Savannah D’Orazio (senior), Fall 2017 elections chair, announced the results of the Associated Students of Occidental (ASOC) Senate and Honor Board elections via email at 1:25 p.m. Sept. 8. Similar to last year’s ASOC elections, a majority of candidates — for seven of the nine ASOC positions — ran unopposed this year, according to Tamara Himmelstein, assistant dean of students and director of student life.
Belén Moreno (senior) is the new vice president of academic affairs, Nkese Jack and Mason Hurlocker are the two new sophomore class senators and Jeffrey Chang is the new senior class senator. Maria Salter (sophomore), Althea Dillon (senior) and Reese Ingraham (sophomore) are the new Honor Board jurors.
Also similar to last fall’s elections, this year’s only competitive positions — the two first-year class senator vacancies — attracted the highest rate of voter turnout. First-years Darla Chavez and Rachel Hayes won the two available positions.
According to Himmelstein, ASOC and Honor Board candidates often run unopposed. She explained that senate trainings exist to help orient elected candidates to the position and that students do not need extensive experience in order to run. Himmelstein said interested candidates often express hesitancy over the time commitment associated with ASOC or Honor Board services.
“I think what has always been a challenging task for senate is to really tell their story, what they do, how they serve the student body [and] what projects they do,” Himmelstein said. “It could be that students do not run because they really do not know what we do.”
Zachary Solomon (junior), ASOC student body president as of Spring 2017, named voter turnout and engagement as one of his key priorities while in office. He describes Occidental as a very engaged campus and aims to transform this campus engagement into voter participation for ASOC elections.
“Low involvement is definitely an issue, as I believe we are better served by competitive elections,” Solomon said. “ASOC, in all of its branches, is really very connected with clubs and services — not just in providing funding, but in partnering and promoting as well — and I think that is a message that does not always reach people interested in running or voting.”
Chang, newly elected senior senator, previously served as VP of academic affairs in Fall 2016. He attributed the low turnout rate to a lack of awareness of ASOC or general disinterest.
“There is not much I can do from a student government policy perspective, but I would encourage students to participate, whether that is airing their grievances to their representatives or running for a position,” Chang said.
One immediate issue as a result of low involvement is a lingering vacancy within the Honor Board. The three elected candidates ran unopposed for four juror positions, leaving one position still vacant. Newly elected juror Dillon said she intends to use her tenure as juror to improve student engagement with the Honor Board.
“I hope a transparent Honor Board with more online resources will educate the community about the process of student government and encourage greater turnout in future elections,” Dillon said. “I believe student government at Oxy is overlooked by a lot of people who would bring wonderful qualities to leadership positions.”
Himmelstein emphasized that regardless of political interest or interactions with ASOC, campus elections model the nation’s democratic process. She believes voting is a key element of civic participation, even for communities as small as Occidental.
“If you do not practice voting now, when are you going to practice? I would hope that students would want to engage in ASOC elections, for nothing else than to get you used to going to the polls,” Himmelstein said. “Because as a member of your communities, you are going to want to do that, wherever you end up.”