ASPC-Funded Groups Should be Allowed to Endorse Candidates

As reported on the front page of this issue, ASPC recently formed a subcommittee to address the endorsement of ASPC candidates by ASPC-funded organizations. This came out of the discussion in response to an e-mail sent out to the mailing list of Empowered Latin@s in Action (ELA)—an ASPC-funded organization—which endorsed candidates that the author of the e-mail believed were "most committed to the issues of people of color and other marginalized groups on campus." Some current and incoming senators have suggested that a clearer rule should be written into the ASPC election code, which explicitly bars ASPC-funded groups from endorsing candidates, and have suggested that this should be the goal of the recently formed subcommittee. This editorial staff, however, does not agree that this problem can be so quickly resolved. While a concrete rule should indeed be written into the election code, we believe that it should serve the opposite purpose: namely, to explicitly permit, and encourage, leaders of student organizations to endorse candidates and inform their group’s members of these endorsements.

Opponents of the endorsements argue that there were three main problems with ELA’s e-mail. First, they claim that it gave the endorsed candidates an unfair advantage, as no other similar endorsements were sent out. Second, they claim that the author of the endorsement unfairly assumed that the candidates not named did not feel similarly on these issues. Lastly, they argued that endorsements such as these are an abuse of an ASPC-funded group’s position of power.

This first complaint is easily remedied by permitting all groups to endorse. Indeed, if this happens, endorsements no longer create an unfair advantage, as every group is now on equal footing.

As for the second argument, while this is indeed a legitimate complaint, it also can be remedied. If all ASPC-funded groups are permitted to endorse candidates—rather than compelled to do it in secrecy as they currently are—there could be more oversight over the process. One solution is to hold a candidate forum for all ASPC-funded group leaders, where they can ask questions that pertain precisely to the issues that they feel are most pertinent. Not only will this allow for each group to hear every candidate’s stance on the issues they find most important, but it will also allow for more thoughtful discussion and debate between the candidates over the issues that will undoubtedly come up the following year.

The last argument put forth by opponents of the endorsement e-mail—that it is an abuse of power—is, in our opinion, simply unwarranted. Why should groups that depend on ASPC for their budget not be allowed to have a say in who makes up this important body? Indeed, as heads of the groups most affected by ASPC on campus, student leaders have a genuine interest in seeing that people who sympathize with their concerns are on Senate, and they should be encouraged to express these interests.

Endorsements also will have a positive effect on the elections as a whole. As this year’s election demonstrated, students will listen to endorsements. At a school where student voting stands at a dismal 40 percent, major group endorsements could help to engage students in important discussion over candidates.