Barack Obama may already be president, but in less than three weeks, UC Davis students have another important vote to cast.
ASUCD elections will take place beginning at 8 a.m. on Feb. 18 and 19 online and at the Memorial Union. Students will vote to replace half of the senate’s twelve members whose terms expire winter quarter, as well as for the ASUCD president and vice president. In addition, students will approve or defeat three ballot measures: The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) and two constitutional amendment measures.
Sixteen senate candidates and two candidates each for ASUCD president and vice president have submitted petitions by last week’s deadline with the required 125 valid signatures, bringing the total number of senate candidates to twenty for the winter quarter election cycle.
In addition to petitions, candidates also submit candidate statements and information on their platform issues. The ASUCD Elections Committee provides each with 500 copies of platform fliers, and arranges for 30-second commercials on AGTV as well as KDVS Radio to air the week of elections.
Each candidate will be held to a $250 spending limit, must disclose all donations and provide the Elections Committee with receipts for all expenditures.
Students will select candidates through a choice-voting system in which voters rank candidates in order of preference. If a student’s first choice candidate wins with votes to spare or fails to meet a minimum vote threshold, that student’s vote goes toward their next choice candidate.
A competitive season
The L.E.A.D. slate-the oldest remaining student slate-is fielding six senate candidates and an executive ticket. Two newly formed slates, ACT and HEAD, will field three and two candidates, respectively, while an additional five senate candidates will run as independents. The current Senate is composed of ten L.E.A.D. and two independent senators.
Independent presidential and vice presidential candidates Joseph Chatham and Chris Dietrich will compete against L.E.A.D candidates Rebecca Schwartz and Lula Ahmed-Falol. All executive ticket candidates are current or former senators.
Dietrich, a former member of the now-defunct GO slate, said he is running as an independent because of the slate system’s failure to represent all students.
“Over my time in ASUCD, I sort of felt that the slate system has gone by the wayside…competition had gotten to an unhealthy point that didn’t bring anything positive,” Dietrich said. “I felt enough viewpoints weren’t being brought in. With L.E.A.D. being so powerful, I sort of felt that enough viewpoints weren’t being brought in.“
Dietrich’s viewpoint was echoed by other independent candidates. But Lula Ahmed-Falol, L.E.A.D.‘s vice presidential candidate, believes that the slate system still brings important experience and support.
“As far as student government goes, I think it’s important to have more than one slate and independents. [But] the reason I choose L.E.A.D. is that it provides a solid foundation; an institutional memory, because people who have been around, who have made mistakes, are there so that we don’t make them again…It’s much more efficient to get things done when I’m part of an organization that shares the same goals as me,“ Ahmed-Falol said.
Regardless of party, observers are excited at the prospects of a twenty-candidate competition.
“What’s cool this time around is that we have three slates, and a host of independent candidates who are going to be competitive,” said Elections Committee chair Adam Thongsavat. “This election coming up is really important…TGIF is going to be hugely controversial since it’s a four dollar student fee increase (it’s around forty dollars right now) and they’re going to argue that it’s a really big amount to charge students.“
ASUCD Senators are responsible for approving the budget that funds student-run organizations, most noticeably Unitrans and the ASUCD Coffee House, and work to initiate new projects and legislation. Overall, they function as the liaison between students and the administration.
“As a senator, you have more of an ability to contact important people and make sure that student interests, not business or other interests, are first to the administration,” said Arielle “Elle” Segal, a L.E.A.D. senate candidate.
The Green Initiative Fund, or TGIF, proposes a four dollar increase on student fees in order to “involve and educate students by empowering them to develop, propose, and enact sustainable projects,” according to the initiative‘s mission statement.
“Student government can do more [about the environment]; the university can follow the students‘ lead in doing that,” said ACT senatorial candidate Will Klein.
The measure is supported enthusiastically by the independent executive ticket, while others are more reluctant to lend their support.
“I don’t support it. The difficult thing with not supporting TGIF is, how do you say no without looking like someone who is anti-environment? I’m against it because there is a student fee increase, which is very fiscally irresponsible. Also it was very rushed,” said Ahmed-Falol.
But supporters say that TGIF is an opportunity for student leadership.
“It lets students apply for grants to work on sustainable projects. They get experience in project management … [and] take an active role in improving our campus,“ Dietrich said.
The ballot measure requires at least 20 percent of students to vote, with 60 percent plus one voting yes.
Students will also be voting on the external representation amendment, which will, according to its language, “protect ASUCD from external organizations seeking to collect membership dues through fee referendums.” In addition, a student government advisor amendment seeks to remove the position of advisor from the constitution and bylaws.
Debates and Forums
The California Aggie and the Elections Committee will again joint-sponsor a senate candidates‘ debate, which will take place at the Coho, beginning at noon on Feb. 11. A dorm forum will follow at 7 p.m. in the Thompson lounge in Segundo North.
The presidential/vice presidential ticket debates, as well as debates over proposed ballot measures, will take place on Feb. 12 at the Coho, while the accompanying dorm forum will be held on Feb. 17 at Tercero main lounge at 7 p.m.
The debates will follow a new format introduced by Thongsavat and the Elections Committee last election cycle.
“In the past, our debates have been way too general. [This time] if they give us the run-around, we have follow-up questions to get substantive answers,” Thongsavat said.
The debates will begin with a question and answer period in which candidates will be asked general questions as well as ones related to their specific platform issues. This will be followed by a “show of hands” portion in which candidates will agree or disagree with questions fielded by the moderator, and will finish with candidates taking questions from the audience.
Students can view candidate statements, platform fliers, TGIF and the proposed constitutional amendments at the Student Government Accountability Office (SGAO) located on the third floor of Memorial Union. Students can vote online at elections.ucdavis.edu.
ANDRE LEE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.