Guilt By Association: Supermajority Clouds AS Senate


Bailee Abell
Associated Students Beat Reporter

The Associated Students, as the student government of the University of California, Santa Barbara, is responsible for representing the undergraduates of UCSB by voicing and expressing students’ concerns and opinions to the UCSB community, administration, UC system, and state and local governments, according to the ASUCSB website. However, despite these responsibilities, the undergraduate students of UCSB are not fully and accurately having their voices represented by AS Senate, according to numerous exclusive sources within the organization.

Liam Stanton, a College of Creative Studies collegiate senator; Xin Ma, an Off-campus senator; Andre Theus, party chair of the Open People’s Party and Chief Financial Officer of the AS Finance and Business Committee; and Alex Smith, a former OPP senator, shared their experiences working within AS at UCSB.

Alex Smith is an anonymous former OPP senator who served during the 2013-2014 academic year. According to Smith, there is pervasive apathy and misconduct within AS Senate. Their name has been changed for the purpose of anonymity.

“Have you counted how many people that have fallen asleep at a senate meeting?” they said. “Have you counted how many people that have shown up drunk to a senate meeting? Have you counted how many people that have shown up high to a senate meeting? That’s not a party politics issue. It’s a no one gives a sh–t issue.”

When asked to elaborate on their experience serving on AS Senate during the 2013-2014 academic year, Smith stated that soon after being elected they became aware of a culture of carelessness within senate.

“I quickly realized it’s people who are there for their own self-serving purposes,” said Smith. “On both sides you have people that genuinely care and will work their asses off, but that’s only a fourth of senate. You have 20-plus people on that senate board. Some of them just thought it would be fun to run. Others just genuinely care–so you have some people who will work their asses off to cover the other people who are completely lazy.”

Stanton currently holds a position on AS Senate, and ran for election as an independent candidate, unaffiliated with any political party.

Sharing his opinions on the Open People’s Party, Stanton stated that OPP has a “chokehold” on a majority of AS. He said that there are bills, authored by OPP members within senate, that are passed by senate because they are on OPP’s agenda, but not necessarily because they should rightly be passed. He elaborated in discussing OPP party goals, stating that also among the projects they ran on was a lock-in fee increase to fund the Legal Resources Center. The lock-in fee would have been increased to $9.37 for the Fall 2015, Winter 2016, and Spring 2016 quarters, and a portion of the funding would be used to implement a sobering center in Isla Vista, according to the Fall 2014 special election ballot. This initiative was reintroduced during the special election after it failed in the Spring 2014 election.

“It didn’t matter that the constitution said that you’re not supposed to f–ing reintroduce the sobering center again,” said Stanton. “It didn’t matter that UCOP (University of California, Office of the President) said, ‘No, you didn’t give us proper notice. We’re not going to validate this.’ It didn’t f–ing matter that students said they didn’t want this sobering center—at least not 60 percent of them. It didn’t matter that this looked horrible. It didn’t matter that this was a special election and we were going to get such low turnout that it was hardly fair for them to put a big question like that before the students. It didn’t matter that we didn’t get enough turnout to be valid! Because a couple of senators were arguing toward the end that we only needed 15 percent instead of 20 percent turnout. Nothing mattered to them. No amount of opposition or administrative obstacle or anything mattered—they were going to get their way. And they didn’t only because 42 percent of the students voted no, but it was the stupidest thing.”

Off-campus senator Xin Ma, who ran with the Democratic Process party, also commented on the LRC lock-in fee and OPP’s attempt to reintroduce it.

“As a party, [OPP has] their own agenda and their own things that they want to get accomplished, and that’s why we have these things like the LRC,” said Ma. “But it was so contested, even [by] the people in the party itself.”

As the OPP Party Chair, Theus stated he “is OPP” and a public representative for the party. When asked of his opinion of the re-introduction of the LRC lock-in fee, he declined to comment, stating, “I’m not going to speak on the LRC. It’s not a project that I ever worked on, so I can’t give any opinion. I can give an opinion that if students feel like they should go for a lock-in fee then they should feel comfortable to do so. But I don’t necessarily want to comment on that.”

The party’s reintroduction of the LRC lock-in is an example of what Stanton believes to be the “unhealthy” effects of “OPP having control of Senate.” Stanton believes that OPP controls senate through its majority, and when asked whether he thinks this benefits the student body, he said, “OPP having control of senate makes it an efficient place, but it makes it a place where a few people control the whole agenda of AS. And I think that’s unhealthy.”

“You have power players, and then you have the rest of us,” said Stanton. “And there are projects that OPP ran on […] and they are willing to do almost anything to get their project [accomplished].”

Ma alluded to party obligations of OPP senators as well.

“I have heard [from current OPP senators] that when they became a senator, they were expected to be a certain person and vote a certain way and give more time to certain things, but because they didn’t they’re not as involved in the whole party,” said Ma. “So it’s interesting because there’s that, and then there are the really OPP people who are for everything they believe or want to accomplish, and then there are the people who ran with that party, but their ideas, […] their own personal goals are different.”

Ma also opined that unequal representation of the two parties adversely affects students, stating that due to the large undergraduate student body at UCSB, she believes it would be beneficial to have as much representation of the students as possible.

“I know students vote and they’re in, but what about the students who voted for the DP members who don’t get that [representation]?” said Ma. “There is still a portion of the student body that is not being represented, and even if the larger portion outnumbers, they still matter. I think that definitely affects the different bills and things that get proposed, but I can’t speak to what because I don’t know what it would be like if all DP members would’ve [been elected].”

This is the first installment in “Guilt by Association”—a series of investigative articles into student government and campus representation. New articles will be published in the coming weeks.

Bailee Abell is a third-year English major and the Executive Content Editor at The Bottom Line. She has been with TBL since her freshman year, first as a staff writer and then as the Associated Students Beat Reporter, when she became known for her investigative reporting of the UCSB student government. She was hired as Executive Content Editor in Spring 2015 and hopes to use her year as ECE to improve the image, coverage, and foster a stronger sense of community for TBL. She can be found in local coffee shops and sunny places, either editing articles, reading novels or watching reruns of Gilmore Girls, but rarely without a coffee in hand. Her blog is at


  1. Doesn’t this article miss a central point? That OPP was elected on the goals and platforms it’s pursuing.

    Wouldn’t it also be a problem if OPP senators refused to pursue the very platforms they promised the student body they’d work on?

    This article also disagrees with itself claiming OPP controls the senate while simultaneously noting that OPP doesn’t even always agree with itself? It’s one or the other. You either have complete control or OPP itself is such a weird assemblage of people and ideas that it doesn’t even fully control itself and its own elected officials. (lulz like modern political parties)

  2. To put this into context, I’m not involved with any political party. I’ve been involved in AS and have had handfuls of friends of all and no affiliations, so this is all from observation and conversation.

    In theory, Jacob makes a good point: people voted for OPP to work on certain goals and they are working towards them. However, that’s hardly the case. People are so misinformed and so tired of OPP’s campaign strategy that they will just vote for them. The other option is voting for a party that seems (to them, not to me) extremist and unqualified. And so many of these OPP senators who ran aren’t actually doing anything. Just because a handful of senators are doing what they promised doesn’t mean the party, as a whole, isn’t failing. I mean, let’s be honest. Half the reason these senators are doing anything is because they have bigger goals in mind (executive offices, etc). Even less than a handful actually care when you remove those bigger aspirations.

    Just because OPP has numerical control over the Senate doesn’t mean that they will always agree. It’s something that OPP touts as its biggest appeal to get those students “on the fence.” So yes, Jacob, this scenario is highly possible, and something that exists right now. Last year, I knew quite a few Senators who didn’t agree with everything OPP told them and thus fell out of favor with the “leadership”, had important projects blocked from them and were branded as traitors.

    Liam and Xin make some good points. The special election was a sham, with so few votes that a recall petition could probably gather more signatures. Because of that election, we have a one-trick pony executive, a pseudo-independent, honorary OPP member by virtue of the person pulling the puppet strings on him. It’s impossible NOT to see that. And the lack of DP voices on Senate is a problem too; even an OPP Senator who agrees with DP still doesn’t really make them feel like they are included. It’s just an issue of representation.

    I’ve known a handful of Senators with OPP who did their job, and did it well. But because they didn’t let OPP pull the strings with them, they either gave up on furthering their AS involvement or gave up fighting OPP. The ones who originally did their jobs well and moved up became cold and robotic politicians who did what OPP told them so that they could have a chance at that upward mobility. I mean, does anyone remember the incident where three of the four OPP execs posed in front of the Israeli flag?

    To be fair, DP also has its fair share of issues: they have a tendency to block vote on principle, ie divestment from the Israel-Palestine conflict, while OPP does differ in its perspectives. (This is also questionable, since it’s clear that they use Jewish networks to their advantage to win.) But that’s not the point. They don’t have the institutional power that makes those problems apparent. OPP’s power puts it in a position of microscopic proportions.

    It doesn’t look like DP is even running this year. It’s understandable, but a shame. I hope more independents run. They may not be career politicians, but I think that gives them an edge in that they are willing to compromise, listen, and give their genuine opinion. The party system, fueled by OPP’s supermajority, creates an atmosphere where no one can be honest. It’s a shame.

  3. “one trick pony executive”?? Because I bet you know Cameron so well! Why don’t you go back to making good points and not smearing someone who stepped up when no one else would (he was unopposed, forget that?). I was ok with your comments until I saw that your simply attacking people to serve your own ends. If you want to campaign against party politics and unethical strategies why don’t you practice what you preach. You don’t know anything about him or the amount of shit he has to go through to try and make IV a better place. That’s my “genuine opinion” of what your saying. Baseless, meritless and shameful words on a person who is incredibly open, nice and wants only the best for his community.

  4. Hey, “Jack”, I made no comments to suggest that Cameron Schunk is the executive in question, though I guess it doesn’t matter if the shoe fits. Might I remind you that Cameron was unopposed on a technicality? I’d hardly calling that as “stepping up when no one else would”, especially when his predecessor got pushed out. In fact, I’d call that opportunistic. But that isn’t the point.

    Someone can be open and nice and still be ineffective, they’re not mutually exclusive traits. As a member of AS, I’ve talked to the executives before. They’re all fairly nice people, but a nice executive can still be one who doesn’t get the job done or understand the necessities of the job. The fact that you seem to just blindly worship him (or anyone, for that matter) is cause for alarm. This is the same kind of stuff that lots of OPP members do, just blindly worshiping those who seem to know what they’re doing; perhaps you’re a member, and/or feel the same way about other certain OPPers who are prominent in the self-governance movement?

    Also, you don’t seem to know how to read: I’m not partial to any party and am not campaigning against party politics, just making a statement and stating my opinion. I have no ends, just saying what I have observed in my time here. The greater point is not to take a shit on any executive, but to point out how far reaching and problematic OPP’s control is.

    Like I said, if the shoe fits… But it’s great that someone is willing to defend the work of someone they believe in. I’m sure that you’re not involved with the work that people are doing (and that this article is criticizing), and that you don’t have anything to gain from singing the praises of AS/OPP. I hope that’s the case. It’d be a shame if you were simply doing what I mentioned above, doing what OPP/anyone else tells you for a chance at upward mobility. If that were the case, I’d have to say that my observations are still empirically sound. I hope that my comments don’t threaten your chances at become a future AS President.

  5. This is not journalism, this is simply people smearing dirt on each other and TBL creating controversy instead of actually reporting on facts. FACTS, WE WANT FACTS not silly quotes and empty, unsupported opinions of under-qualified reporters.

  6. People are getting mad that people are wising up to OPP manipulation (as someone who used to be in the party) and spilling some facts. The fact that people come to senate under the influence is true and sad as fuck. They don’t care. As for dissent in the party, look at the way new party members vote vs the way old party members vote. The seniors are way more likely to vote the way they feel even if it goes against the party feeling because they have nothing to lose.

  7. Can we get some real journalists in here? What the F**K is this? These “Investigative articles” are garbage and no-one should even take this seriously. Here TL:DR.

    OH WOW THERE ARE MANY OPP SENATORS <— Who got elected in democratic process by the MAJORITY OF STUDENTS.

    SOMEONE IS UNDERREPRESENTED <— Yeah, the majority of Americans in our precious corporate-elected government, dumbass.


    AH NO, SOME PEOPLE DON'T DO THEIR JOBS WELL <— Welcome to the real world, children. No controversy here.

    HEY THAT LRC SOBERING THING MAY BE ON THE BALLOT AGAIN <— HOLY SH*T, a measure went through the bureaucracy and got 58% of the vote, may be up for re-election? Where is the story here???

    If the Bottom Line is up for reaffirmation, I would highly encourage everyone to VOTE NO because pseudo-journalistic, click-bait controversy on the front page cover is the last thing we need.

  8. It’s funny how people are saying that this is not investigative journalism and this article is talking dirty about people in AS. However, these commentors are doing the same thing by insulting the staff at TBL, who they themselves have no knowledge about. Since when did article that people don’t agree with become “garbage”? News flash, the world doesn’t revolve around you and what you think/feel isn’t always right. How does the saying go? “To be different and to be wrong are one in the same.” I believe some of the anons are committing the ad hominem fallacy, which attacks the writers rather than the content. It’s a sign of weakness and immaturity. By the way, cussing and swearing only shows how wide your range of vocabulary is.