Widgets Magazine

ASSU Undergraduate Senate election sees high number of candidates

Campaign season is already well underway for the ASSU Undergraduate Senate, with less than a week to go until the election. While in most years students can choose from about 20 candidates, this year’s field boasts over 40 Senate hopefuls, many of them freshmen.

Ben Holston ’15, a current Senator and former Senate Chair, thinks that a more competitive race is good for the ASSU.

“The student body’s voice is going to be increased in the election because [there are] more types of platforms for them to choose from,” Holston said. “[Students are] going to be able to pick out the most relevant and important ones to them, and I think that’s going to be a really beneficial thing, just because they have more choice.”

Participating in such a contested race also raises the stakes, said candidate Matthew Cohen ’18, a Daily staffer.

“It definitely adds a lot of pressure,” Cohen said. “You can still run one hell of a great campaign and still end up losing because there’ll be 15 people who run a better campaign.”


Spurred by divestment

One possible reason for the increased size of the candidate pool is the amount of attention the Senate has received this year, in large part due to the vote on divestment from certain corporations operating in the Palestinian Territories.

“I think a lot of people are running because of divestment… They just suddenly see the Senate as this institution that has this whole great deal of power when [divestment is] something that really doesn’t happen all too often,” Cohen said. “Primarily the Senate’s responsibility is funding… and I feel like a lot of people miss that when they’re choosing to run for Senate.”

Current Senate chair Ana Ordoñez ’17 also thinks that divestment may have played a role in why so many students are running for Senate but sees the increase in interest as a constructive development.

“[The vote on divestment] did bring almost 400 students together in a room to talk about this issue, so I will say that it definitely brought a lot of attention to the Senate, and I think at the end of the day… it was positive,” Ordoñez said.

Current Senator Rachel Samuels ’17 agrees that divestment helped raise the Senate’s profile.

“I think the positive aspect was giving… a spotlight on Senate, at least so people knew who their Senators were and could reach out to them,” Samuels explained.

Holston disagrees with that interpretation, however, and cited former votes on elections as proof that the issue by itself did not have a significant impact in encouraging people to run for Senate.

“In the election where I was first elected, it was still only 20-some students that were running… and divestment was an issue two years ago, too,” Holston said.

“I think people saw how the Senate handled it [this year] and wanted to get involved,” Holston added. “But it really isn’t the only explanation.”

Holston believes that the increased number of Senate candidates may be due to the overall quality and behavior of Senators this term.

“I think we have Senators that are much more involved and…much more knowledgeable about all of the issues they’re dealing with,” Holston said. “That’s increased the performance of our Senate, and it really looks like the student body has recognized that.”


Addressing mental health

Despite the large number of Senate candidates, there are still some issues that seem to be shared among many of the candidates’ platforms. One such issue is mental health, with 14 out of the 35 campaign platforms mentioning mental health or CAPS.

“I know I’ve met students and talked to students who have had bad experiences, and I’ve talked to students who’ve had decent experiences, but… the overall majority seems to be negative,” said Pablo Lozano ’18, another Senate candidate, on the subject of CAPS.

While mental health is a major issue in the campaign, Lozano believes many of his fellow candidates do not have feasible solutions to the problems with CAPS and other resources. He explained that not enough students are approaching the issue from the perspective of a “middleman” – what he believes a Senator’s role should be.

“That’s essentially what you are, as a Senator,” Lozano said. “You’re representing the student body, but you’re the middleman between policy that wants to be carried out.”

“I want to be the middleman between the student body and school administrators and the faculty and the deans and the president,” he added.

Samuels agrees that candidates do not always have a clear idea about the responsibilities and limits of the Senate during their campaigns, although she hopes that candidates are better informed this election.

“Hopefully people are doing a little bit more research ahead of time, before they run a campaign, and… if they have all these ideas about what they want to change, make sure that those are doable,” Samuels said. “We want people to be able to get involved in a way that they feel like they can be effective and useful and valuable, so I hope that happens.”


Contact Sarah Wishingrad at swishing ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Sarah Wishingrad

Sarah Wishingrad '18 is a former Desk Editor for the University/Local beat. She is a History major from Los Angeles, California who loves politics, the waffles at Coupa, and all things Jane Austen. Ask her about her dog, Hamilton, at swishing 'at' stanford.edu.
  • SarahWishingrad#1Fan

    Awesome article, Sarah!!