SOCC Loses Control of Senate

In an unexpected reversal of fortune, SOCC-endorsed candidates were far less successful than they were last year. This past year, SOCC set the agenda for the ASSU Senate with an overwhelming 10-5 majority. After the instatement of the newly elected Senate, SOCC-endorsed candidates won six of the fifteen seats. Those who did win received fewer votes than SOCC-endorsed candidates last year.

Meanwhile, candidates endorsed by The Stanford Review performed remarkably well in the April 11-12 election. Students elected six of The Review’s endorsed candidates, including current Review Editor-in-Chief Luukas Ilves and Managing Editor Stuart Baimel. Most of the winning candidates that they Review endorsed were also endorsed by a loose coalition of unaffiliated groups that included the Stanford Collere Republicans, the Queer-Straight Alliance, the Stanford Band, the Jewish Student Association, and the Inter-Fraternity and Inter-Sorority Councils. Many of these groups were especially keen on OSA reform, an issue that the Review also trumpeted. None were endorsed by SOCC. The Review’s candidates were endorsed for a variety of reasons—and are far from constituting an organized political force. Several other elected Senators are politically moderate and hold views similar to those of the Review-endorsed Senators.

Although SOCC lost their majority in the ASSU Senate, they did endorse the winning executive slate. SOCC Executive candidates Hershey Avula and Mondaire Jones beat-out their closest rivals, Brett Hammond and Lakshmi Karra, by a mere 38 votes. Although Hammond and Karra won the undergraduate vote by several percentage points, Hershey and Jones’s platform resonated well with graduate students—giving them just enough votes to win. The newly elected executives campaigned heavily, and arguably illegally, to graduate students, and won graduate student support by a wide margin.

Avula and Jones’s victory was contested during the week following the election. Elections Commissioner Bernard Fraga filed a motion with the current ASSU Senate asking for a runoff election. Fraga developed the measure after he discovered a provision in the ASSU Constitution that requires a candidate for Executive to receive a majority of all votes cast in the election in order to win—and Hershey and Jones only won a plurality of the votes. The ASSU Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Council struck down the measure, however, arguing that abstentions (students who voted in the election but did not vote for an Executive Slate) should not be included in determining if a particular set of candidates receives a majority vote.

Before Fraga’s call for a constitutionally mandated runoff, many students complained that Bernard Fraga’s newly implemented incentive for following campaigning restrictions, a “fair campaign label” on the ballot, was applied arbitrarily by the elections commission. Before the election had ended, Fraga decided to remove the “Fair Campaign” label from Brett and Karra’s ballot entry, as well as from several other Executive slates and one Senate candidate. An e-mail Brett Hammon mistakenly sent-out to a dorm chat list after the midnight end to campaigning prompted the decision. Avula and Jones’s campaign, however, also failed to abide by all elections guidelines—yet their slate went unpunished. Fraga did not outline the policies for when the “fair campaign label” would or would not be removed, and as a result, the vague policies upset campaigns. Bernard Fraga has received some criticism for his status as an officer of MEChA, one of the constituent groups of SOCC, as a potential cause for bias.

The election of Hershey Avula and Mondaire Jones to the ASSU Executive continues a long trend of Stanford students choosing minorities for their leaders. Only two non-racial-minority candidates for ASSU Executive have been elected in the last eight ASSU elections. The last non-minority student body president served during the 2000-2001 academic year. Although not all of the ASSU Exec candidates have been affiliated with SOCC, the dominance of minority candidates is reflective of the continuing influence of groups that advocate for race and diversity as a defining part of student politics.

As in last year’s elections, the undergraduate student body hesitated to cut funding to special fees groups. Voting more generously than last year, Undergrads approved the budget for every single special fees group. Nevertheless the Stanford News Readership Program (SNRP), which requested joint funding from graduate and undergraduate students, failed to receive funding. SNRP stocks Stanford’s dining halls with the San Jose Mercury News and The New York Times every weekday. Although 54% of voters approved SNRP’s fee request, fewer than a constitutionally required 15% of the graduate student body voted either up or down on SNRP’s fee. Graduate students also decided to axe The Comedy Club, an organization that brings comedians to campus.

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