SU election sees new members of Treasury, Senate, ArtSci Council; new SU leadership chosen in internal elections
After the fall 2023 Student Union (SU) election, new members were elected to Senate, Treasury, and the Arts & Sciences Council, and two constitutional amendments were passed, Nov. 16. The election had the lowest voter turnout since spring of 2022, and among those elected is an ArtSci Council President with a history of opposing the existence of SU.
Senior Scott Sauers, who received 28.9% of the votes in the Nov. 16 election, has been elected as the new ArtSci Council president following the disqualification of incumbent junior Rachel Kim, who received the other 70.13% of the vote.
Sauers has historically opposed SU Senate and Treasury as an organization on campus. In a now-deleted post on the r/WashU page on Reddit from Nov. 16, 2022, Sauers called on classmates to vote for him as a write-in candidate for all positions in the spring 2022 election.
“My goal is abolishing Student Union and replacing it with random polling for decision making,” he writes. “There is not really a need for student politicians making decisions without student body oversight.”
This fall, Sauers was officially a candidate for ArtSci Council president. In his statement on the ballot, Sauers pledged to “advocate for abolishing the confusing and outdated ‘integration’ and ‘integrated inquiry’ system, or expanding the courses which count towards it,” as well as plan both career-centric and fun events inspired by programming organized by Engineering Student Council (better known as EnCouncil) like Vertigo.
Scott Sauers declined to comment on his previous statements and his campaign platform.
Rachel Kim, the previous ArtSci Council president, received the most votes in the election but was disqualified for not filing her expenditure report before the deadline.
According to Election Commissioner senior Constantin Carrigan, all candidates in the SU election are told that failure to submit an expenditure report will result in disqualification, which was a rule that was passed through Treasury, Senate, and the Election Commission.
“If it goes through all those steps, and you’re still disqualified, that means there has been a cognizant level of neglect shown here that we have to then act upon,” Carrigan said.
SU Leadership Elections
Student Union Senate and Treasury members also voted for new SU leadership in internal elections on the same day as the swearing-in ceremony, Nov. 28.
In SU Senate, sophomore Sonal Churiwal was elected Speaker of the Senate, senior and former Speaker of the Senate Erin Ritter was elected the Academic Affairs Committee Chair, first-year Fatima Elmenshawy was voted the Health and Wellness Committee Chair, first-year Sonali Sharma was elected the Campus and Residential Experience Committee Chair, and sophomore Ashton Lee was voted the Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chair.
In Treasury, senior Justin Kouch was voted Speaker of Treasury, sophomore Meris Damjanovic was re-elected Activities Committee Chair, and junior Sam Hogan was voted the Budget Committee Chair.
In her role as speaker, Churiwal hopes to bring more energy back to Senate.
“I want to make sure that every committee is structured in a way such that there are a few key goals that each committee is working on that their Senators are passionate about and bring that energy back to Senate,” said Churiwal.
Mental Health Absence Amendments
During the SU election, the WashU student body also passed two amendments which would allow Treasury representatives and Senators to take a medical leave of absence for a semester and have the next runner-up for their position from the previous election temporarily fill the vacant seat until the original representative returns. The amendments, which were a last-minute addition to the election, passed with 84.94% and 78.36% respectively; both needed to receive two-thirds of the vote to pass.
Sonal Churiwal, the new Speaker of the Senate, supports the passing of both of these amendments.
“The previous election policy laid out that Senators and Treasurers have to be available for the entirety of their term, one year to be able to run,” said Churiwal. “That meant that students taking a one-semester medical leave of absence wouldn’t be able to run, and therefore, discriminating against disabled students.”
General SU Election
Approximately 26.7% of eligible voters voted in this year’s SU election, which is a lower turnout than last year’s fall election which had approximately 30%, and the lowest since spring 2022, which had a turnout of 23.4%. Despite this, Election Commissioner Constantin Carrigan expressed pride in how the election went.
“There’s a lot more interest in SU so that’s why we’re seeing a higher turnout than previous years,” said Carrigan. “Last year, there was a major funding decision made by Treasury the week of the election that really got a lot of people riled up and so we saw an uncanny height when it came to voter turnout last year.”
The election began with a slight hiccup as voting was temporarily closed and votes were reset 30 minutes after voting began on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 14. According to Carrigan, only approximately 50 votes were lost due to this error.
Looking to the future, Carrigan hopes to change the visibility of SU elections, which starts with the candidates and the student body.
“Do people on this campus care, and do the candidates care enough to get people out to vote? And I think the answer to that is no and no,” said Carrigan.
Some newly elected Treasury representatives and Senators did not even campaign for their roles.
“I just wrote my opinions and my candidate statement and put that out there,” said Varun Vadhera, a first-year and newly elected Treasury representative.
According to former Speaker of the Senate Erin Ritter, this is not uncommon post-pandemic, however some candidates this year have started to get more involved compared to recent years.
“Some [candidates for Senate] were actually holding events or speaking with constituents before the elections and I do think that that showed,” said Ritter.
However, increasing turnout will also require action from the student body. Carrigan states there has been a lot of criticism of SU and hopes that more students will use their vote to create an SU that they want.
“If you want to enact your own system of justice, it’s called voting,” Carrigan said.