East and off-campus senators elected
Published: Monday, October 8, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 8, 2012 22:10
On Sept. 29, Ethan Levy ’15 was elected as East Quad senator and Sunny Aidasani ’14 was elected as Off-Campus senator in the third round of the Student Union elections.
Approximately 29 percent of East Quad residents and five percent of off-campus residents voted.
The other elected senator positions were filled in the first two rounds of elections, which took place on Sept. 20 and Sept. 21. Reelections were held for East Quad senator after no candidates chose to run in the initial elections.
Student Union Secretary and Chief of Elections Carlton Shakes ’14 sent an email to the student body on Sept. 22 urging East Quad residents to run for the senator position. Eight students ran for the position. The Class of 2016 senator race, for which there were two open positions, was the only race that had more candidates, Shakes said in a phone interview with the Justice.
Levy won with 31 out of 111 votes.
Levy said in an interview with the Justice that he was surprised to learn that no East Quad candidates had run in the previous round. He said that East Quad elections went “smoothly” and that “campaigning was clean all around.” He hopes to address facilities issues in the quad and to focus on hall and quad programming, he added.
Reelections for the Off-Campus senator position were held due to an error in the first round of voting. Dean Kaplan ’14 was incorrectly announced as the winner in a campus-wide email from Shakes on Sept. 21 and sworn in as Off-Campus senator at the Student Union meeting on Sept. 23.
The error resulted from a misreading of the results, according to a campuswide email from Shakes on Sept. 25. In the elections for Off-Campus senator, Kaplan received 20 votes and the “abstain” option received 23 votes. According to Section 6, Part 2 of the Student Union Constitution, a position must remain unfilled if “abstain” receives the most votes until another election is held.
According to a Sept. 20, 2011 article in the Justice, a “skip” option was added to elections in fall 2011. Selecting “skip” allows students to move on to the next poll without voting for a candidate while “abstain” “work[s] against a candidate” and “is an option intended for those who are uncomfortable with all candidates for a position,” according to a Student Union press release from last fall.
The results of the Off-Campus senator race may have resulted from confusion on the part of students about these options. “I think a lot of students don’t understand what ‘abstain’ is,” said Student Union President Todd Kirkland ’13 in an interview with the Justice. Students may think that “abstain” and “skip” serve the same function, he added.
“I think that students are confused, and it needs to be addressed as soon as possible,” said Shakes.
Elections are conducted through BigPulse, an online voting system. In a phone interview with the Justice, Managing Director of BigPulse Dominic Swinn said that Brandeis has a self-managed account with the company and that the account is administered and controlled from campus. BigPulse supplies the software and technical support for the account but does not set it up, he said.
The “skip” and “abstain” system “tries to imitate what might happen on an actual paper ballot,” he explained.
In a Sept. 25 email, Shakes announced reelections for Off-Campus senator and opened the election to additional candidates. Six students ran, and Aidasani won with 14 out of 38 votes.
“It was as fair as possible,” said Shakes.
Kaplan, who received nine votes in the third round, has begun the process to appeal the decision with the Student Union Judiciary. In an email to the Justice, Kaplan cited Article X, Section 1 of the Constitution, which states that “[a]n elected official’s constituency shall have the right to recall that official,” and Article X, Section 2, which states that “[a] two-thirds vote of the Senate is required to impeach an elected Union Government official.”
According to Kirkland, Kaplan’s swearing-in process was not constitutionally sound. The Judiciary process is still in the “preliminary decision” phase. The first step will be a peer mediation, which may be followed by a public trial, with the Student Union as the accused, said Kirkland.
Aidasani did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
According to Shakes, “the Student Union is working very closely this year to review our Constitution.”
“Our Constitution has a lot of work to be done based on the … interpretation of it. The way we run the Student Union elections will also have to change, and that will be an ongoing thing this semester to avoid more conflict in the spring,” said Shakes.