SOCC Explains Endorsement Process

April 6, 2011, 2:05 a.m.

During ASSU elections season, many campus groups endorse candidates in order to sway voters. In recent years, none of these endorsing groups have been as successful or active as the Students of Color Coalition (SOCC).

Last year, 10 out of 12 SOCC-endorsed candidates were elected to the 12th Undergraduate Senate. The last two years that SOCC supported an executive slate, Cardona/Wharton in 2010 and Avula/Jones in 2007, that slate was victorious.

Candidates, current and former ASSU Senators and Executives and the SOCC leadership sat down with The Daily to shed light on the process behind the SOCC endorsement.


The Coalition

SOCC is a coalition of six groups: the Asian American Students’ Association (AASA), the Black Student Union (BSU), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), the Muslim Student Awareness Network (MSAN), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Stanford American Indian Organization (SAIO).

“The coalition of SOCC was created to have a unifying political voice for all six of these groups,” said Yvorn Aswad-Thomas ’11, BSU co-president.

Aswad-Thomas said the six groups collaborate informally throughout the year and are almost exclusively formally active as SOCC during the ASSU elections season.

Aswad-Thomas and SOCC Liaison Tiq Chapa ’10 were both SOCC-endorsed candidates elected to the 10th Undergraduate Senate. Chapa explained that the subgroups send a total of 30 leaders to SOCC for the elections decisions.

With 15 endorsed candidates this year, SOCC could potentially sweep the Senate. SOCC has endorsed incumbent Rafael Vazquez ’12, Brianna Pang ’13, Samar Alqatari ‘14, Dan Ashton ’14, Ian Chan ’14, Shawn Dye ’14, Lily Fu ’14, Nate Garcia ’14, Alex Kindel ’14, Karl Kumodzi ’14, JR Lesansee ’14, Anna Nti-Asare ’14, Janani Ramachandran ’14, Byron Shorty ’14 and Tara Trujillo ’14.

SOCC has given its support to Michael Cruz ’12 and Stewart Macgregor-Dennis ’13 for Executive. SOCC is also asking the members of its communities to vote to abstain on Measure A.

“We only pick students that will be effective SOCC Senators,” Aswad-Thomas said. “There is no ideal magic number. Had it been the case this year that we only found five candidates to have what it takes to represent the issues that our communities care about, then we would have only picked five.”

“That number really reflects who we have faith in,” he said.


The SOCC Interview Process

This year, about 30 of 41 Undergraduate Senate candidates applied for SOCC endorsement. Chapa said a majority of candidates apply for SOCC endorsement in a typical year.

Candidates who wish to be considered for endorsement were asked to fill out an application by Feb. 26 at midnight. The application asked for basic information as well as questions about candidates’ past involvement in communities of color. It also sought information on how candidates intended to remain aware of issues affecting communities of color and goals that the candidates would try to accomplish to address these issues.

Candidates were interviewed the week of March 1 by a mix of SOCC leadership at the community centers.

“They want to know what we want to accomplish during the next year and how we can work with community centers,” said Namir Shah ’14, a current candidate for Undergraduate Senate. “And obviously they want to make sure that our interests align with theirs and that we will be effective representatives of them.”

This idea was demonstrated during SOCC interviews when potential endorsees were asked how they would vote on important issues. Miles Seiver ’14, another candidate, said he was asked whether he would vote yes for a Muslim community center.

Some hot button issues on campus, such as Measure A, were not discussed during the interviews.

Aswad-Thomas said all six groups of SOCC have an equal say in choosing candidates to endorse; rather than having a formal voting process SOCC leaders deliberate until they reach a consensus.

Most candidates were notified on the last day of spring break, March 27, if they did or did not receive the endorsement.


Rocking the Vote

Chapa stressed SOCC’s connection to a large community of people as their most useful campaign tool.

“We think talking to people is the most effective way to campaign,” he said.

According to Chapa, “other coalitions are able to buy Facebook ads and banners” whereas SOCC is not. However, he believes that this is not the most effective strategy for candidates.

“A lot of candidates are stressed moneywise so when we say investment we mean time and energy and people,” he said.

SOCC holds events for its endorsed candidates to meet members of their communities and helps candidates by putting up fliers.

Shelley Gao ’11, who chaired the 10th Undergraduate Senate after being SOCC-endorsed and served on the 11th Undergraduate Senate after not receiving the SOCC endorsement for her reelection campaign, said the most important thing SOCC does is getting its community members to vote in vast numbers. Gao currently serves on The Daily’s Board of Directors.

“They do a very targeted method,” Gao said. “They know who they represent and they know that their constituency really believes in SOCC’s endorsements. They send out emails to community lists like Diaspora and say, ‘Well these are our endorsed candidates, they support our values and our agenda and you should just vote down the line for them.’ And it really works.”

Gao pointed out that the combination of SOCC galvanizing its community members to vote and many other students not voting or take the process seriously contributes to SOCC’s success in elections.


Meetings after Elections

Gao said one or two days after the elections results were announced for the 10th Undergraduate Senate, the SOCC leadership ran a meeting with the newly elected SOCC Senators discussing strategies to get them into leadership positions like the Senate chair, Senate deputy chair and Appropriations committee chair.

Will Seaton ’13, a current Senator, noted that SOCC Senators capitalized on their majority to capture many of the leadership positions. Seaton is also a Daily staff writer.

Chapa stressed education to SOCC candidates and Senators as the most important objective, never forcing them to vote one way.

“We’ve never said, ‘There’s this question. You have to vote this way,’” Chapa said.

Gao noted that she thinks it’s very natural for any interest group to put its people in leadership positions.


A Solution?

While Gao believes that SOCC is a “legitimate group,” she sees the need for other interest groups representing various student viewpoints.

“It becomes very unhealthy for our democratic process when you only have one very large group dominating elections and channeling people into the Senate or executive who will obviously be much more favorable to their agenda,” Gao said.

Seaton acknowledged that SOCC “has been extremely effective in bringing out their constituents and in getting their people elected.”

This, however, comes with its own complications.

“For the ASSU and student government in general, it gets to the point where at times it almost feels like the SOCC leadership–two or three or four individuals–are kind of choosing the Senate for the next year,” Seaton said.

“Some time in the next few years I think it would be very beneficial to ASSU and student government for the endorsement process to be analyzed,” he added. “Just in terms of considering the viability of the organization and making sure particular groups on campus don’t dominate the discussion too much.”

ASSU Elections Commissioner Stephen Trusheim ’13 said there are no current policies in place to regulate endorsements.

Billy Gallagher is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily. He has previously worked at The Daily as editor in chief, a managing editor of news, news desk editor, sports desk editor and staff development editor. He is a junior from Villanova, PA majoring in Economics. He is also a writer for TechCrunch.

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