Incoming senators hope to reverse student apathy

April 16, 2012, 2:07 a.m.

The undergraduate student body elected 13 freshmen and two sophomores to the ASSU Undergraduate Senate, election commissioner Adam Adler ’12 announced Saturday at a results party held at the CoHo Saturday.

None of the 15 senators have previously held ASSU office besides serving on Frosh Council, making it the first year in at least a decade in which neither the Senate nor the Executive will have any members with previous experience in an elected ASSU position, according to the Elections Commissions archives.

With only 18 students in the Senate race, only three candidates were not elected, including one who was not actively campaigning.

“I’m really excited to try and change the image of the ASSU because I know a lot of people view it in a negative light,” Anna Brezhneva ’15 said of her new position.

Brezhneva could not name any ASSU initiative that was implemented this year, which she said was evidence of the lack of communication between the current Senate and the student body.

When asked what their first initiative would be upon taking office, several senators, including Brezhneva, Jack Weller ’15 and Garima Sharma ’15, said that their priority would be lowering the standard of proof for sexual assault proceedings as worded in the ASSU Constitution. As The Daily previously reported, the current burden outlined in the ASSU Constitution requiring evidence beyond a reasonable doubt violates the preponderance of evidence standard dictated by federal law. Judicial Affairs, however, has been using a lower standard of proof in accordance with federal guidelines for a year. According to current senators, this could result in the accused suing the University for breach of the student’s contract with the ASSU because the ASSU Constitution gives the accused more rights than the process currently used by Judicial Affairs.

Such a change would require a constitutional amendment approved by a student vote representing at least 15 percent of the student body. At their meeting last week, current senators voted against moving forward with such a referendum for fear that it would fail.

Several of the newly elected senators have identified elevating ASSU transparency and increasing ASSU accessibility as key points to address for the new Senate.

“I think one thing that I was slightly disappointed with in this year’s Senate was the issue of transparency,” said Viraj Bindra ’15. “[This] very cliché issue that every senator promises – and that every senator does not follow through on – was really prevalent last year.”

All 12 Senate candidates endorsed by the Students of Color Coalition (SOCC) were elected this year, compared to 12 of 15 endorsed candidates last year.

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).

“I do think that a SOCC endorsement is a major advantage in this race,” Bindra said of the challenges he faced while running for Senate without a SOCC endorsement. “It almost guarantee[s] a number of votes… Going into the campaigning process, I knew that I needed to work a lot harder.”

Bindra said that he adopted a more personal campaign to contrast with what he characterized as the more indirect strategies of SOCC candidates. While Bindra said he went to most of the freshman dorms and spoke with students personally, he ranked 14th in number of votes, barely making the cutoff.

“SOCC helped me stay on top of it,” said Ismael Menjivar ’15 of the umbrella group. “They are really strong at helping with campaigning. They got me out there.”

“A lot of people look at the endorsement groups when casting their vote because even if they haven’t met you individually, they know that you represent those groups,” said Garima Sharma ’15, who was endorsed by SOCC, the Women’s Coalition, the Queer Coalition and four other student organizations. Sharma received more votes than any other candidate and 50 more votes than the next closest.

“I was surprised at how big of a role endorsements seems to play,” said Albert Tomasso ’14, one of the three unsuccessful Senate candidates, to The Daily directly after election results were announced at the CoHo. Tomasso ran on a platform of bringing “joy” to the Senate and did not receive endorsements.

“Looking at the last year, joy would have been a useful ingredient in the Senate but it’s not the only thing that could bring good change to Stanford,” Tomasso said.

 

Correction: The original version of this article listed Adam Adler as a member of the class of 2013. He is a member of the class of 2012.

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