UT Student Government campaigns aim for victory via student organization connections

AddThis

Photo Credit: Jack Mitts | Daily Texan Staff

With Student Government elections yielding low turnout in recent years — 14.9 percent of the student body voted in 2013 — campaigns often vie for endorsements from voting blocks to maximize their reach. An in-depth look at the organizational connections of the students registered to each executive alliance campaign this year help shows an identical path candidates are taking towards what they hope will be victory.

“Any organized student group — particularly a network of organized student groups — could be considered a ‘block,’” said Jordan Metoyer, an economics and urban studies senior who has worked on multiple SG campaigns and served as chief of staff in the 2012-2013 administration. “It is impossible to sit down for five minutes with all 50,000-plus students during the designated campaign period. To that end, it would be wise for candidates to tap into networks or individuals with large networks on campus.”

This is the first year that candidates have had to file a list of workers and agents that are affiliated with their campaigns. The Daily Texan contacted and researched 145 students who are noted as campaign agents or workers for the executive alliance teams: Kori Rady-Taylor Strickland and Kenton Wilson-Caroline Carter. There are almost 300 links between the two executive alliances and the various student organizations on campus, many of which overlap across campaigns. About 50 percent of the Rady-Stricklands responded to the Texan compared to about 37 percent of the Wilson-Carter team. The profiles for workers and agents who did not respond are filled out with publicly available information. In all, 37 of the 145 students are not accounted for.

Story continues after the interactive graphic.


Logos courtesy of campaign teams. Photos by Pu Ying Huang. Interactive by Bobby Blanchard and graphic by Jack Mitts. 

Workers and agents tend to be well connected to organizations that the candidates are aggressively pursuing, including multicultural and ethnic groups, spirit groups, SG and Greek organizations. Both campaign teams have more than 60 students listed as workers or agents — an increase from last year, when current SG president Horacio Villarreal said he had about 20 students helping him. Both Rady and Wilson also said they are expecting to be adding even more names to their campaign teams in the future. 

Twenty-two percent of the Rady-Strickland campaign team consists of members of a multicultural or ethnic group on campus, compared with 9 percent of the students in the Wilson-Carter campaign team — a pair that is running with ‘diversity training’ as one of its platform points.

“Our team is definitely pretty diverse,” Rady said. “We have spent a majority of our time making sure we go after students who have never voted in SG elections before. That’s the key.”

Rady-Strickland’s reach into multicultural and ethnic groups is wide, with multiple members in African-American and black student organizations, but, in other multicultural or ethnic groups, the Rady-Strickland campaign has just a single worker or agent. Wilson-Carter’s campaign, meanwhile, overwhelms Rady-Strickland’s campaign in connections to Texans For Israel and other Jewish groups on campus. Like Rady, Wilson said he is trying to reach as many groups on campus as possible. 

“Our agents and workers come from a variety of on campus organizations and different areas on campus, and that really reflects how we want to get more students involved,” Wilson said. “I’ve been able to see how a lot of the same problems effect different aspects of campus, and we’re reaching out trying to build coalitions to solve those problems.”

Both executive alliance campaign teams are more than 20 percent Greek and have another 15 percent of their team connected back to various spirit groups, though there is some overlap between the two groups. Rady and Wilson are both members of the Tejas Club, a group that calls itself an “independent fraternity.” Rady is also in Silver Spurs, while Wilson is in Texas Cowboys, both of which are spirit groups.

One of the major changes this year is a decision by the Interfraternity Council not to endorse a campaign team in 2014. The council is a community that represents 23 fraternity chapters, which accounts for more than 2,300 students. In the past few years, Interfraternity Council-backed president and vice-president teams have been much more likely to win. In the absence of the Interfraternity Council’s endorsement, connections and testimonials from other student organizations may mean more this year than before, and new heavyweight voter blocks have become potentially more influential. The council hosted a meeting Wednesday night inviting all candidates to come speak, and the council members sent out an email detailing candidates’ platforms.

In interviews, both Rady and Wilson said they felt the endorsements they would seek would help their campaigns but not make or break them.

“In the past, the IFC email was pretty important and carried a lot of weight,” Wilson said. “But I think it’s great what the IFC president and his team are doing — where they’re not going to send out a blanket email and they’re actually inviting all of us to go speak at the IFC meeting. We’ve all been given the chance to advocate for our position.”

While both teams will seek endorsements and support, Metoyer warned against assuming too much from just voter block information.

“None of this speculation can be conflated with hard science,” Metoyer said. “These assumptions are made year after year. It helps to have the support of influential campus organizations, but it is not a guarantee of success. When campaigns have attempted to ‘calculate’ the vote in the past, they found themselves unsuccessful.”