The number of candidates for the ASSU Undergraduate Senate has hit its lowest in at least a decade this election cycle, with only 24 students set to appear on the spring ballot for 15 Senate seats. Of the candidates, 21 are freshmen.
According to data from the Elections Commission archives, the number of Senate candidates has, in recent history, generally hovered near 40 students each election cycle and has not dipped below 30 in seven years. Last year, 39 undergraduates declared, petitioned and campaigned, and each received more than 150 votes in the election.
Although he could only speculate, Senator Alon Elhanan ‘14 said he thinks this year’s Senate more honestly represented senator responsibilities to potential candidates, deterring the less-committed who may have otherwise considered running.
“I think we have more accurately portrayed what being on the Senate is actually like, so I think there is less fluff,” he said. “We are legitimately trying to only get the people who actually want to do the job, more than just hyping [Senate].”
“Everyone wants to run for something, but it’s when you find out what you’re running for that I think people don’t want to do it,” he added. “We’ve been really good about actually giving the details of what people are running for.”
Outgoing Senator and Academic Affairs Chair Janani Ramachandran ‘14, however, attributed the smaller number of candidates to a less accurate public perception of Senate duties.
“More so recently than in previous years, campus publications have been posting negative criticisms against the ASSU Senate rather than highlighting some of the actual issues they are working on,” Ramachandran wrote in an email to The Daily, “which might contribute to them getting a negative impression of what the ASSU Senate does and deter them from wanting to be a part of it.”
According to Senator Dan Ashton ‘14, Frosh Council members were not informed of election opportunities this year until a month later than traditionally, which he said “certainly contributed” to the decrease in candidates.
ASSU President Michael Cruz ‘12 speculated that this year’s lack of widespread controversy surrounding ASSU legislation and initiatives — as compared to, for example, the ROTC debate of last year — may have resulted in increased student apathy.
Additionally, no current members of the Senate have plans to continue in the ASSU, as none are running for election to ASSU office next year, though the body includes only two graduating seniors. Current Senators Brianna Pang ‘13 and Dan DeLong ‘13 had originally declared intent to run as a slate for the ASSU Executive but recently dropped out of the race, citing “academic coursework, friendships and the other priorities” in an email to The Daily.
Every year since 2006, at least one outgoing senator has sought either the ASSU presidency or reelection to the Senate for the following year. During this same time period, each Senate — with the exception of the ninth — has had between one and three incumbents. Current Chair of the 13th Undergraduate Senate, Rafael Vazquez ‘12 has served for two years. Cruz served on both the 11th and 12th Undergraduate Senates.
When asked why they decided not to run for re-election, almost all of the current sophomore senators said they will be studying abroad next year, rendering them ineligible to serve on the Senate. Echoing the sentiments of Pang and DeLong, several senators also noted that the ASSU position was a significant commitment and prevented them from engaging fully in other pursuits.
“It’s a very hard job. It takes up a lot of your time, and you want to do other things,” Elhanan said. “We only have four years [at Stanford].”
Senator Samar Alqatari ‘14 said that she regretted that she could not run again because she had accumulated knowledge over her one-year term that would have been beneficial as a representative.
“I was thinking about it a lot, because after my term I realized exactly what the point of the Senate is and where its most influence is … and I realized that I didn’t know that running for Senate last year,” Alqatari said.
Regardless, several senators said that they hope to continue advocating for change on campus.
“I’ve committed myself to making change on campus via other avenues, such as the NAACP,” Shawn Dye ‘14 wrote of his decision in an email to The Daily. “My passion for social justice has been limited by my position within the ASSU, and I hope to alleviate myself from the various barriers that exist within the institution.”