The 18th Undergraduate Senate looks set for an explosive start as freshman and upperclass Senators fight over the censuring of their most popular representative, and the identity of their next Chair. The Chair’s role will be especially important in selecting a new CEO of Stanford Student Enterprises after last week’s rejection, but two freshman Senators are engaged in an effort to ensure their class prevails over candidates with greater experience and Stanford popularity.
Hattie Gawande was elected with 200 more votes than her next-closest competitor, but faces roadblocks to her candidacy as Chair of the Senate. The Review has received a number of reports that freshmen Senators are trying to nominate someone from the class of 2019 to represent a ‘fresh start’.
The Chair takes on a number of important administrative roles within the Senate. Senator Gawande commented in a statement that “it is important to have an experienced member of the Senate in the Chair position, especially as we restart the Financial Manager search process, which the Chair plays a vital role in”.
Shanta Katipamula has reportedly announced her intention to run after Jayaram Ravi announced his candidacy then withdrew from the running. A number of freshman and sophomore Senators have commented on condition of anonymity on both freshman candidates’ incompetence, calling them “underwhelming” and inexperienced.
Both of these freshman Senators declined to comment after the Review contacted them.
Multiple freshmen have commented that if the chair were selected by secret ballot, they would dissent from their class and vote for Gawande. They also believe that the Senate’s upperclassmen have relatively limited knowledge of the extent of the “unfortunate” plot to overpower them.
That said, few freshman Senators are likely willing to dissent from supporting one of their own, and the Review has reason to believe they will find themselves coerced into voting as a unit to ensure Senator Katipamula becomes Chair ahead of Senator Gawande, despite the latter’s popularity and experience.
Separately, Senator Gawande almost immediately faces a proposal to censure her. This dates back to her decision to take a leave of absence to work on the East Coast in fall of 2015, which sparked heated Senate debate and a potential constitutional crisis. The bill claims that since “the bylaws were ex-post facto altered” to facilitate Senator Gawande’s actions, the new Senate should punish her retroactively.
Senator Gawande told the Review that this motion to censure her was a “confusing move, given the Senate already entertained a motion to censure to me in the fall, and given that students demonstrated they don’t care about the leave when they re-elected me this year.”