ASUC Voluntary Wellness Honor Pact seeks to improve mental health during elections

A women smiling and talking to another woman while holding a sign at Sproul Plaza
Amanda Ramirez/File

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With the ASUC elections season approaching, the Elections Council introduced its 2019 Voluntary Wellness Honor Pact with the aim to ease the stress that has historically accompanied the campaign season.

First enacted during the 2016-17 ASUC elections season by former Elections Council chair Linsha Qi, the original Voluntary Wellness Honor Pact sought to promote the health and well-being of student candidates. In 2018, the pact was updated to add two clauses, which suggest that candidates should prioritize academics and take a one-hour break from posting on social media each day during hard campaigning.

Current Elections Council Chair Shirin Moti said the Voluntary Wellness Honor Pact is intended to lessen the stress of running for ASUC office.

“The goal of the Voluntary Wellness Honor Pact is to preserve the academic success and positive mental and physical health of ASUC candidates,” Moti said in an email. “Campaigning can take a toll on candidates.”

Participation in the Voluntary Wellness Honor Pact is optional. The pact asks that candidates limit hard campaigning to the week after spring break and the week of the election, take a one-hour lunch break each day from hard campaigning, seek academic and health counseling and prioritize their financial and academic situations. The pact also asks that candidates refrain from chalking on public areas.

Sunny Aggarwal, a former ASUC senator, expressed his doubts about the Voluntary Wellness Honor Pact, adding that he chose not to sign the pact in 2017 during his campaign season.

“I think the pact would be silly,” Aggarwal said. “The one-hour lunch break is a bit weird, and I’ve only seen my academic counselor like once.”

It is hard to measure the impact that the Voluntary Wellness Honor Pact has on candidates’ health and well-being, Moti said in an email. She added that it is difficult to know how many candidates even abide by the guidelines of the pact as it is an honor-bound system.

In regard to certain parts of the pact, however — such as the clause that suspends campaigning on the Wednesday of the first week of hard campaigning from 1 p.m. t0 6 p.m. — the pact is very effective, according to Moti.

“Sproul is empty and no candidates campaign during these hours,” Moti said in an email. “This is one example as to how effective the pact is and to see that candidates actually abide by it.”

Student Advocate Sophie Bandarkar agreed with Moti, adding that the election culture on campus was becoming “toxic” and even causing some candidates to drop out of the race. She said the Voluntary Wellness Honor Pact is effective at improving candidates’ mental and physical health.

“It makes people think about their health,” Bandarkar said. “But there’s a need for more.”

Contact Leon Chen at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @leonwchen.