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January 22, 2006

Student Government Campaign Winds Up & Down

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

For all you not interested in UT-Austin Student Government campaigns, be forewarned that this is one of those entries again. But because of some of the developments of the last week, you probably won't have to endure too many of these entries which I'll explain below.

It is also a sad day in a sense, because comprehensive election reform and the complete abolishment of tickets which I supported last spring, has led to a refining of the art of SG ticket building to the point where results are pre-determined weeks before a single vote is cast (and this year, before filing even opens). It is only through the coordination and pooling of money, incumbency, and candidates available in tickets, that such disastrous results for student democracy are achieved. This doesn't mean I am personally in support of or opposed to the remaining ticket, rather I'm just disappointed with the system. -kt

It's been quite some time since my last SG campaign update. Back then, Michael Windle was still running with Jessica Fertitta in a ticket against Danielle Rugoff and Marcus Ceniceros. Then, at the end of the year, the make-up of the Windle/Fertitta ticket changed (as semi-predicted in the post that I made at the time).

It is this very thing though that may be the reason for conflict in who's running for what. Because of her outright nature, Fertitta may have more balls to push for the top spot, even though convention and current Assembly status, would place her in the VP spot. While very well known outside of SG, early SG posturing is largely a factor of 'weight' and visibility inside of the Assembly, which could be why this issue has yet to be resolved.

Personalities rubbed the wrong way, and Fertitta left, taking a good sized chunk of core members with her as she joined up with the Rugoff/Ceniceros camp. Looking back, this could quite possibly be the defining moment of what was to unfold, as it gave Rugoff/Ceniceros the boost of credibility, manpower, and assembly support that launched them into a position of gaining the critical mass needed to create another SG "sweep" election. Fertitta was then replaced by Jennifer "Cookie" McCook as VP. McCook was the new Alumni Relations Director (an office created this past year), and while not a Directorship that is considered 'weighty' in its institutional sway, building contacts with alumni does offer a nice chance to boost the campaign kitty. Being president of her sorority, Alpha Phi, didn't hurt either.

But that was not to last. Last Monday, the day before classes, core members, supporters, and candidates on the Windle/McCook ticket received an e-mail explaining that they would not be filing for a spot on the Student Government Spring Ballot, leaving Rugoff/Ceniceros as the singular ticket to stand for election, barring any new tickets forming (which wouldn't win anyways at this point) and independent candidates (where Mario Sanchez remains the lone candidate to date having expressed an intent to run). While it is likely that more independents may file, it is unlikely that any of them stand a significant chance to win if they run a traditional campaign. The only opening that exists is if an independent ran a grossly non-traditional independent campaign, paired with Rugoff/Ceniceros choosing to run a grossly limited campaign (which I havn't seen an indication of yet).

More below the fold...

Following is the e-mail from Windle/McCook...

From: Michael Windle
Date: Jan 16, 2006 9:00 PM
Subject: Student Government Elections

Dear ----,

I would like to inform you that I am no longer running for Student Government President and my good friend Jennifer McCook is no longer running for Vice President due to unforeseen family and financial personal circumstances beyond our control. We have loved our roles as At Large Representative and Agency Director within Student Government, and we know that there is a place in SG for every student that wishes to be involved. Unfortunately, the positions of Presidential Candidate and Vice-Presidential Candidate weren't right for us at this time. There's no question that we have faith in the abilities of Student Government and hope you continue or start your involvement.

I know the dedication you've shown to this university through the personal service and leadership you've made up to this point, and I wanted to notify you personally. Although this decision was tough, I am excited to work ten times as hard at my current position of At Large Representative. Please take this as an opportunity to gain an understanding of the hard work SG members put in day after day much after campaign season has started and elections are decided.

As always, Student Government will continue to do a service for every student on this campus. The value of SG cannot be understated, and I hope you continue to stay involved by coming to meetings Tuesday nights at 7PM in the Student Services Building.

Thank you again for your help, and feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Hook 'Em,
Michael Windle

Now, as has been passed along to me by sources more familiar with the internals of the two campaigns, Windle/McCook had only about 15 of 40 odd spots filled out as of last week compared to Rugoff/Ceniceros which had about 35. In terms of where those stranded candidates will go now, I'm doubtful that any more than one or two will be added into the lone ticket. Rugoff/Ceniceros had done a pretty bang up job of putting together a broad based ticket with a lot of good people and key supporters in advance of this last week's news.

The task now is for Rugoff & Ceniceros to gain a clear sense of legitimacy in this election. Without an organized opponent, turnout will down from last year's 18%. It is expected there will be no competitive election for Daily Texan editor this year (as the paper tries to get away with its editor elections all together), leaving what currently appears to be a two-way race for Student Events Center (SEC) President between Matt Reyes and John Grube to drive turnout. University Co-op Trustee elections have always been an afterthought in voting and are not likely to change this year due to their strict (and rather boring) election code. Texas Student Media (TSM) board seats may very well be non-contested again this cycle. Put that together and you'll be lucky to see 9% turnout.

Of course given that, an under the radar independent bid could be possible, and small colleges are easier to compete in independently. Down ballot races could see more filings as a 2-ticet SG war will not suck the available media oxygen out of the air. In any case, expect the West Mall to be far quieter come February...

Filing for office opens Tuesday and runs through February 7.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at January 22, 2006 09:40 PM | TrackBack


don't let what you read fool you, the campaign is far from over. expect nothing less from danielle and marcus' ticket than just as much "noise on the west mall" that everyone is used to, the ever popular t-shirts and a-frames, and a few surprises a long the way. the election is in march, not today.

Posted by: Jennifer Harris at January 23, 2006 12:02 AM

This is true, and I fully expect (and hope!) that they will run as an aggressive a campaign as needed to help raise awareness of SG and what it does.

Posted by: Karl-T at January 23, 2006 12:12 AM

Boring. Who gives a damn about SG at UT? Maybe 1% of the students? Abolish it. It's always been a huge waste of money and time for a bunch of want-a-be future politicians.

Posted by: Trey M at January 23, 2006 08:59 AM


Your writing makes it seem like the supposed power-imbalance between the two campaigns convinced Windle and Cookie to step back from a campaign. While much of your background is true, I would hesitate though on your most insinuating conclusion. Take Windle's e-mail into account, and don't try to take any stabs at his and Cookie's early successes just to make Danielle and Marcus sound better. Danielle and Marcus are very capable people, but they don't need speculation and tacit, baised negativity to make them any better.


Posted by: JW Walthall at January 23, 2006 10:06 AM

I really hope that is not Trey Melcher up there

Posted by: it matters at January 23, 2006 12:18 PM

Well, they abolished it around 1977, but like Chucky, it rose from the dead and continues to feed those of us who favor sick humor.

Tickets, eh? I ran on a Student Senate ticket (named the "Fanshen Conspiracy", after a women's collective in China) there more than 30 years ago ... our leaflets were printed illegally by a Travis County Commissioner, with county paper on a county printing press. No, I didn't arrange it; I was young and cloutless. But those were the days ... a ROTC candidate ran against me. Needless to say, his troops were more disciplined than mine.

Posted by: Dalicious at January 23, 2006 01:32 PM

Hilarious, Dalicious! I'm sure the University would have been much better off with you in the spot.

I wish Danielle weren't a friend of mine. I would run as an independent, secure in the fact that I wouldn't win, have some fun and then graduate. The whole thing is silly. There are only a few positions that really matter in the whole system: President and VP get to talk to the big wigs, the financial directors get to divvy up almost $100,000, student services fee committee memembers get to divvy up about $20 million (I think) and other committee appointments get to impact university-wide policy. The reps and everything else is just silly.

At the same time it gives a lot of people hands on experience in a political setting and trains future leaders in how to work in public service in a democracy. It ensures that there is at least one person claiming to speak for students who is actually chosen by the students, and so it becomes harder to ignore us. Unfortunately the system is designed to elect the person with the most "friends" because turnout is everything. Everyone knows what the big issues are, everyone knows the solutions to them, so ideology or even policy makes no difference. The difference becomes who can turnout the most people and those with institutional bases of support--greek and spirit organizations in particular--end up winning. This sometimes works out, but more often then not it gives us people who aren't tough enough to jawbone legislators, administrators and others and perpetuates a silly system of groupthink. The result is that powerful folks ride roughshod over the kids and then toss them pittances that don't do ANYTHING in the long run: like the student regent (yet another "student voice" chosen ultimatley by those who don't have our best interests in mind: Rick Perry and the UT System).

So what do I think should be done? Keep SG, and try and get kids to vote for good candidates. Maybe I'll run anyways so I can make all these arguments, but probably not. It might never happen, but the system isn't the problem, the choices are.

Posted by: Andrew Dobbs at January 23, 2006 02:18 PM

KT - Thanks for the coverage of the elections. I know that your blog has a wide readership so whatever press you can give to the elections only helps voter turnout.

As far as campaigning goes, things are in full force with Danielle and Marcus. We had our second campaign rally yesterday. Both events have reached 100 participants. We have 6 more rallies left, and we plan on each being bigger than the last. We are still having candidate meetings and logistics meetings. A good chunk of our candidates are regulars at SG meetings as a result of the campaign. There are over 700 members in the facebook group supporting Danielle and Marcus, and this number is growing everyday.

While it may seem like things could slow down as a result of the one-ticket campaign, we are all aware that there are a sizable number of qualified students at this University who would make excellent representatives in Student Government. These folks can, should, and probably will come out of the woodworks.

One thing worth noting is that the University's student population has decreased about 2,000 people. Because the number of SG Reps is based on population, there are 4 less spots in the Assembly this year. This means less campaign funding and less publicity. We are all working hard to compensate for this. However, much can happen before Feb 28 and March 1st, but you can expect nothing less from our campaign simply because of the new developments.

Keep up the good work KT. I'm sure I'll see you soon. Take care.

Posted by: Jessica Fertitta at January 23, 2006 02:24 PM

Is it me, or do the UT Student Government elections sound more complicated than the elections in Iraq?

When I was in college at ETSU/A&M-Commerce, I remember our student government elections were VERY low key. Of course, we didn't have two gazillion students, either.

Since city council elections in Texas are non-partisan and there always seem to be 'tickets' forming, especially in small towns, wouldn't be fun if those people just created their own tickets like the candidates down at UT? My god, that'd be amusing.

Posted by: Vince Leibowitz at January 23, 2006 03:50 PM

"I wish Danielle weren't a friend of mine. I would run as an independent, secure in the fact that I wouldn't win, have some fun and then graduate."

You haven't graduated yet? Please do the world a favor and do so.

"The whole thing is silly. There are only a few positions that really matter in the whole system: President and VP get to talk to the big wigs, the financial directors get to divvy up almost $100,000, student services fee committee memembers get to divvy up about $20 million (I think) and other committee appointments get to impact university-wide policy. The reps and everything else is just silly. "

They're not SG election, they're student body elections. What about SEC pres? That's not silly.

"Unfortunately the system is designed to elect the person with the most "friends" because turnout is everything."

Then how do you explain Me and Omar winning? No one is actually our friend. Wait... "friend" maybe, but not friend.

Posted by: matth at January 23, 2006 04:27 PM

SEC Pres? Not silly? Come on matt, they elected you after all... :)

Posted by: Karl-T at January 23, 2006 05:22 PM

KT 1 Matt 0

Posted by: Grube at January 23, 2006 05:27 PM

What's sillier an SEC Pres or someone who tries to be SEC Pres twice?

KT 1 MATT 1 JG 0

Posted by: matth at January 23, 2006 05:30 PM

you can have that one, its all yours buddy.

Posted by: Grube at January 23, 2006 08:52 PM

I'll take the "doing the world a favor" jab as a compliment, somehow. Remember, I'm a year younger than you so I'm more or less on track...

And I forgot about SEC president. That one counts. Coop Board gets a couple of lucky kids free parking right off campus also. So those count, but everything else is silly.

And I'm your friend Matt, but I doubt that will win you any elections. Quite the contrary, I'd imagine.

Posted by: Andrew Dobbs at January 23, 2006 09:07 PM

All in good fun, Dobbs. All in good fun,

Posted by: matth at January 24, 2006 08:46 AM

Have any of you heard of Arts & Sausages?

Posted by: Dalicious at January 24, 2006 02:10 PM
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