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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Are you BEST, SMART, NOW or independent?

Six ASUCD senators are elected each fall, and six more, the president and vice president every winter. Candidates can choose to run on slates, comparable to United States political parties, and if elected, serve a year-long term.

The Fall 2013 ASUCD Senate election season saw two independent candidates elected, along with three from the NOW slate and one from SMART.

The established slates on the UC Davis campus, NOW, BEST and SMART, each have specific goals, and their senators often vote accordingly.

Current ASUCD Senator, Miles Thomas, a fifth-year managerial economics major and co-founder of BEST, said that BEST is the only slate that doesn’t require a senator’s vote on specific issues.

“NOW wants you to vote against divestment from companies profiting off of the Israeli occupation of Palestine,” Thomas said in an email. “SMART wants you to primarily represent underrepresented communities.”

For example, SMART’s newly elected senator Mariah Kala Watson is interested in re-investing in the Food Pantry, according to her personal statement.

Yee Xiong, a fourth-year Asian American studies and design double major and the first Hmong ASUCD senator, chose to run with the SMART slate because she felt that there was a lack of representation for cultural issues at the table.

“In 2012, I was co-coordinating the 5th annual Southeast Asian Graduation and had heard that our student body government was not financially supportive of community specific graduations (CSG). I had to find out why,” Xiong said in an email.

After attending the spring budget hearings that year, Xiong was inspired by former senators who fought to support CSG, and who eventually got their bill passed.

“Representation from marginalized communities is hard to find, and this slate is the start of changing that around,” Xiong said.

The NOW slate has gained popularity in this election and in the last. Currently, six of the twelve senate seats are held by candidates who ran with NOW.

Felicia Ong, a third-year political science and communication double major and a former ASUCD senator whose term ended last quarter, ran with the NOW slate because she appreciated its vision for ASUCD.

“I loved what the slate had envisioned for our campus: making students on campus feel like they are a part of something larger than themselves,” Ong said in an email.

Ong ran for Senate as a second year after experiencing some things that she wanted to change.

“I noticed that there was this culture in ASUCD where student leaders became solely interested in themselves or the little things associated with politics,” Ong said.

Typically, senators vote with their slates, but on occasion have voted with other slates on specific issues.

“Please note that while Senator Nonga is to the right of the ‘table middle,’ she is very partisan, as she votes with SMART every time there’s a ‘SMART issue,’ and with NOW on everything else,” Thomas said.

The three recently elected NOW senators reflected a variety of different goals in their personal statements, which include creating online tutoring programs for late night help, making American Sign Language an accredited course at UC Davis and creating an advisory board to improve communication between students and city officials.

There are also independent candidates, whose decisions in senate are not influenced by the goals of slates.

“Independent senators are perceived as thinking more critically and not voting along party lines,” Thomas said. “They don’t swear allegiance to outside interest groups.”

The platforms of the two recently elected independent senators include promoting “open license” textbooks which have been adapted by professors for specific classes and are available to students at a reduced cost, as well as increasing involvement in international programs by all students.

While independent senators may be appealing because of their rapport for non-partisan voting, they have a more difficult time being elected because they don’t get as much exposure.

“Major credit to those independent candidates who ran and won — they probably must’ve worked twice as hard just to earn a seat,” Xiong said. “When you run with a slate, you have higher chances of being noticed and supported by others who know the established slate.”

The Fall 2013 Senate elections saw two independent candidates elected, which is relatively uncommon, and Thomas doesn’t predict a repeat of this in the future.

“An independent acting on their own cannot carry an election in single choice voting,” Thomas said. “If there are only two slates running, [like there were this quarter], independents would have a chance.”

However, in this Fall 2013 election, independent candidate Gareth Smythe was elected to senate by a large margin. Thomas attributes this to the fact that while Smythe ran independently, he had a lot of support from current ASUCD members.

“Most of the best and brightest in ASUCD supported him, which is how he came up on top by such an incredible margin,” Thomas said. “He’s an anomaly in a lot of different ways; I wouldn’t expect independents of the future to do as well.”


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