Constitutional Council Nominees Replaced Wholesale

Relevant Constitution text. (image source: ASSU Constitution of 2007)
A bill nominating three new members of the [Constitutional Council]( has been filed by the Executive with the legislative bodies. What’s the result of the renomination process discussed in [my earlier post]( A wholesale replacement of the original nominees. Original nominees Oz Hasbún ’13, Alex Katz ’12, and Brianna Pang ’13 have been replaced with new nominees David Hoyt ’12, J’vona Ivory ’11, and Samir Siddhanti ’12. All three of the original nominees did reapply for the spot, but none were selected by the Executive. Naturally, as expressed in my earlier post, this raises the question of why this change occurred. Let’s explore.

Cardona declined a request for public comment, but a source inside the ASSU told me that the reason for the renomination was actually concerns on the part of the Graduate Student Council. The GSC was ostensibly upset with what it saw as the lack of experience and partisanship of the nominees and apparently told the executive that it would not confirm the original nominees. Note, because of a reluctance on the part of some people that I contacted to speak, I am forced to speculate at points in this article. I feel pretty clear that I identify those places, but if anything is unclear, please let me know.

It seems as though either the GSC was extremely explicit about its distaste for the original nominees, the Executive was concerned about a fight, or the Executive aimed to avoid the impression that the renomination process aimed to eliminate only one or two of the original nominees, as the entire slate was retired. The partisanship charge seems aimed at Alex Katz (full disclosure, Katz is the editor-in-chief of the Stanford Review, the parent publication of this blog and a personal friend), who was a Senator this past year with the endorsement of Students for a Better Stanford, while presumably the “lack of experience” was aimed at the fact that the other two nominees are sophomores this year.

How do those nominees compare to the new nominees, judged along the same criteria?

Well, there are no more sophomores (although it seems unlikely that mere time spent at Stanford actually has any impact on familiarizing students with the ASSU Constitution) and I can’t comment on the experience of the new candidates (I know that Siddhanti at least has Mock Trial experience, although I am uncertain as to how that relates directly to the ASSU Constitution), but partisanship remains an open issue. My source inside the administration cited the fact that Andy Parker, current President of the Stanford Democrats, was not selected as evidence of a push for non-partisanship, but the relationship between Stanford Democrats and the Constitutional Council is, to me, unclear at best. Rulings on the ASSU Constitution seem as though they are unlikely to have particular ties to national politics. Given that Katz is not even a member of the Stanford Conservative Society, the corresponding group for Republicans, this concern should evaporate in any case. Thus, it seems more reasonable to focus on campus political activity, most notably the rivalry between the Students of Color Coalition (SOCC) and other parties, such as Students for a Better Stanford. if partisanship was a disqualifying factor for Katz, why should that concern not apply to J’vona Ivory, a SOCC endorsed Senator from the 2008-2009 term? This seems unclear to me.

When contacted, the co-chairs of the GSC, Justin Brown and Jessica Tsai, have elected to present a united front, one of neither commenting nor even admitting to receiving the questions, which were sent to their individual mailboxes, as well as the special “chair” inbox early this morning. Although we have no choice but in good faith to assume that they have been busy, speculation that they are attempting to bury the issue until the new nominees can be rammed through the Senate and GSC is unavoidable. I look forward to hearing statements from them soon.

Another item of interest is that Brianna Pang, one of the replaced nominees, was the former Daily beat reporter for the GSC. It’s unclear how, in performing such a duty, she might have angered that body, but it raises concern about the impartiality of GSC members (many of whom were reeleected this year) towards her nomination. (This experience with seeing ASSU politics also serves to refute the idea that both of the originally nominated sophomores were political neophytes, raising speculation that the charge of inexperience was not well thought out.)

Finally, according to a nominee with whom I spoke, the original nominees were not permitted to update their resumes or applications, thus putting them at a disadvantage compared to their competition, who could feature summer activities or create new applications. This feeds into the idea that the interviewing of the original nominees was unlikely to result in their renomination, further evidence that other pressures

So what can the de-nominated candidates do? Well, one option is – what else? – a Constitutional Council case about whether the renomination process broke the Constitutional requirement that a chair of the Council be selected within three weeks of the first day of school and thus the new nominations should be ruled unconstitutional. Clearly, such a case would play out in an interesting fashion in the Council itself, as most members would be forced to recuse themselves. We’ll see what ends up happening. I can only hope that tomorrow’s GSC meeting will force some answers about the process to emerge, even if it’s too late to influence the debate in the Senate. If the GSC disliked the nominees, then it should have faced them in its legislative capacity, not through backroom deals that were never explained to the original nominees, who, in conversations, felt as though they were not treated fairly or honestly. We owe it to them to have a full accounting of what occurred.

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