Executive Alliance

Student Government President Kori Rady and Vice President Taylor Strickland are currently halfway through their terms.

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: With new Student Government President and Vice President Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu being sworn in Tuesday evening, we thought we would take one last look at the accomplishments and failures of the outgoing administration of Kori Rady and Taylor Strickland.

One year ago, the Executive Alliance team of Kori Rady and Taylor Strickland, after winning their election by a hair, came into office with big hopes toward the future. They unveiled an ambitious platform to help the average University student in a variety of ways. This included promises of a more inclusive Student Government, but it also included more specific planks. When it comes to these specific promises, the Rady/Strickland administration has a mixed record in living up to their word. 

For example, the Flawn Academic Center has now extended its hours to be a 24-hour space for students to study or use for other purposes. This comes on the heels of a broader promise by Rady/Strickland to extend hours in student buildings. Certainly, they — and the rest of Student Government — are to be commended for this achievement. However, it is important to note that momentum on this issue was also generated by external sources, such as a Firing Line in the Texan.  

The pair have also had success in expanding the Safe Ride program that prevents drunk driving by transporting students from downtown bars to their homes in West Campus or Riverside.  

On other issues, progress will be slower as initiatives churn through the University administration. For instance, Rady and Strickland promised an extended Thanksgiving Break, which was endorsed last semester by the Faculty Council and will likely take effect in two years. 

But elsewhere, progress has been almost nonexisten. Namely, during the campaign, the ticket promised to “lobby for student IDs meeting voter requirements.” Literally, the administration has done this, as the Texan reported time and again last semester. However, these exercises in lobbying don’t seem to have been particularly successful. Anyone can try and fail at a task at hand, but the students expect leaders who can actually deliver results.  

Be it alcohol at football games, forgiveness for first-time parking offenders or more kosher and halal eating options for students on campus, there are a number of other issues that we can find almost no progress on since Rady/Strickland took office. 

Obviously, it would be the height of naivete to completely fault Rady/Strickland for not being able to wave a magic wand and completely enact their admittedly sometimes far-fetched agenda. However, if an idea was not realistic to begin with, candidates have no business wooing prospective voters with its fantastic siren songs. 

Furthermore, much of the platform arguably was stymied by a dysfunctional and sometimes broken Student Government Assembly. Petty internal dramas ate up a considerable amount of valuable legislative time this academic year, leaving far less time for deliberating and debating pertinent issues. Additionally, even when the Assembly resigned itself from superficial squabbles and actually did its job, it was often unwilling to prioritize the big-picture issues with which Executive Alliance candidates’ platforms are replete. Alternatively, the Assembly sometimes valued insignificant and sometimes downright extraneous issues, such as recently wading into foreign policy. 

Serving at the helm of this University’s Student Government is not an easy task. Indeed, both recurring constraints and new challenges beset leaders year after year. Rady and Strickland have faced particularly tough constraints and still managed to accomplish plenty, but they could have done more.

Hopefully, Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu, who will be sworn in as Student Government president and vice president, respectively, Tuesday evening, will be able to learn from their mistakes, but also double down on the countless positive steps that the old leaders were able to fortunately take during their year in office. 

Lunchables, brownies and election fraud: Maly will ask administration to investigate Rotnofsky-Mandalapu

In a hearing Wednesday night, the Election Supervisory Board penalized Executive Alliance candidates Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu for failing to disclose the purchase of roses, Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies and Lunchables on their campaign finance forms. Defeated presidential candidate David Maly said he now intends to ask Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly and the Student Government Judicial Court to investigate the possibility of election fraud.

Although Rotnofsky and Mandalapu will not be required to pay a fine, their campaign spending limit will be reduced by 10 percent, or $102, from their original $1,020 limit.

“The Election Supervisory Board has determined that the Rotnofsky-Mandalapu campaign did fail to disclose the cost of New Jersey pink roses, brownies, and lunchables given out to candidates at the candidate debate, and this failure to report shall result in a Class A violation and levy of a 10% fine,” the board’s resolution read.

Maly, who filed the complaint, said he inquired about Rotnofsky and Mandalapu’s financial disclosures after the SG debate last week. During the debate, Rotnofsky and Mandalapu served snacks to the debate moderators and to the other candidates, including Maly, and also gifted each with a “New Jersey pink rose.”

Maly said he was not satisfied with the ESB’s handling of the complaint. He alleges that Rotnofsky and Mandalapu originally disclosed the cost of the Lunchables, but not the roses or the Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies. Although the cost of the Lunchables was deleted from the disclosure documents after what a board member described as an "administrative error," Maly said he believes Rotnofsky and Mandalapu clearly understood that all three items, which add up to less than $30, should have been disclosed. Further, Maly said, he believes the Lunchables' removal from the document was "no accident."

Maly said at the hearing, Rotnofsky and Mandalapu repeatedly claimed they didn't realize any of the purchases should be disclosed, and therefore did not disclose them, though records show they did originally include the Lunchables.

“I think it’s clear that there’s fraud going on,” Maly said.

Rotnofsky said he did not realize the under-$30 purchase would count as a campaign cost because he gave the brownies and flowers to the other candidates to be nice.

“It was as a gesture of goodwill to the other candidates and moderators because it was going to be a long debate,” Rotnofsky said. “It was not to advance our campaign or our campaign prospects.”

According to their campaign finance documents, Rotnofsky and Mandalapu have spent a total of $53.88 on their campaign  for two domain names and six bags of Hershey’s Kisses. Mandalapu said adding the New Jersey pink roses, Lunchables and brownies to their expenses would still put them at under one-fifteenth of the total allotted spending amount. 

Maly is simultaneously pursuing a complaint against Braydon Jones and Kimia Dargahi, the other candidates in the runoff election. To read more about his second allegation of wrongdoing, click here.

For a full recap of platform points, candidate descriptions and Texan coverage of the Rotnofsky-Mandalapu campaign, click here.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional information since its original publication. The headline has been changed.

Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

Executive Alliance running mates Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu are the first Texas Travesty candidates to participate in a runoff election —  but they are not the first humor campaign to pull a significant percentage of the votes.

In 1982, a satirical campaign won the Student Government election with 3,013 votes — attracting more votes than the second and third place candidates combined. The punchline: The winning candidate, Hank the Hallucination, was a fictional character in The Daily Texan cartoon “Eyebeam” by Sam Hurt. 

Hank “announced” his presidential candidacy through an Oct. 19, 1982, cartoon strip in The Daily Texan and he quickly gained a following. In the first week of campaigning, over a thousand students signed a referendum so that Hank’s write-in votes would be counted and announced with the rest of the candidates’ results.

Steve Patterson, UT’s current men’s athletic director, was Hank’s campaign manager and referred to him as a “dream candidate.” 

“He’s the perfect candidate for the illusion of student government,” Patterson said in an Oct. 27, 1982, article in The Daily Texan. “He’s vague on the issues. You can see right through his bullshit – and practically everything else.”

As election season went on, the University Election Commission said Hank could not officially run for the Students’ Association, UT’s newly reinstated student government organization, because he was not a human candidate. Regardless, Hank continued to campaign on the pages of The Daily Texan’s comics section. Students also held a “Hank for President” rally, dubbed “Hankstock.”

On election day, Hank beat out the other candidates in a race with “an unusually high voter turnout,” according to a Nov. 11, 1982, article from the Texan. Because Hank was fictional, the next highest-polling candidates, Paul Begala and Pat Duval, went into a runoff election.

“We are very pleased with Hank’s victory,” Hank campaign worker David Weber said in the Nov. 11 article. “He’s gratified, and wants to make all University students extremely happy, assuming he won’t have to take up arms to gain his rightful office.”

Begala, the winner of the runoff election, would eventually experience political success as one of the central campaign advisers for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. Today, Begala is a political commentator for CNN.

“I’m not one to make a broad philosophical statement on a joke, and that’s how [Hank’s victory] ought to be taken — as a joke,” Begala said in the article. 

Joke campaigns have evolved since then – since 2009, most election seasons have featured a ticket backed by staffers from UT’s satirical publication Texas Travesty. Aaron Walther and Lara Grant, the Travesty’s 2010 candidates, posed as Soviet dictators with the aim of striking fear into the hearts of students. In 2011, David McQuary and Hannah Oley ran as two time travelers who were coming back from the future to save humanity. The two urged students not to vote for the front-running candidate, who they said would cause Austin to turn into a nuclear wasteland.   

Until Rotnofsky and Mandalapu’s campaign this year, no Travesty candidates had ever earned higher than 12 percent. Rotnofsky and Mandalapu became the highest-polling Travesty candidates in history when they garnered 26.9 percent of the votes in Thursday’s Executive Alliance election. Braydon Jones and Kimia Dargahi, the executive alliance team that placed highest, received 46.34 percent of the votes.

Voting for the Executive Alliance runoff will take place Wednesday through Thursday, and results will be announced at 6:30 p.m. on the Main Mall in front of the UT Tower. 

Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu compete in the executive alliance debate against candidates David Maly, Steven Svatek, Braydon Jones and Kimia Dargahi in the Union Ballroom on Monday night.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

Welcome to The Daily Texan's election night live blog. Throughout the night, we will provide updates on the campus-wide Student Government elections. To learn more about the candidates, check out Student Elections Explorer.

10:00 p.m. – The results are in:

7:30 p.m. – Because no one ticket captured more than 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff election for Executive Alliance between Rotnofsky-Mandalapu and Jones-Dargahi. Jones-Dargahi received 46.34 percent of the vote and Rotnofsky-Mandalapu received 26.9 percent. The other two executive alliances on the ballot, Maly-Svatek and Morrison-Normyle, received a total of 26.76 percent. 

Jones-Dargahi and Rotnofsky-Mandalapu will campaign for six more days before the runoff election March 11-12. Each team will be allowed to spend an additional $150 on campaigning.

"We're not as nervous anymore," Rotnofsky said. "Surprised for sure. This has been the most successful. I’m pretty sure this has been the most successful [Texas Travesty] campaign. Travesty alumns have reached out to us and said they loved the campaign. That’s been the best reward."

Jones said he is optimistic about his team's odds for the runoff election.

"Our numbers looked great the first time," Jones said. "We're going to do exactly what we've been doing."

Election Supervisory Board Chair Nick Molina said it was difficult to predict the results of the Executive Alliance race. 

"I wouldn’t necessarily say its a surprise," Molina said. "[Both teams have] been campaigning so well."

7:07 p.m. – Liberal Arts representatives are Jenny McGinty, Tanner Long, Connor Madden, and Sammy Minkowitz. Claire Smith wins the race for The Daily Texan editor-in-chief. Engineering representatives are Gregory Ross, Edward Banner and Joshua Richardson. 

7:01 p.m – Election Supervisory Board Chair Nick Molina said 9,801 people voted in the campus-wide elections this year, an increase of 14 percent from last year.

"I want to thank all 74 of the candidates who ran in the campus-wide elections this year," Molina said. 

First results are announced, University Co-Op Board of Directors seats go to Cameron Kerl and Dana Le. Graduate Student Assembly winners are Brian Wilkey and Vance Roper. 

6:55 p.m. – With five minutes until elections results are announced, Jones said if he wins, he will talk to the other Executive Alliance teams to discuss their platforms. Rotnofsky said if his team wins, he will demand a recount. Maly said he and Svatek will work to accomplish every goal on their platform.  

6:41 p.m. – The three Executive Alliance teams – Braydon Jones and Kimia Dargahi, David Maly and Stephen Svatek, and Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu – enter the assembly room. Election Supervisory Board Chair Nick Molina said results could be announced any time between now and 7 p.m.

6:28 p.m. – The Election Supervisory Board arrives and directed bystanders to take seats at the front of the room. Supporters of Braydon Jones and Kimia Dargahi are chanting fellow Executive Alliance team David Maly and Stephen Svatek's slogan, "SG for all." 

Kevin Helgren, a candidate for University-wide representative, said he's more nervous than excited to hear the election results.

"I'm a little bit excited, but more nervous ... it's after 5, so we did what we could," Helgren said.

6:20 p.m. – With 10 minutes until election results are released, students and candidates are waiting outside the Legislative Assembly Room in the Student Activity Center. Doors are set to open at 6:30 p.m.

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: The executive alliance candidates were judged based on their interviews which were conducted by the Texan Editorial Board as well as their performances at the SG Executive Alliance debate held Monday night. Voting takes place Wednesday and Thursday at utexasvote.org.

 

Student government at this University is broken. Representatives are not especially in tune with their constituents’ needs and the entire operation has — at times — broken down into a petty, cliquish drama. To many students, the whole organization has delved into something of a joke. Sadly, the humor hasn’t ended with some of the candidates running for executive alliance (president and vice president, respectively).

The ticket of Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu, Texas Travesty editors both, a publication of satire and general lampoonery on campus, has made some good points (their unwavering support of domestic partnerships for the same-sex partners of University staff is a particular bright spot), but we simply cannot take them seriously unless they take themselves more seriously. 

Next, the ticket of David Maly and Stephen Svatek, respectively, has left us underwhelmed. Their platform is basically nonexistent apart from trite talking points, a point that was driven home to us by Maly’s vague answers in his interview with this board.

This leaves us with the ticket of Braydon Jones and Kimia Dargahi, respectively. We lend our support to Jones and Dargahi not because we were blown away by them but because we have been convinced that they would do the best job once in office.

Jones and Dargahi certainly would not need on-the-job training. Between Jones’ experience as both the speaker of the SG Assembly and chief of staff to former Student Government President Horacio Villarreal and Dargahi’s experience in the other echelons of student organizations, they have an unmatched resume that shows they know how to get things done. We also believe they sincerely have a strong desire to both preserve the good in this University while correcting the bad.

However, a number of similarities between Jones and Dargahi and previous administrations concern us. Simply put, we do not see many meaningful divergences in which Jones and Dargahi could succeed where Rady and Strickland have not. Not to mention the fact that they seemed hesitant to give a firm stance on campus carry. Finally, the platform of Jones and Dargahi, “Let’s talk Texas,” relies too heavily on outside input and too little on their own policy approaches and leadership skills.

In his interview with this editorial board, Jones repeatedly noted how important it was to have a vociferous and effective voice for the student body given this period of tumultuous change for the University. Indeed, with a new University president coming on the heels of a new chancellor, new regents, a new mayor and a new governor, the team at the helm of SG will have a lot on their plates. Compared to their competitors, Jones and Dargahi are the only team truly capable of the job.

Photo Credit: Daily Texan Staff

Thanks for watching our live stream of the SG debate. For more coverage,  Click here to view our interactive database of all campus-wide candidates and their platforms and follow us on Twitter for the latest news.

Tonight at 7:00 p.m., watch as Daily Texan editor-in-chief Riley Brands moderates a debate between the Executive Alliance and University-Wide Representative candidates for the 2015 Student Government elections. For live-tweets from the debate, follow news editor Julia Brouillette at @juliakbrou

Want to get caught up on each candidate? Click here to view our interactive database of all campus-wide candidates and their platforms.

Voting will take place on Wednesday and Thursday at utexasvote.org.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Grace Gilker

The Jefferson Davis statue on the South Mall was temporarily defaced by a blue-chalk “CHUMP,” with an arrow pointing up to Davis, scrawled on the statue’s base early Friday morning. It has since been removed. 

The statue has long been a source of controversy for the University because Davis was the president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.

SG Executive Alliance candidate Xavier Rotnofsky, a Plan II junior, said he and his running mate Plan II senior Rohit Mandalapu, made the removal of the Davis statue on the South Mall a major part of their platform. 

“I’m running for student body president with this satirical campaign, [but] we made it one of our platform points to remove the Jefferson Davis statue,” Rotnofsky said. “We said we want to take down the Jefferson Davis statue because it’s not okay that it’s still on campus.”

After University Democrats distributed a survey to all Student Government candidates asking about their stance on the statue’s presence, Executive Alliance candidates Braydon Jones, a government senior, and Kimia Dargahi, an international relations and global studies and Middle Eastern studies senior, said they also support the statue’s removal.

“Braydon and Kimia do not support the vandalism of university property, but we do understand that it represents a part of US history that is not inclusive and creates such a culture on the Forty Acres,” they said in a statement to The Daily Texan on Sunday. “As we have said, statues on campus represent a part of history, for better or for worse … Whether it is physical monuments or the intangible cultural climate present on the Forty Acres, we will continue to advocate for an inclusive campus.”

Executive Alliance candidate David Maly, an economics and journalism senior, said although he does not support graffiti in any situation, he also does not support the presence of Jefferson Davis on the South Mall.

“I think that it’s wrong for UT to celebrate the racist past of our nation,“ Maly said. “I don’t think graffiti is ever okay. But I think that displaying our nation’s racist past with a statue does put students in a difficult position. I don’t condone defaming public property ever, or support it.”

University Democrats communications director Ashley Alcantara, an international relations and global studies senior, said UDems included the question regarding the Davis statue to find out the Executive Alliance candidates’ opinions of the statue remaining on campus. 

“We were actually inspired by Rotnofsky and Mandalapu’s inclusion of the issue in their platform and wanted to know what all of the candidates’ positions were on the issue, as these statues are construed as offensive to many people,” Alcantara said.

Plan II freshman Grace Gilker said the graffiti pushed her to think critically about the statue’s presence.

“In terms of the word choices, it was so anachronistic — the people who graffitied it used chalk,” Gilker said. “They were smart protestors — not just hooligans with spray paint they were trying to make a statement.”

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Baylor Morrison and Matthew Normyle, who were running as a Student Government Executive Alliance team, said Sunday they are planning to withdraw from the election, though their names will still appear on the ballot.

Morrison, who was running for SG president, said he and Normyle, who was running for vice president, mutually decided to withdraw from the race because of the time commitment of campaigning. Morrison said he and Normyle learned valuable lessons from the time they spent in the campaign process.

“This whole election process has been a lot of fun and a crazy learning experience for Matthew and me,” Morrison said in a statement to The Daily Texan. “But in the course of the campaign, a lot of things fell to the way side, like schoolwork and other organizations we’re a part of. As great as it’s been, we’ve got to honor our existing commitments and admit we’ve stretched ourselves too thin … We wish all the candidates good luck with the rest of their campaigns and hope for a big turnout on Wednesday.”

Click here to view our interactive database of all campus-wide candidates and their platforms.

Election Supervisory Board Chair Nick Molina said the two have not yet sent an official letter of withdrawal from the race. If Morrison and Normyle send in a signed letter, they will then be officially out of the Executive Alliance race. Even if they formally withdraw, their names will still appear on the ballot, because Friday to have names removed, Molina said. 

“As of right now, they’re still in the race,” Molina said. 

If they hope to endorse another Executive Alliance, Morrison and Normyle cannot formally do so until they officially send their withdrawal to the Election Supervisory Board. 

Morrison and Normyle’s platform centered around a “Happy Campus Initiative,” which pushed for therapy puppies, more eco-friendly water bottle fillers and more live music on campus. Their platform also included expanding Freshman Leadership Organization and Camp Texas, as well as implementing a service project after Round Up, an annual weekend of music and festivities hosted by the Greek community.

Morrison and Normyle’s Facebook page, Baylor Matthew 2015, had 404 likes at the time of publication. In an online poll hosted by the Daily Texan Opinion section, Morrison and Normyle totaled 3 percent of the roughly 5,000 votes. 

Kimia Dargahi, who is running for vice president, said she is not sure how the withdrawal will affect the race. 

“I can’t predict how it’s going to affect the race,” Dargahi said. “I honestly did not know how they were doing and how they were campaigning. Social media, and even The Daily Texan poll, can be misleading at times.”

David Maly, who is running for president, said he is also unsure how the withdrawal will affect the race. 

“I thought they were good guys,” Maly said. “I don’t know how much support they had; I don’t know how it’s going to play out.”

For Executive Alliance candidates Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu the withdrawal came out of left field. 

“It was a surprise, because we, Rohit and I, would cross paths with them at different speaking events, and they seemed very into the race,” Rotnofsky said. “It did come out of nowhere.”  

The three remaining executive alliances — Braydon Jones and Dargahi, Maly and Stephen Svatek, and Rotnofsky and Mandalapu — will participate in a debate The Daily Texan will host Monday at 7 p.m. in the Union Ballroom.

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

In a questionnaire submitted to University Democrats, Executive Alliance candidates Braydon Jones, government senior, and Kimia Dargahi, international relations and global studies senior, wrote a statement about LGBT rights that may have cost them an endorsement, according to UDems officers.

As part of a survey distributed to all student government candidates, Jones, who is running for SG president, and Dargahi, who is running for vice president, said that they had certain concerns about providing domestic partner benefits to University employees.

“Although we fully support the LGBTQ community and encourage their partnerships, our biggest fear of providing domestic partner benefits is that some partners may take advantage and exploit that system,” the statement read. “There needs to be a standardized way to ensure which domestic partners are closer to reaching the parameters of a civil union.”

UDems communications director Ashley Alcantara, international relations and global studies senior, said she felt Jones and Dargahi expressed undue suspicion about domestic partners in a way that was offensive. 

Jones said he and Dargahi submitted a correction to resubmit the specific statement after they noticed problems with their original statement.

“It was a mistake,” Jones said. “We’re not anti-LGBT … Kimia and I are anything but.”

Dargahi said their answer makes it seem they don’t want to give LGBT partners benefits, but she said that is not the case.

“The question in particular was worded in a way that we could only answer about LGBTQ partners, and so we answered it in that way,” Dargahi said. “But the fact of the matter is, whether you are LBGTQ or whether you are straight, you still have the possibility of doing something wrong, of tampering with that system. And that goes for anything — it could be marriage benefits; it could be welfare.”

SG representatives have consistently advocated for LBGT partner benefits for University employees in the past, especially at Invest in Texas, an annual nonpartisan advocacy campaign at the Capitol.   

Wednesday, University Democrats endorsed Plan II junior Xavier Rotnofsky and senior Rohit Mandalapu, a campaign that Rotnofsky and Mandalapu said began as a joke. Alcantara said Rotnofsky and Mandalapu’s responses aligned with the group’s ideals on every point, while the other Executive Alliance candidates had some responses that were not as well-received. 

“There were several questions for each of [the candidates] that we kind of cringed,” Alcantara said.

In the questionnaire response, Jones and Dargahi also commented on gender neutral bathrooms on campus.

“If the University budget and space allows for this, we are comfortable with gender neutral or unisex bathrooms on campus,” the questionnaire said. “Most of our housing on campus is gender neutral to begin with, so, when there is a larger university desire for increased housing, we will definitely support it to be gender neutral and accessible.”

Jones said he oversaw the Queer Students Alliance agency for Student Government for the 2013–2014 term. Both he and Dargahi said they are allies to the LGBT community, with values in line with UDems’ criteria.

“This is a huge slap in my face, and I want people to know that,” Jones said. 

Poll: Who will be getting your vote for Executive Alliance?

 

Campaigning for the campus-wide elections is fully under way now, but things have been a little quiet on the campaign trail for Executive Alliance, or Student Government president and vice president.

So with a little under a week to go until voting begins, we're curious to know who will be getting your vote. 

If you already know, please take our poll above. But if you're still unclear on what the teams stand for, check out our news coverage as well as the candidate database we've set up for all the positions. To see the candidates in person, please come to our debate on Monday at 7 p.m. in Jester A121A. Participating will be the teams for president and vice president as well as the University-wide candidates. The Texan will begin issuing endorsements early next week. 

Voting takes place from March 4 to March 5 and is open to UT students only. To vote, visit utexasvote.org.