votes, received just seven short of winning a seat on the Senate.

Wang says that for her, running for Senate was an immensely valuable experience, “in that I had a reason to push myself to become more knowledgeable about issues that students care about.”  Miles Unterreiner ’12 of S.Ex expressed similar sentiments, calling the campaign a “great experience in politics,” and stated that he “hope[s] to get more involved over the coming years.”

Executive: Cardona and Wharton Emerge Victorious

This year’s only SOCC-endorsed Executive Slate, Angelina Cardona ‘11 and Kelsei Wharton ’12, also emerged victorious as Stanford’s incoming ASSU Executive President and Vice President.  However, voters in this year’s ASSU elections had a far greater number of Executive slates to choose from than they did in 2009.

The three campaign front-runners were Cardona and Wharton, followed by Peacock/Bakke and Thom and Stephanie.  Also running were the No Rain! Campaign, The Guzman-Mahoney Referendum Demanding Action (G-MRDA), and the Chaparral’s slate, Two Dope Boys in a Caddylack.

Peacock/Bakke, whose slate boasts “16 years of student service leadership,” made ASSU history as the first doctoral students to run together for Executive.  Full interviews with five of the six Executive slates can be found in the Review’s online coverage of the election at blog.stanfordreview.org.

Campaign Controversies: Endorsements and Study Abroad

As in past years, Senate and Executive candidates alike scrambled to collect endorsements from various student organizations and alliances, including Stanford’s Colleges Against Cancer, Women’s Coalition, Queer Coalition, Jewish Student Association (Senate only), Stanford Democrats, Stanford Daily (Executive only), Stanford Review, and Stanford Progressive.

A new endorsement group, the Green Alliance for Innovative Action (GAIA), also emerged as the replacement for Students for a Sustainable Stanford (SSS)’s endorsement.  GAIA, an initiative introduced by Stanford’s current ASSU Executive, identifies itself as “a partnership between the different energy and sustainability efforts across campus.”

GAIA and its endorsed candidates became the subject of some controversy during the election when allegations came to light that multiple GAIA-endorsed candidates had not been following GAIA’s guidelines for running a more “sustainable campaign.”

According to an email sent out by Noel Crisostomo, these allegations included “printing on ‘heavy, glossy paper,’ or purposefully printing ‘the entire’ HR3962 [bill] for the appearance of reusing paper, and/or printing new t-shirts.”  GAIA then asked for all candidates guilty of violations to step forward, although there is no evidence that GAIA conducted any physical investigations to ensure all perpetrators would be exposed.

Only two candidates, Carolyn Simmons ’13 and Rebecca Sachs ’13, stepped forward, admitted to printing on both sides of unused paper to make it appear reused, causing them to lose GAIA’s endorsement.  However, Simmons and Sachs also expressed regret that GAIA fell through on their side of the agreement, as the group had promised to provide candidates with pre-printed paper.  “At first, all of my fliers were printed on the backs of [scrap] paper I collected,” Sachs said.  But without GAIA’s promised support, both candidates lamented that they soon ran out of used paper and could not continue their sustainable campaigns.

Another ethics concern emerged days after the winners had been announced, when incoming Senator Ben Jensen ’12 revealed that he plans to study abroad in Berlin this fall, despite signing a Declaration of Intent stating he “will remain on campus” for the entirety of his term.  Jensen does claim that he will attend every Senate meeting by Skype, which would occur at 4 AM in his new time zone.

The *Daily’s *endorsement for executive also became a source of controversy. Early front-runners Thom and Stephanie chose to not seek the newspaper’s influential endorsement. The candidates were concerned about the board’s objectivity, especially because of the presence of Ana Diaz-Hernandez ’11, who was endorsed by SOCC while serving as a senator. The Daily’s Board ultimately endorsed the SOCC-supported and eventual winners Cardona and Wharton.

Special Fees and Class Presidencies

Meanwhile, some students were not disappointed with candidates, but with the fact that unlike last year, not all student groups received the necessary votes to receive Special Fees.  The* Stanford Progressive*, Stanford Students in Entertainment, Stanford Cardinal Broadcasting Network (SCBN), Stanford Chaparral (Chappie), SIAS – Society for International Affairs at Stanford, and Stanford Journal of International Relations will be ineligible to receive Special Fees this coming year, as all failed to receive “yes” votes from 15% of the student body. However, 49 other groups successfully qualified for Special Fees, including 6 that applied for Joint Special Fees.

The race for Senior and Junior Class Presidents appeared less grueling, as both winning slates, Senior Package and Junior Shore, ran unopposed.  For Sophomore Class President, four slates competed for the position – Sophs 4 More, SoPhresh, Think Thirteen!, and iThirteen – with the freshman class eventually electing Sophs 4 More.

New Easier to Enforce Campaign Rules

This year’s elections also brought a number of unique developments, including fewer campaigning rules than in recent years. Several difficult to enforce rules were eliminated, including restricting the number of fliers each candidate was allowed to print and prohibiting campaigning during the 48 hours when voting took place and posting fliers in bathrooms, windows, and hallways

However, midway through campaign week, Student Housing prohibited fliering in Crothers, Crothers Memorial, Toyon, Branner, Kimball, Lantana and Castano (except on bulletin boards), allegedly due to wall damage.  At this time, Student Housing also informed candidates that fliering “on walls, doors, or windows of University buildings” is against University Policy.  On the other hand, several candidates took full advantage of the new rule allowing campaign emails to be sent during voting, filling fellow students’ inboxes throughout Thursday and Friday.

SOCC Dominates the “Coalitions Battle”

According to a 2010 Daily op-ed written by SOCC leaders, SOCC’s mission is to “advocate for campus diversity of every nature.”  Key issues championed by SOCC-endorsed Senate candidates this year, as in past years, include increasing graduate student and faculty diversity, promoting awareness of Acts of Intolerance on campus, and preserving funding for community centers.

Meanwhile, Students with Experience, a new coalition formed by Danny Crichton ’11, Andrew Jang ’12, Miles Unterreiner ’12, and Philip Bui ’11, adopted goals for a broad array of issues, ranging from Special Fees to sustainability to housing and dining.  As stated on their website, the group aimed to “to improve every undergraduate’s experience here, from the smallest annoyance to the grandest vision.”  Accordingly, their platform included an extensive list of pragmatic goals to improve students’ daily lives, including developing a 7-Meals-Per-Week option with Stanford Dining, extending library movie rentals to two days, **bringing compostable take-out to dining halls, and **publishing a weekly Senate Digest.

Students with Experience’s slogan, “Get D.A.M.P., Vote S.Ex,” provided both lighthearted humor and an acronym of its candidates’ names. Furthermore, Students with Experience created quite a stir on Wednesday night when, just before voting began, when they received the endorsement of David Gobaud, current ASSU Executive President. However, none of the four upperclassmen ultimately garnered enough votes to win seats on the Senate.

A similarly pragmatic stance toward improving students’ lives on campus was taken by Students United Now (SUN), the second Senate coalition that emerged this year.  Composed of 12 campus leaders involved in the ASSU, Frosh Council, dorm government, campus publications, and various cultural groups, SUN stated that its candidates came together over three mutual priorities.

These priorities, according to SUN’s platform, are “increasing the Senate’s ability to advocate for students, improving the funding policies for student groups, and working on three issues which directly affect student life: party planning reform, strengthening community groups, and improving health and wellness on campus.”

The group’s website features SUN’s ideas for accomplishing these goals, including establishing office hours for Senators, improving training for student groups’ Financial Officers, and applying funds from “ineffective” health projects, such as the Wellness Room, toward more practical health and wellness programs.  In order to promote transparency and fairness in the ASSU’s funding process, SUN’s platform also proposed that the Appropriations Committee should receive continuous input directly from student groups.  Finally, in addition to a group platform, SUN’s candidates each published individual platforms featuring the specific issues and projects they intended to concentrate on.

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