Elections vs. appointments

    Slate politics have done little to put students first at UCSD when it comes to assembling an A.S. Council that protects students’ interests and rights in campus affairs. Instead of drawing together many supporters of a cohesive platform, slates are too often comprised of a few qualified individuals who have coalesced under the same banner for their own political reasons, only to stuff the remainder of the slate with inexperienced and unqualified individuals who serve as little more than seat fillers to round out the slate’s ticket.

    For this reason, many members of the A.S. Council supported recent bills proposing that the selection of commissioners be determined by the A.S. president’s appointment instead of the warped version of the democratic process this campus calls ASUCSD elections. Legislation to appoint the commissioner of student advocacy passed overwhelmingly on Jan. 21 (only one councilmember voted against). And while a vote to allow the appointment of the commissioner of athletics failed to meet its two-thirds requirement at the Feb. 6 council meeting, it still garnered enough backing to win a majority.

    The A.S. Council aptly recognized the need to build a council around qualified appointed commissioners, much like the executive cabinet of the U.S. government, who are charged with performing jobs for all students more than representing a specific constituency. The A.S. senators are responsible for representing a certain undergraduate cross section by being assigned to a specific college and class, and vote according to the constituency they represent. Commissioners do not vote on legislation but are allowed to submit bills before the council — mainly pertaining to the services their respective offices provide to all undergraduates.

    ASUCSD voters would be denied the privilege to directly elect a commissioner if they became appointed, but the electorate would see a welcome shift in how presidential campaigns are run. Candidates for A.S. president would have to include in their platform that they have set plans for each specific office. By forcing a presidential candidate to take a more developed stance than the usual emptiness on the direction each of his or her cabinet offices would take, the A.S. elections will see more contention about issues, hampering the grip slate politics have recently had on the substance of A.S. elections. In addition, the frightfully long list of positions appearing on the ballot will be reduced, and students who may care about one or two issues will be more likely to vote for a competent presidential candidate if they are aware of his or her extended influence on their issues.

    Putting all speculation aside about how A.S. elections would be affected by commissioner appointments, it is even more crucial to point out that commissioners would be chosen on merit and not foolish slate politics. The councilmembers had the foresight to see that selecting a qualified student advocate is an utmost priority to protecting student rights, showing strength by approving the same proposal that failed among undergraduate voters in last year’s A.S. elections.

    A.S. Commissioner of Athletics Jordan Cross reiterated the need for reform when supporting the changes to how his post is selected. “I am concerned that if this position becomes one of a popularity contest, students will ultimately lose,” Cross said. “I think it would be a disgrace to our students, athletes and school to tie this position in with slate politics.”

    The shenanigans linked with slate politics are not always specific to one party, but last year’s Students First! squad was a remarkable example. Kevin Shawn Hsu, Harish Nandagopal and arguably a few others were obviously qualified to carry the torch for 2003-04, but the slate’s organizers resorted to offering many senate and commissioner positions to students that appeared incapable of fulfilling their offices’ responsibilities. Candidate Vivianne Pourazary, for example, was so unqualified for the post of A.S. commissioner of student advocacy that she admitted ignorance to UCSD’s Principles of Community, and asserted that she would not defend a student reprimanded by the administration for hate speech on Library Walk because it “violated other students’ rights” — a claim refuted by the U.S. Constitution, which protects such speech but does not include any right to protection from such material.

    Pourazary ran the race uncontested only to fall to disqualification with the rest of her slate. She was, however, replaced by the Gallagher-appointed Jeff Boyd, experienced from serving both in the Office of Student Advocacy and on the Student Regulations Review Committee. He has served with the integrity and aggressiveness demanded of his position, sticking to his guns about changes to the Student Conduct Code and fighting tooth and nail to see his position become an appointed one.

    Many councilmembers have recognized the success of this year’s appointees. Jordan Rosenfeld, the Eleanor Roosevelt College senior senator, spoke out in a Feb. 9 news article: “This year, most of the commissioners were appointed,” Rosenfeld said. “If you speak to people who are familiar with the history of [the] A.S. [Council], they will tell you that this year’s commissioners have been the strongest and most effective that [the] A.S. [Council] has ever had.”

    The 2003 A.S. elections and the subsequent disqualification of the Students First! slate gave undergraduates two opportunities to examine the credibility of their governing body. The first, witnessed immediately, was that the elections committee showed a backbone by adhering to the election bylaws and enforcing their decisions, regardless of allegiances to the slate that appointed them. Second, the removal of disqualified candidates allowed the president to select the best-qualified individuals, not the ones running on the most visible slate. Associated Students will be employing superior leaders, services and policy proposals if the council continues to pass legislation supporting the appointment of commissioners.

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