GSC tables Brown’s bill to overturn Elections Commission ruling, draws harsh criticism from Brown

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The Graduate Student Council (GSC) tabled a resolution that would have allowed Senate chair Micheal Brown ’22 to potentially revive their disqualified campaign for the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) executive race.

The Elections Commission ruled out Brown’s Stanford Gladiators slate after Brown’s vice-presidential candidate dropped out of the race on Tuesday. Still, Brown had two potential avenues to continue his campaign. Brown could appeal the Elections Commission’s ruling to the Constitutional Council by arguing that it is unconstitutional. Or, if both ASSU legislative bodies voted with a two-thirds majority to overturn the Elections Commission’s decision, Brown would be able to run on the Gladiators slate alone. 

By tabling the bill by a 5-2-2 vote, the GSC sent a message that it does not currently plan to consider the latter possibility, though the bill still may be reintroduced in future meetings by a sponsor. However, council co-chair and fifth-year theater and performance studies Ph.D. student Kari Barclay said that, even if the Undergraduate Senate passes the bill and it is reintroduced, he is “confident that it will not pass” in the Council due to near-unified opposition to the bill.

In a statement following Wednesday’s vote, Brown wrote, “I only hear empty words. I do not feel seen. I wholeheartedly condemn the reticence and inaction of the GSC.”

Brown reiterated their earlier statement that they would step down immediately from the ASSU if the GSC does not vote for the bill. They added that they are boycotting the ASSU and will not be working as a senator this week. While they have not officially stepped down from their role as a senator, they said they have done enough work that they “would be satisfied moving on to something that’s actually serving [them].”

In an interview, Brown said that they think the bill should have been voted on as opposed to being tabled because it was deemed valid by the Elections Commission and abides by the ASSU’s bylaws. According to Brown, the members of GSC “chose not to do anything because they didn’t want to.”

According to Barclay, the decision to table the bill was a straightforward one, based on a question of fairness. He said tabling the bill instead of voting on it sends a message that what was proposed in the bill should not even be considered.

“It’s not about the candidates or either of the slates. It’s about really thinking about the fairness of the procedure,” Barclay said. “And I don’t think it makes sense to make an exception to procedure that is essentially fundamentally democratic and is meant to ensure the integrity of the ASSU.” 

“It’s us voting on, ‘Do we want to violate our own constitution,’” Barclay later added.

Councilor K.C. Shah J.D. ’22 was one of two councilors who voted against tabling the bill, but he said had the issue been put to a vote, he would have voted against it.

“I don’t even think this is a bill, it’s a constitutional amendment,” Shah said. “I don’t even think we should be voting on it, period. But if we were going to vote on it, I just wanted us to do it now so the Undergraduate Senate wouldn’t even have the opportunity to hear it. I just think it’s a waste.”

According to Brown, the GSC only discussed the bill at Wednesday’s meeting because Sean Howard ’20 M.S. ’21, the only Black councilor, advocated on Brown’s behalf and agreed to sponsor the bill. They added that the lack of non-Black sponsors is “unacceptable” and that “Black people should not be the ones who stand up for Black people — it should be everyone who is protected.” 

GSC co-chair Will Paisley ’20 M.A. ’21 said that only Howard sponsored the bill because he is a friend of Brown’s and because no one else was asked to sponsor this bill. He added that the Council received the bill shortly before the meeting today and there “wasn’t enough time for collaboration in any meaningful way.”

Though Howard was unable to attend, a statement he wrote in support of Brown was read at the meeting.

“I’ve known Michael for years and believe he would be a great president for ASSU. I’ve mentored him since he was a freshman and he has more passion for Stanford’s progress than most people I know and his work ethic is unparalleled,” Howard wrote. “Events that occurred were very dramatic and unprecedented.”

Brown also wrote that the decision to table the resolution is a “disrespect for Black labor and reflects an absence of critical self-reflection.” They added that the GSC’s past legislation on Black issues — legislation that they asked Brown to support — were “empty” actions. 

Councilor Sanna Ali, a fourth-year communication Ph.D student, called it problematic to claim that this situation is telling of the GSC’s support for the Black community. She added that “the other candidate for president is also Black and is abiding by all the rules, and they don’t have this issue where they need a constitutional amendment to continue to run.”

Shah said that the GSC is committed to serving communities of color on campus: “If anyone has ideas on how we can be better at that, we encourage them to come to our meetings on Wednesday and tell us about those ideas,” he said.

Even if the bill were to pass the Undergraduate Senate and the GSC, it is unclear whether Brown would be able to be reinstated in the election. According to Cameron Ehsan ’24, an assistant elections commissioner and Daily staffer, “Once a slate withdraws, they must re-submit a declaration of intent to be reinstated into the race, but the deadline to file has already passed.” Any Stanford student would be able to appeal the legislature’s decision and send the decision to the Constitutional Council.

Despite Wednesday’s vote, Brown said that they will continue to try and get the bill passed. They added that the election process has been mentally tiring.

“I’m definitely hurt and tired because every step has been a micro-barrier, and my goal has always been to serve the Stanford community,” Brown said. “The drama is a distraction, and I try to make that clear — in the bill, and also my word.”

Brown said that they want the GSC to formally vote on the bill, and that they will accept the outcome. They added that they are “hopeful that the GSC makes the right decision.”

“Look at the situation, read the resolution and vote on the resolution, yes or no, that’s the question,” Brown said. “There’s no gimmicks, there’s no gotchas, there’s no excuses. If you want to vote no, then say that.”

This article has been updated to include that Brown will be boycotting the ASSU this week. It has also been corrected to accurately reflect the attribution for Paisley’s quote. The Daily regrets this error.

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Malaysia Atwater '23 is a desk editor in the News section from Aurora, Colorado. She enjoys dancing and re-watching Grey's Anatomy in her free time. Contact her at matwater 'at' stanforddaily.com.
Tammer Bagdasarian '24 is a Staff Writer for The Daily planning to major in Communication. In his free time he likes to go for long walks and imagine what freshman year on campus would have been like. Contact the news sections at news 'at' stanforddaily.com.