In recent years, perhaps no campus group has been more influential in determining the outcome of ASSU elections than the Students of Color Coalition (SOCC), which both endorses candidates and offers campaign assistance.
The last three executive slates supported by SOCC – Cruz-Macgregor-Dennis in 2011, Cardona-Wharton in 2010 and Avula-Jones in 2007 – have been elected to office. SOCC did not endorse executive slates in 2008 or 2009.
Last year, 12 of 15 SOCC-endorsed candidates were elected to the 13th Undergraduate Senate.
Candidates for the ASSU Senate and the Executive, as well as current senators, sat down with The Daily to discuss the significance of the SOCC endorsement for ASSU elections as well as the ASSU’s legislative agenda in the upcoming 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).
Candidates cited SOCC’s extensive student network, as well as campaign experience garnered by the coalition in previous elections, as valuable assets in election season.
“It gives you a base of people to work with in terms of manpower [and] flyering,” said candidate William Wagstaff ’12. Robbie Zimbroff ’12 and Wagstaff received this year’s SOCC endorsement for the ASSU Executive.
“There’s a huge difference between supporters and voters,” said Senator Dan DeLong ’13. “Some candidates are good at obtaining supporters [but] SOCC is excellent at ensuring that their community votes.”
DeLong was not endorsed by SOCC last year. He said he did not begin his campaign for Senate in earnest until after the group’s deadline for candidates seeking endorsements. DeLong sought SOCC’s endorsement this year as a candidate for the ASSU Executive along with Brianna Pang <\#213>13. The pair dropped out of the race due to “several factors,” DeLong said, including other interests and time commitments.
“We did keep endorsements in mind,” he added.
DeLong linked SOCC’s clout in endorsing ASSU candidates to University-imposed budget cuts of 2008, which threatened funding for campus community centers favored by SOCC coalition members.
“I think that [SOCC’s influence] happens when drastic events unfold, and the natural reaction is to ensure that you have candidates that won’t let that happen again,” DeLong said. “For minority groups on campus, the stakes are higher.”
Having endorsed 12 of the 18 active candidates this year, SOCC is guaranteed to again have supported a majority of incoming senators. The coalition has endorsed Ashley Harris ’15, Branden Crouch ’14, Brandon Hightower ’15, Christos Haveles ’15, Daniela Olivos ’15, Garima Sharma ’15, Ish Menjivar ’15, Jack Weller ’15, Janhavi Vartak ’15, Kimberly Bacon ’15, Lauren Miller ’15 and Nancy Pham ’14.
SOCC-endorsed candidates disputed the notion that they might adjust their platform in order to attain the endorsement, or that they might pursue different agendas if elected.
“We’ve been giving the same pitch to every endorsing group, that whatever the ASSU is doing should be grounded in common sense,” Zimbroff said. “That framework of thinking is something that a lot of people can get on board with.”
“SOCC doesn’t change who you are,” Miller added. “They may give you extra advice or a better platform, but it’s mainly about individuals who are already very motivated.”
While agreeing that SOCC-endorsed senators embraced a range of perspectives and priorities in this year’s Senate, Senator Ben Laufer ’12 expressed concern that relationships developed through SOCC-endorsed candidates’ collective campaigning meant that other senators were denied the opportunity to access leadership roles at the Senate’s first meetings.
Laufer also expressed concern that the perceived significance of a SOCC endorsement for a successful campaign has led to a candidate pool of diminishing quality, in what DeLong deemed a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
“If you don’t get a SOCC endorsement, there’s an unfortunate feeling that your chances of getting elected are much lower,” Laufer said. “The general consensus if that, if you’re endorsed by SOCC, you’ll get 400-500 votes. That preconception may affect the candidate pool, and have adverse consequences in terms of getting the best possible candidates elected.”
“I personally don’t think endorsements are very healthy at Stanford,” Laufer added. “There’s no real correlation between endorsing groups and candidates that make that relationship fundamentally vital.”
SOCC-endorsed candidates expressed their desire for continued interaction with SOCC, and with other student groups, throughout their term in office as part of maintaining accountability to the student body.
“The important thing about ASSU office is that you don’t retreat [from your platform],” Zimbroff said. “These groups do a lot of great work on campus, and those are the people that you’re representing. You have to stay in touch with the student body as a whole, including those groups.”
The candidates also argued in support of group endorsements as a means of bridging the gap between the ASSU and the student body.
“Advocacy [from groups like SOCC] gathering minority interests helps create places like the Fire Truck House and the Black Community Services Center,” Wagstaff said. “Those are institutions to benefit all students.”