ASUCR considers banning off-campus campaigning

Courtesy of Bryan Tuttle

During last week’s ASUCR senate meeting and internal elections, senators discussed an unprecedented ban on off-campus campaigning and voted on the next ASUCR executive cabinet and officers. “There’s going to be no sense of…physical campaigning, any kind of explicit forms of it, off-campus [and] outside of the campus loop,” stated Elections Chair Jonathan Mansoori.

On Thursday, internal elections concluded with Liam Dow, Armando Saldana, Kevin Jo and Lazaro Cardenas assuming the positions of ASUCR president, executive VP, VP of internal affairs and VP of external affairs, respectively. Also revealed during the senate meeting was Senator Andrew Whall’s decision to refrain from charging the $500 fee to the delegates, including Esther Hwang and Albert Yum, who digressed from their duties at a university-funded trip to Washington D.C.

The off-campus campaigning ban, which Mansoori indicated would be presented during the next ASUCR senate meeting, was prompted after senatorial candidates were found engaging in laptop campaigning in front of the University Village Theater—an off-campus location that is out of ASUCR’s jurisdiction. Mansoori’s proposal entails two changes to the current elections code; the first reform addresses a clause that indemnified ASUCR from candidates’ online activities unless they involved negative campaigning, bribery, unfair or criminal actions.

The line, “The use of Associated Student list serves, or any other campus list serves, is considered to be unfair,” would be added to the clause. Meanwhile, an entirely new section would be added to read, “No explicit forms of physical campaigning are allowed outside of the campus loop; this includes laptopping, flyering or soliciting.”

Mansoori and other elections committee members noted that these new measures, if passed, would uphold the integrity of future campus elections. “It’s hard to find a loophole if you just say, ‘no off-campus campaigning at all,’” stated Senator Derek Roberts, who explained that cases of voter harassment and potentially intrusive soliciting would be prevented if campaigning was limited to campus boundaries—where the elections committee could have greater oversight on candidates’ activities.

Other changes evident during last week’s proceedings were the formal titles of executive cabinet and officer positions. The current titles of senate chair, VP of finance and vice chair have been replaced with the titles of executive vice president, controller and president pro tempore, respectively.

The result of internal officer elections is as follows: Shadi Matar (academic affairs director), Harmony Chai (elections chair), Courtney Thomas (outreach director), Marianne Melleka (personnel director) and Sai Patadia (president pro tempore). Liam Dow, who will be the next ASUCR president, is in charge of appointing a new controller.

The public comment period of the ASUCR senate meeting largely centered on students’ thoughts and concerns regarding the handling of the recent ASUCR elections; among the issues discussed were the merits of the new party system, the timing of elections and the effectiveness of publicity events. UC Riverside alumna Latonya Young was the first public forum speaker and urged the elections committee begin planning the elections earlier.

More specifically, she wanted to ensure that publicity events are held at hours when student turnout would be highest (April 17’s candidate debates, which were held in the afternoon, witnessed a poor turnout). Young’s suggestion was welcomed by Mansoori, who noted that the elections committee would attempt to hold future events at night and begin elections planning earlier in the year. Mansoori and other senators also shared Latonya’s belief that ASUCR should revamp its awareness efforts directed at incoming students, particularly during Welcome Week.

The theme of student turnout was frequently revisited, especially when students discussed the prospect of implementing polling places while completely banning the use of online voting. “[A public polling place] is something that we actually did consider at the very beginning…but the problem is that with this campus it is very hard to get voter turnout,” stated Mansoori.

This response, however, was met with skepticism from students who argued that the emphasis on voter turnout was trumping concerns about the integrity of elections. “You’re trading off a potentially corrupt election with a more justified election with less people…this trade-off doesn’t need to be there,” stated a student during the public forum.

In addition to justifying the continued reliance on online voting, the focus on voter turnout was also used to defend the newly implemented party system. “The apathy on campus is a little greater than ASUCR’s responsibility; we’re trying to fight [apathy] with the party system,” stated Mansoori, who explained that parties would be able to conduct their own outreach efforts on a scale much larger than what ASUCR could accomplish on their own. Mansoori was backed by newly elected senator Kevin Jo, who pointed out that the party systems at other universities are able to mobilize students through lengthy campaigns and hosting their own events.

A final complaint brought forward from the public forum pertained not to elections, but rather to the upcoming graduation ceremonies. According to Latonya Young, a graduating student had been removed from their role as tassel turner in order to allow for a senator to take the position. The priority placed on senators to assume the role of tassel turner was contested by audience members.

“What entitles a senator to be a better student leader than anyone else on campus?” inquired UCR student Lacey Bruins. President Stephen Lee and other officials, however, noted that the decision stems from a standing order and that the former designated tassel turner’s dilemma was unfortunate. “There’s nothing we can do about it…If you want to change it, make a referendum for it next year,” concluded Senator Roberts.

Senator and officer reports took place after the public forum session. President Stephen Lee urged students to continue to donate to the senior gift, titled Operation Education. The gift will help fund scholarships for military veterans who have served since Sept. 11, 2001.

Vice President of External Affairs Andrew Whall then elaborated on the progress that the campus was making in mobilizing for the May 17 Day of Action in Sacramento. Whall stated that efforts remain uncertain since numerous campuses are skeptical of the UC regents’ involvement in the rallies; during the UC regent meetings at UC Riverside this past January, Chairwoman Sherry Lansing noted that the regents would be joining student protesters at the Capitol.

The next ASUCR senate meeting will take place on May 16 at 5p.m. The Senate Chambers are located in HUB room 221.

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