Incoming ASUC Senate class features more women, lack of Jewish representation

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After tabulations April 16, next year’s ASUC Senate class may at first glance appear similar to this year’s. It shows, however, slight shifts in community and party representation.

The new group of 20 senators-elect consists of more female senators and two undocumented or previously undocumented students, but it has lost the representation of a Jewish senator, among other changes in makeup. The new senate class roughly represents a similar distribution of political parties and communities as last year.

CalSERVE and Student Action won eight and seven senate seats, respectively, the same numbers as last year.

In recent years, CalSERVE has run senate candidates from the Greek community, which is usually represented by Student Action, and Student Action ran a senate candidate who was an undocumented student this year, a community traditionally represented by CalSERVE.

“Both parties are trying to be intentional about expanding their bases,” said CalSERVE media coordinator Denim Ohmit. “You’ve seen very intentional outreach from CalSERVE to progressive students in different communities like Greek, engineering and business.”

Several senators also suggested that parties have been increasingly slating senate candidates who represent similar communities and platforms to those of current senators.

“We replace senators with people that have similar ambitions and can continue their work,” said Student Action Senator Ori Herschmann.

Both the current and the upcoming senate classes include two independent senators and three third-party senators. The Cooperative Movement Party won a seat for the first time as its own party since 2011.

Last year, Senator Austin Pritzkat ran with both CalSERVE and the Cooperative Movement Party, but a new bylaw prevented students in this election from being endorsed by multiple parties. SQUELCH! won two seats this year, one fewer than last year. Prior to 2013, the party typically ran one serious candidate alongside several satirical candidates, but in recent years, it has focused on serious candidates.

“We are moving beyond the two-party system now,” said SQUELCH! senator-elect Sina Rashidi.

Because senators’ communities often correlate to their platforms and the work they do in office, many place great value on a diversity of identities in a senate class.

Eleven out of the 20 upcoming senators are women, an increase from the current eight in this year’s senate.

“(Having more women) will make a big difference to feel more represented and supported in the space,” said SQUELCH! Senator Madison Gordon in an email.

The upcoming senate class has no Jewish senators, a drop from the three Jewish senators this year.

“The community wasn’t mobilized into getting people ready,” Herschmann said. “It seemed like there was a sort of apathy.”

But Herschmann said he believes the Jewish community will step up and mobilize next year.

Some believe that because the Jewish community is proactive and senators-elect have reached out to the community, they will find other ways to bring forth their perspectives to the senate.

“The three Jewish senators (this year) were very vocal, and I don’t think their involvement will stop with their term,” said Student Action Senator Tanay Nandgaonkar.

The new senate class also includes an officially queer-endorsed senator, Alana Banks of CalSERVE, unlike last year. This year’s senate has queer senators, and there are other upcoming queer senators, but Banks was endorsed by the queer community.

Next year’s senate also includes two representatives of undocumented students: independent senator-elect Cuahuctemoc Salinas and Student Action senator-elect Grace Ho Jung Kim.

Many senators-elect do not foresee partisanship as relevant to senate climate or efficacy because of overlapping communities and identities beyond party lines.

“Even though a senator comes from a certain party, the communities they represent are more important,” said Cooperative Movement Party senator-elect Sheena Paul. “Candidates represent something larger than those parties.”

Bloc voting, where an entire party purposefully votes a certain way, has largely ceased to exist, according to Nandgaonkar. Many agreed, however, that there are still differences and arguments that arise between parties, although this dynamic is changing to become one of collaboration.

Many senators-elect say they have already seen evidence of future collaboration across party lines throughout campaign season, citing encouragement and support during campaigning.

“I can already sense that it won’t be an issue because there was such a positive vibe all around Sproul,” said Student Action senator-elect Andre Luu. “People from different parties were mingling and supporting each other.”

Senators also pointed to the range of political parties focused on similar issues and communities as evidence for future cross-party collaboration.

“None of us are party-first,” said Student Action senator-elect Will Morrow. “Regardless of the makeup of senate in terms of parties, there can be a lot of bipartisan action.”

Sonja Hutson covers student government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson.