Tuesday, March 31

Throwback Thursday: Years ago, USAC elections were still as tumultuous as they are today

(Daily Bruin archives)

Throwback Thursdays are our chance to reflect on past events on or near campus and relate them to the present day. Each week, we showcase and analyze an old article from the Daily Bruin archives in an effort to chronicle the campus’ history.

Hundreds of students watched two weeks ago as the Undergraduate Students Association Council Election Board saw its shadow while announcing the results of the most recent student government election. While it seems unlikely that election season will last six weeks longer, we are two weeks past its intended conclusion with no end in sight.

After the USAC Judicial Board ordered the election board to reopen the investigation, the election board found Tuesday that the two candidates were guilty of coercion, but that it would not be imposing sanctions or disqualifying anyone. As a result of the election board’s decision, the current council refused to certify the results of the election, staying them for the second time, and leaving the future of next year’s council up in the air.

This controversial, drawn-out election is tiring. But it bears similarity to the 1995 USAC election, when the judicial board nullified the election results for two offices on the Friday they were announced. The judicial board ordered that elections for general representative and Student Welfare commissioner be repeated.

Then-Daily Bruin staffer Rashmi Nijagal wrote that the ruling was caused by a complaint against a Bruin Democrats advertisement endorsing candidates from the Students First! slate.

“The complaint stated that because the Bruin Democrats are not recognized as an official endorsement group by the election board, they cannot print literature endorsing any candidate,” Nijagal said.

In an emergency meeting that Monday night, the judicial board reversed part of its decision, saying that rather than ordering another round of elections, it would leave the decision of how to proceed to the election board. Noah Hochman, then-associate chief justice of the judicial board, said new testimony had changed the situation, causing the board to debate their previous decision.

“It was decided that in light of new testimony, it shouldn’t be our position to make (sanctioning) decisions,” Hochman said in an article that ran in the May 9, 1995, issue of The Bruin.

Unfortunately, the damage had already been done. The Daily Bruin ran a submission from the public in that same May 9 issue. In it, then-external vice president-elect John Du and Students First! campaign manager Dan Ryu alleged that the judicial board’s decision to overturn election results was a violation of democracy.

“The (judicial board) ruled null and void the election of Students First! candidates,” Du and Ryu wrote. “In so doing, it violated simple democratic principles, ignorantly dismissing the ballot box and overruling the expression of the popular will.”

The election board, once again in control after the judicial board’s reversal, recommended that the sitting council for the 1994-1995 school year affirm the results of the election. The council followed the board’s recommendation that very night.

One week later, in runoff elections held to decide the other offices with no clear winner, Students First! candidates won the three remaining offices.

20 years ago, USAC elections went wrong – and it was all for nothing. Candidates found guilty of bylaw violations were still sworn in to office, albeit in a more delayed fashion. This year, they might still go right.

But if history can teach us anything, it’s that in 20 years, some poor Daily Bruin staffer will compare their tumultuous election to this year’s, and things will go on as they always have.

Senior staff columnist

Said was an assistant Opinion editor from 2018-2019. He previously contributed as an opinion columnist for the section and writes about issues surrounding diversity and student life. He also manages the Daily Bruin's various podcasts.

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