Students May Soon Be Able to Vote for International and Out-of-State Senators

Photo of international flags strung across two trees Mo Al Elew / The Triton

The International and Out-of-State Senator positions may both soon become elected Associated Students of UC San Diego (ASUCSD) representatives, instead of appointed, under a new policy reform initiative spearheaded by Arts and Humanities Senator Harry Huang.

Huang expects the changes to Out-of-State and International Senator positions to increase democratic representation within ASUCSD. Both of these senators are currently appointed by the Senate during the second week of Fall Quarter.

ASUCSD Senate first discussed the changes on October 23 where Huang initially advocated for the appointed positions to become elected representatives. Last Wednesday, the ASUCSD Legislative Committee put the proposal on indefinite hold pending further feedback from the current senators and students at-large.

Under the previous proposal, the International Senator position would have been expanded from one appointed senator to two senators: one appointed by a senate committee, and the second elected by the student body. Meanwhile, the Out-of-State Senator would have remained a single position and would be elected by the student body.

During the October 23 meeting, multiple Senators voiced concerns over the proposal’s ability to adequately represent students.

Campus-Wide Senator David Hickman expressed concerns over how to determine whether a student is part of the international community or part of the out-of-state community.

The ASUCSD online election infrastructure cannot access student residency status, so under the previous proposal, all students—regardless of their residency status—would be eligible to vote for candidates for the new elected senate position. Proponents of the proposal claim that opening the election to all students would ensure that in-state students who are a part of the international student community would not be excluded from representation.

Senator Hickman told The Triton that he was against the proposed changes unless there is clear evidence that both out-of-state and international students favor allowing all students to vote for the senator positions that are intended to exclusively represent their community.

Muir College Senator Ian McKeever also expressed concern for the proposed changes, saying that it would make the selection process into a “popularity contest” and could negatively affect the international student community.

“My fear with that is that it would misrepresent [the international student community] since certain organizations on this campus are bigger than others,” said McKeever to The Triton after the meeting.

When asked about which organizations he may be referring to, he said he did not want to publicly “call out a group,” instead saying that regardless of who is a majority he wants to maximize the number of students represented.

McKeever said that it would be easier to rally voters from a candidate’s respective community because the international student population makes up “such a small portion” of the student population. However, UCSD data shows that international students made up a larger proportion of the student body than any of the undergraduate colleges last year.

According to the 2018–19 institutional research student profile, 18.6% of undergraduates at UCSD are international students, yet are represented by a single appointed official. Compared to the distribution of students across the UCSD six-college system, no college enrolls more than 17% of the student body, yet each currently elects two senators to ASUCSD.

“I don’t want [the election of an International Senator] to tear the international community apart,” said McKeever during the meeting.

McKeever told The Triton that the expansion of the international senator position to include an elected representative in addition to an appointed representative is the best compromise between the opposing policy stances.

Social Sciences Senator Annika Manlutac first suggested the compromise for two international senators. Manlutac believed this was the best option since it represented the two dominant viewpoints during the discussion. Manlutac said she wants to balance the desire to increase democratic representation with the concerns over how to determine who belongs to each community. Most Senators expressed general agreement towards Manlutac’s suggestion, including Senator Huang.

“I am hoping that these changes increase representation in AS while also benefiting its students,” said Manlutac. “I am also hoping that these proposed changes will increase voter engagement from student populations who haven’t traditionally been marketed to as a result of not having a direct representative.”

Senator Huang expects to submit a revised version of his proposal after gathering feedback and hosting a town hall. He expects the revised proposal to address the Senate’s concerns and most likely pass.

Samir Nomani is a Staff Writer at The Triton. You can follow him at @samir_the_first.