By Anat Peled
Four student groups that initially failed to secure enough votes for special fees in last week’s ASSU elections will in fact get their requested funding due to a reinterpretation of policies.
Elections Commissioner Paul Serrato ’19 explained the shift at Wednesday’s Graduate Student Council (GSC) meeting. The preliminary election results, announced on April 14, showed that four organizations — KZSU, Stanford Speakers Bureau, Viennese Ball and the Stanford Martial Arts Program — did not get enough graduate student votes for special fees. But during the meeting, when GSC members opened the internal document with the election results, they saw that the outcomes had changed. All groups had passed the threshold for student fees.
“It definitely said ‘no’ earlier today,” said Council Chair and newly elected ASSU Vice President Rosie Nelson upon seeing the results. It seemed that the bill had changed between 3:30 p.m., the time it was sent to GSC members, and 6 p.m.
Elections Commissioner Serrato, who arrived 10 minutes later to seek the certification of the results by the GSC, sorted out the confusion.
He explained that initially results had been calculated based on an interpretation that required a “yes” vote from 15 percent of the graduate population in order to pass. However, after further consideration, the election commission decided that a majority of the students— with at least a 15 percent turnout — would be required to attain special fee status. According to Serrato, the new interpretation was more in line with previous years.
Once the change was explained, members had to decide whether to vote on certifying the results immediately. Traditionally, the GSC puts all bills on previous notice, meaning that the bills are presented one week and then voted on the following week. This ensures enough time for graduate students to review proposed bills, which are sent out on the GSC mailing list. The two-week system allows students can comment with their opinions on bills and make their voice heard before the vote.
The decision to immediately vote on certification of the results was controversial and was heatedly debated by council members. In the end, three students voted yes and four abstained. Isamar Rosa, a fifth-year Ph.D. student, was the only council member to vote “no.”
“To me personally I was like, there’s no rush, let’s leave it out there,” Rosa said. “I know that people [think] nobody is going to comment, and yes, probably no one is going to comment, but… what if there was one person?”
Overall student voter turnout continues to rise. Not only did undergraduate voter turnout rise during the 2018 election, but graduate student voter turnout hit a new peak.
“We have had the most successful election in ASSU history,” Serrato said. Graduate student voting rose from 34 percent in 2016 and 40 percent in 2017 to 42 percent this year.
The council was also updated by Kari Barclay, a second-year Ph.D. candidate in theater and performance studies, that the Faculty Senate just passed two resolutions relating to graduate advising based on the findings of the GSC’s recent survey on graduate student life. Barclay asked members for feedback on the survey to ensure that the report’s priorities match student needs and concerns.
Contact Anat Peled at anatpel ‘at’ stanford.edu.