VetMed students excluded from vote for their senators

CVM undergrads unable to cast ballots for shared seats with College of Arts and Sciences

CODY COTTIER, Evergreen reporter

Students in the College of Veterinary Medicine have been unable to vote for the four ASWSU Senate positions that represent them, in what students leaders from the college see as a denial of their fundamental rights.

The college does not have its own senators, but shares joint positions with the College of Arts and Sciences. Julianna Brutman is a College of Veterinary Medicine, or CVM, student who has advocated for a separate Senate position for the college. She said the students not having a say in who represents them is unacceptable.
“We’re not asking for anything too crazy here,” she said. “We’re asking that our students have the right to vote and the ability to vote.”

ASWSU Election Board Chair Bradley Warren said the issue is not with ASWSU, but with the Registrar’s Office. He said the office reported CVM students separately from College of Arts and Sciences students, so CAS Senate seats do not appear on CVM ballots.

Warren said he understands the students’ frustration, but because the four seats were all uncontested, it does not make sense to offer make-up ballots. He noted they are still able to vote for presidential tickets and for all campus Senate positions.

“Unfortunately at this point we’re not going to do anything to change this,” he said. “It wouldn’t make a difference.”

Jacob Lizarraga, the only current Arts and Sciences senator from CVM, argued it does not matter whether the extra votes would change the outcome of the election. Students can choose to write in a candidate not on the ballot, and he said Warren’s response goes against the democratic process ASWSU believes in.

“Whether its two votes or 300 votes, it does not matter,” Lizarraga said. “They have a right as a student to cast a vote for the candidate they think is best fit to represent them.”

Lizarraga said he plans to file an election violation allegation with the Judicial Board. He said he believes the denial of students’ ability to vote violates ASWSU bylaws regarding elections, which state, “In order to be eligible to vote, a person must be a regularly enrolled undergraduate student. Each student is allowed one (1) ballot to cast their vote.”

Brutman said they do not want to place blame, but argued the Election Board should have worked to resolve the problem with the Registrar’s Office.

“I think saying it’s not their fault is totally fine,” she said, “but it will be their fault if they refuse to investigate this issue.”

Lizarraga said he noticed he could not see the joint Senate positions on his ballot soon after voting began Tuesday, and emailed Warren. He said Warren had ample time to look for ways to fix the problem.

Brian Shuffield, executive director of Student Involvement, said one option would be to release senator ballots to CVM students who already voted. However, he said that as far as he knows, the Election Board has not made an effort to do this. The board would have to hold off on confirming the joint Senate positions until after CVM students voted.

Brutman said although the College of Veterinary Medicine is relatively small, its students are active in ASWSU elections. Though she did not have an exact number, she said their voter turnout is high.

She explained that although the college enrolls about 800 students overall, only about 200-250 are certified, due to the college’s certification timeline. This makes it difficult for CVM students to run against College of Arts and Sciences students, she said.

In September, Brutman and ASWSU President Jordan Frost presented to the Senate to encourage the addition of a CVM seat after students petitioned for it.

Parker Blekkenk, a CVM student on the ASWSU executive team, said he will work with the “necessary entities” to avoid voting problems in the future.

“I think this … really underscores the need for a dedicated CVM Senate seat,” he wrote in an email.

But for Brutman, the immediate concern is obtaining a vote for CVM students. As tuition- and fee-paying members of WSU, she argued, they deserve a voice in elections.

“Every other undergraduate student on this campus has the right to vote,” she said, “and our students should have that right as well.”