Students run impassioned ASOC campaigns, despite low student voter turnout

Deandre Ortiz (junior) in the Mary Norton Clapp Library at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Feb. 25, 2023. Grace Meadows/The Occidental

The election for Associated Students of Occidental College’s (ASOC) acting judicial branch closed with 465 total votes Feb. 13. According to an email from ASOC Elections Chair Tzu Kit Chan (senior), seven students ran for four Honor Board Juror positions. Aliza Ellenby (first year), Claire Kosek (first year), Deandre Ortiz (junior) and Kalkidane Yeshak (sophomore) won seats on the Honor Board.

Despite campaigning efforts and emails to the student body regarding the election, Chan and many of the Honor Board jurors said they noticed a lack of interest among students regarding ASOC’s judicial branch. Chan said interest in ASOC and its elections may only be expected from students who are committed to involvement and leadership processes at Occidental, such as starting and funding organizations.

“I think most students who would know about how ASOC works are students who have skin in the game,” Chan said. “So for example, outside of being an election chair, I’m a club leader for new clubs. I try to start new clubs — often enough, I need to ask for funds, I need to get money to do stuff. And that involves me understanding how ASOC works. I have to read through the funding guidelines, I have to see what qualifies and what doesn’t.”

Ortiz said the lack of enthusiasm toward Honor Board may come from students’ busy lives and preoccupations.

“I’m 22, a lot of my friends [are] 21, 23, 20 years old. You go to college, you’re not really thinking about student government. We live in LA, there’s a lot of stuff going on,” Ortiz said. “The fact is we still need student government, but there’s a lot of other stuff going on that people don’t realize that might be intertwined with student government, but [isn’t] necessarily directly involved.”

Ellenby said elections help students find and support representatives who will best advocate for them and solve conflicts that arise.

A poster of ASOC candidate, Aliza Ellenby (first year), outside of Choi Auditorium at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Feb. 26, 2023. Grace Meadows/The Occidental

“I do think that students should care more about these elections because these are student representatives that are serving them and acting as an advocate for the student body,” Ellenby said. “Occidental is not a perfect school, and there’s issues and there’s things that need to be resolved. There’s pressing matters that are important to the student body or certain populations of students.”

According to Ellenby, voting in ASOC elections is beneficial and educational, as it mimics the practice of voting in federal or state elections. It is necessary to be directly involved in the democratic process of electing someone to represent you, Ellenby said.

“I think student government is an allusion for our real government — if you don’t care about the elections, and you don’t put the time in to figure out who’s the best candidate, then you may not be happy with your representative,” Ellenby said. “Knowing people’s philosophies and morals and mindsets is really just vital to understanding the election process and who’s best to fulfill the role.”

Kosek said she did not run for Honor Board Juror to make specific changes in administration but because of her admiration for the college, specifically for Occidental’s “culture of care.” According to Kosek, a deciding factor in attending Occidental was that she felt safe and comfortable, and she wants to help other students feel the same.

“I love the Occidental community,” Kosek said. “I feel like it’s just an amazing campus and the community is just so unique, like the culture of care that they preach about, it’s so accurate and so incredible. And just knowing that I can help to support and uplift that is kind of a beautiful thing. I’m really grateful that I have the opportunity to promote goodness.”

Ortiz said he deeply values being empathetic toward the unique and specific situations of students. As an Honor Board juror, Ortiz said he wants to take an attentive and patient approach in order to learn how to best support all of Occidental’s students.

“I think it’s really important that we sit back and we listen, we try to evaluate what the needs of students are before we engage. I want to get a better understanding of the community,” Ortiz said. “We all deserve to be here, but things happen; I think that we need to understand that things happen, as opposed to just jumping the fence and trying to put our foot down and make immediate changes.”

Ortiz said empathy from administrative roles can help students grow in different ways.

“I think we need to try to be able to relate to more of our students in order to make them feel comfortable and make this a place where we can promote not just academic growth, but personal growth,” Ortiz said.

Chan said the Honor Board juror role may have a particular attraction for students who want to get involved in the legal field. He said the work, such as reviewing guidelines and institutional practices, can be mundane — but is crucial. Ellenby said her motivation for running was to further her engagement in her intended major of philosophy and her interests in ethics and mental health services.

“I thought it would be a really interesting opportunity to combine my academic interests, as well as my leadership interests together. [My goals are] continuing to make sure that academic and mental health support services are being promoted by Honor Board and their services are actually serving all students to their fullest potential,” Ellenby said. “I’m really excited to continue to revise things to make sure it’s reflecting our current 2023 year at school.”

Yeshak said she is committed to making a positive influence on campus by promoting academic integrity and creating a more just and equitable environment at Occidental. Yeshak said her past experiences shaped her decision to run for Honor Board Juror.

“My upbringing exposed me to significant inequities present in our society, and one of the things I realized was how powerful laws and regulations are as tools to rectify injustices. I’ve always been passionate about justice and law, so I’m very excited to see what the future holds being a Honor Board member,” Yeshak said via email.

Chan said ASOC and its branches are important not only for those that run in its elections, but all Occidental students.

“I think it’s pretty helpful to know all branches of student government [and] what they do, because they are platforms and resources that you can use or take up space to do things. If you want to get involved, understanding how the school works is a great place [to do so],” Chan said. “You’re gonna drive a car — please understand how a car works.”

Contact Emma Cho at


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