Elections: Turnout and ROTC

This spring, ASSU general election results ushered in a mixture of routine and pivotal changes for the 2011-2012 academic year. Not only did this year’s elections decide senate and executive offices for next year’s ASSU cabinet and approve special fees budgets, but the ballot also included a referendum to gauge student opinion on ROTC’s return to Stanford’s campus.

The elections website received ballots from 60% of the entire student body, the highest participation rate in recorded history. All four undergraduate classes experienced an increase in voter turnout.

This increase was lead by the sophomore class which experienced a 20% jump in voter turnout. Despite the positive undergraduate turnout, 30% fewer graduate students overall turned out to vote this year.

Graduate students are eligible to vote only on graduate student issues, and undergraduate students can only vote on undergraduate issues, with the exception of co-terminal students, who are eligible to vote on both undergraduate and graduate student issues.

Thus, the dramatic decline in graduate student voting could simply be indicative of a lack of controversial issues on this year’s graduate student ballot.

On the other hand, the undergraduate ballot this year had a number of tight races.  Michael Cruz and Stewart MacGreggor-Dennis were the winning slate for next year’s ASSU executive. Their victory represents the continuation of a several year running streak for slates endorsed by the Students of Color Coalition (SOCC).

Interestingly, both The Review and The Stanford Daily endorsed what turned out to be the losing slate, Tenzin Seldon and Joe Vasquez. The Green Alliance for Innovative Action (GAIA) and First-Generation Low Income Partnership (FLIP) also endorsed the Tenzin/Vasquez slate.

For undergraduate class presidents, “The Quad” won for next year’s sophomore class, the “Leland Stanford Juniors” for the junior class, and “Senior Citizen” for the upcoming seniors. Four slates ran for sophomore class presidents, three slates for executive office of the junior class, and only two ran for the senior class presidential office.

Fifteen senatorial candidates were also announced, lead by three senators with the top votes, Dan Ashton, Brianna Pang, and Tara Trujillo, in decreasing order. “Senator Palpatine” was once again a popular write-in candidate, earning 439 votes. The minimum votes a winning senatorial candidate earned this year was 753, earned by Alon Elhanan.

Aside from executive and legislative elections, the election also included special fees budget approvals. For undergraduate special fees groups, *The Stanford Chaparral *and The Claw magazines were the only two groups who did not have their special fees budgets approved. In order to get a special fees budget approved, a student group must have at least 50% voter approval.

Joint-special fees groups, groups whose special fees budgets are determined by both undergraduate and graduate student bodies, follow a similar approval process. Of those groups, only Sunday FLiCKS did not receive full support.

It will be interesting to see whether  FLiCKS continues or actually loses its funding this year, as Stewart MacGregor-Dennis personally promised the continuation of the FLiCKS tradition during the pre-election executive debate.

Of the student groups who did receive funding approved was the undergraduate student publication, one was The Stanford Flipside, which requested $7,000 for the explicit purpose of buying a Segway. The Flipside’s fee proposal was was intended to illustrate that the process for special fees budget approval is flawed. Still, The Flipside does actually plan to buy a Segway now that their budget has been approved.

In keeping with the dialog this year surrounding ROTC’s return to prestigious university campuses, a special ROTC referenda was included on this year’s ballot. Measure A, the “Advisory Question on ROTC,” asked students whether or not they supported “the return of ROTC to Stanford University.”

The decision to include the referenda on this year’s ballot was voted on by the incumbent senate. Like all executive, legislative, and budgetary inclusions to the ballot, the ROTC referenda gave students the opportunity to abstain from stating their support. Of those who voted, 2406 came out in support of ROTC’s return and 929 came out against ROTC’s return. 2117 chose to abstain. Responding to the question was mandatory.

The purpose of this referenda was not to definitively decide whether to allow ROTC to return to campus. Rather, it was simply to gauge student support. Results from the referenda will be taken into consideration in further dialog surrounding ROTC’s return.

Spring election results signify both beginnings and endings for the formal affiliations of many students to the ASSU. However, just the campaigning process has become so involved that its commitment mimics that of the position itself.

Although Vasquezwill not be taking office this year, he felt his running experience “challenging but extremely rewarding.”

Explained Vasquez, “The diversity of people that I met was inspiring—which ultimately built on my understanding of Stanford and even the world as a whole.”

In the end, Vasquez found the running experience valuable and worthwhile regardless of the results, supporting the idea that any involvement with the ASSU, not just holding an office, promotes strong leadership skills and a sense of social service.

Vasquez plans to apply the lessons he learned from ASSU elections to continue to serve the public this year and beyond, volunteering in Europe this summer, and eventually during his tenure with Teach for America after he completes a master’s in Civil and Environmental Engineering next year.

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