John Lawler

Near the end of the lengthy ballot that Austin voters will face on Election Day next Tuesday are two competing propositions that could shape the way students are represented in Austin City Council.

Proponents of Propositions 3 and 4 each agree that the current at-large system, in which all seven city council members represent all of Austin rather than specific districts, needs to go. Where they differ, however, is in their plans to replace the at-large structure.

Proposition 3, also known as the 10-1 plan, would create ten geographical single-member districts, with a mayor elected city-wide. The proposition was placed on the ballot after 33,000 signatures were collected endorsing it. The districts would be drawn by a 14-member independent commission with no power of approval from the council.

Proposition 4, or the 8-2-1 plan, would create eight single-member districts, with two council members and one mayor elected city-wide. The Austin City Council voted to place Proposition 4, which would draw district boundaries by city ordinance, on the ballot.

Austin is the largest U.S. city with council members that all represent the entire city, and the last time Austin considered revising the city charter to include single-member districts was in 2002, when the measure failed.

John Lawler, urban studies senior and advocate of the 10-1 plan, said during the past 40 years, city council representatives have disproportionately resided in a small area of the city. Roughly 50 percent of council members and mayors during that time period lived in four of Austin’s zip codes, according to PolitiFact Texas.

“Whenever you talk about politics and the power of the people, that’s one of the things you don’t want: power, wealth and status all concentrated in one area,” Lawler said.

The 10-1 plan’s independent commission would require representation from a large, qualified pool of applicants that is diverse by race, gender, ethnicity and geography. One position on the commission would be open for a student.

If the commission creates a small enough district encompassing student neighborhoods, it could open the doorway for a student to run for City Council, Lawler said.

Fred McGhee, a local political activist and an advocate of the 8-2-1 plan, said the plan offers a hybrid between the current system and an exclusively single-member district plan.

“The solution to the problem is not necessarily a complete 180 reaction,” McGhee said. “Our plan is a balance. We have the best of both worlds.”

McGhee also said there is no guarantee the student voice on the redistricting commission as proposed by Proposition 3 would come from UT or even be a traditional full-time undergraduate.

“There’s this casual assumption that when you hear that word ‘student,’ you’re referring to number one, a UT student, and number two, an undergraduate at UT,” McGhee said.

Last year UT Student Government endorsed the 10-1 plan, now known as Proposition 3. Jenna Milani, SG’s city relations director, said the 10-1 plan will ensure students have a voice on City Council.

“The way the districts will be determined will allow for UT to have its own representation,” Milani said. “UT comprises such a massive amount of the Austin population that it is only fair that we get a spot at the City Council table.”

If both Proposition 3 and 4 receive more than 50 percent approval, the proposition with the most votes will win.

Friday is the last day to vote early. Election Day is next Tuesday.

Printed on Thursday, November 1, 2012 as: Competitive propositions debate over representation 

Representative for University Area Partners Brian Donovan leads a discussion about the placement of parking meters at the West Campus parking event on Thursday night. The proposal was put forth because members of the community saw parking in West Campus as a problem.

Photo Credit: Sa Wang | Daily Texan Staff

West Campus residents, business representatives and community leaders are still considering a plan that could put a price on parking in the area as early as next year.

A proposal to introduce a Parking Benefit District was put forth after members of the community raised concerns about parking in West Campus, said Mike McHone, vice president of University Area Partners, a group made up of organizational stakeholders in the West Campus area. If the proposal is approved by City Council, approximately 400 parking meters would be added to the area between Guadalupe St. and Rio Grande St.

Residents and business owners attended a meeting Thursday night to express their approval and concern over the proposal to add the meters. UAP members plan to revise their proposal based on input gathered during the meeting and will present the updated proposal to other residents of the West Campus neighborhood. The proposal will then be submitted to the City’s Transportation Department, where it’s scheduled for review by the Urban Transportation Commission. City council members will receive the proposal following its review by commission members and will vote next fall on whether or not it will go into affect.

McHone said the primary goal of the meeting was to answer any questions and let people know the long and exhaustive process that has gone into this plan.

“This plan has been the result of a two year effort on UAP’s part,” McHone said. “We have been trying to work with students since this came up.”

McHone said the meters would help ensure there is not an out of control parking situation in West Campus.

“If the meters are put in there, the parking situation will be better and traffic control will be enforced,” McHone said. “If people have to pay for parking they will realize the cost of car equity.”

Urban studies senior John Lawler is a member of the Central Austin Neighborhood Planning Advisory Committee, which represents neighborhoods where many UT students live. Lawler said he is not in support of the meters, and he said the city is placing this burden on students because they are trying to find alternative sources of funding. Lawler has opposed the idea of parking meters in West Campus since the proposal to implement them was approved by City Council members in October.

“If they do end up succeeding we need to make it clear that parking meters will not cut it,” Lawler said. “I can’t see parking meters as a solution for the situation.”

The proposal states 51 percent of the parking meter revenue will be allocated for neighborhood improvement projects. However, Lawler said the program would provide minimal financial benefits.

“One of the ideas that was thrown around instead was to create a special taxing zone to try and get it reinvested in the area,” Lawler said. “What we really need to do though is really advocate in the next bond election for the funds directly.”

Brian Donovan, representative for UAP at the event, said he is in favor of adding the parking meters because he said it will create a higher turnover of parking in the area.

“You can’t park with the way it works now,” Donovan said. “Right now there are about 900 parking spots, and if you find one you are probably less likely to leave.”

Printed on Friday, April 13, 2012 as: Possible parking meters to be added to West Campus area

Winning candidate Thor Lund talks on the phone Thursday night after the Student Government results were announced to more than 80 supporters. Lund and his running mate Wills Brown captured the presidency with 2,571 votes over John Lawler’s 2,112.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

Weeks of campaigning, candidate disqualifications and judicial review culminated in a Thursday gathering of more than 80 supporters for Student Government presidential candidates John Lawler and Thor Lund.

Lund and running mate Wills Brown captured the presidency with 2,571 votes, defeating Lawler, who received 2,112. A total of 4,483 students voted.

The campaign period extended from Feb. 15 to March 29, about six weeks compared to the usual two. Voter turnout for the presidential and vice presidential race decreased about 41 percent compared to last year, when 7,883 students voted in the runoff election for current SG president Natalie Butler and former presidential candidate Abel Mulugheta.

In 2010, 8,654 students voted in the presidential runoff, with president-elect Scott Parks receiving 4,801 and opponent Minator Azemi receiving 3,853.

This year is the first time the Election Supervisory Board disqualified two presidential candidates since SG outlawed the ticket system in 2008, in which students could run together under a party or banner that year in order to give each candidate a fair chance at getting elected.

Lund has never been involved in SG and said he is facing a sharp learning curve. While he and Brown started alone at the beginning, Lund said the most challenging part of campaigning was wondering if elections were ever going to happen.

“A lot of people were wondering if we were ever going to have this day,” Lund said. “With each challenge we grow stronger. We’ve come out so much stronger and better after this. It has been a blessing in disguise.”

Lund said he ran a campaign focused on the students and wants to provide 24-hour access to the Perry-Castañeda Library, renovate Anna Hiss Gym and provide healthier late-night food options, among goals. Lund said he and Brown bring a new perspective to SG, and he invites everyone to get involved.

“Don’t be discouraged,” Lund said. “Anyone who wants to get involved, get involved. Me and Wills have no bias against anyone and we’re very excited.”

Lawler said he is surprised at the low voter turnout. He said during the election he did not anticipate Madison Gardner would sue UT, the prolonging of the elections or running with two great candidates like Lund and Brown. Lawler said he is grateful for the students who supported his campaign.

“What would I do differently, I would say not a thing,” Lawler said. “There have been several things that were out of our control, but at the end of the day, Terrence and I are very proud of the issues-based campaign we ran.”

Lawler said he would continue to be involved with SG as much as possible and fulfill his campaign promise to fight for students at UT and in West Campus. He said he would welcome any opportunity to work with Lund and Brown next year.

Former presidential candidate Madison Gardner was disqualified twice, once on Feb. 22 and again on March 21, for violating the SG Election Code. Former candidate Yaman Desai was disqualified on Feb. 20 for misrepresenting his campaign and committing fraud.

Gardner said Monday he expected voter turnout to be low this year because students had not been given the chance to elect their own SG president and vice president because of the disqualifications. With more than 100 campaign volunteers, Gardner had one of the largest campaign teams this year.

Election Supervisory Board chair Eric Nimmer said elections were different this year because there was a functioning Election Code and judicial body to make sure rules and procedure were being carried out.

“In prior years, if something happened the Election Code could not be drawn out,” Nimmer said. “We have a functioning means to [address] bad behavior.”

Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly said she will be working with Lund and Brown during the next few weeks to address changes to the Election Code. The code encountered scrutiny when Gardner filed a lawsuit against the University on Feb. 27, claiming the association provision in the code violated his constitutional rights.

“Every [SG] group is different,” Reagins-Lilly said. “There is a new group of students and they’re learning. They’ll have to rethink and clarify the [Election Code], and I have confidence in the student governing process.”

Printed on Friday, March 30, 2012 as: SG candidate Lund takes presidency

John Lawler, a Student Government presidential candidate, will run against candidate Thor Lund. Lawler has been involved in SG for three years and said SG must work on informing students about its role on campus. “A majority of students don’t know what SG does,” Lawler said. “That’s not the students fault, that’s the fault of SG.” If elected, Lawler said he plans to sell beer at football games to create funding for academic programs.

Photo Credit: Zen Ren | Daily Texan Staff

The Daily Texan: If elected, what will be the biggest challenge you will face?
John Lawler:
Day one. Getting organized and mobilized to begin pushing our platform here on campus and locally. We invite that challenge though. There is generally apathy toward SG and the initiatives it propels, but we have to show people we’re serious about our platform. It’s on us to face it.

DT: What do you feel is the most pressing issue facing UT next year?
Issues of state funding and funding to neighborhoods on campus. The Legislative session in the fall will be critical for students. [The question is] are we going to have the best advocacy possible to ensure an affordable student experience here on campus?

DT: What image do you think people have of SG and how do you plan to address it?
A majority of students don’t know exactly what SG does, and that’s not the students’ fault but the fault of SG. We have to be reaction-oriented, not focused on passing out thousands of shirts and flyers. We need students to see us at the Capitol. I wouldn’t say [the image] is negative, but rather indifferent, and I don’t blame [students].

DT: What role do you think SG plays in students’ life at UT?
A greater one and larger one than most students realize. The problem is SG doesn’t always do a good job of letting students know about the issues. My philosophy over the past three years has been: We’re all on a campus that is so large and has so many intelligent individuals and there is someone on this campus that can do this twice as fast and half as cheap, and it’s our job to find those people and pursue action.

DT: Do you think your goals are within the scope of what SG can do?
Absolutely. I think our goals are within the scope of what the student body can achieve. During the 1970s, students practically ran the scene and we changed the way the city of Austin is perceived. SG can’t accomplish nearly as much as the student body can.

DT: How would you describe yourself to someone who has never met you?
A progressive who just really wants to help.

DT: If elected, what is the biggest goal you would like to accomplish?
Several small but noticeable victories. Establish the student body in the city arena. Recognize the Texas Students Association and have a conference of the two to three dozen of the state’s public and private universities’ student government organizations. Students have the ability to lay down the foundation of student activism.


The Daily Texan Editorial Board endorses John Lawler and Terrence Maas for Student Government president and vice president. The Lawler/Maas campaign has made several pledges to the student body that include improving safety and promoting sustainability on campus. Though the campaign uses many vacuous buzzwords, such a “accountability” and “affordability,” Lawler’s track record shows he is capable of making progress in many of the areas he and Maas identify in their campaign.

This year, contention surrounded the proposed tuition increases, and though next year is not a tuition-setting year, it will prove no different. Lawler, who has served as a College of Liberal Arts representative for nearly three years, is knowledgeable of the tuition-setting process and understands that next year, students will need to lobby the Legislature to minimize higher education budget cuts. He recognizes that increased state support for higher education can ultimately alleviate any need for tuition increases in the future.

In addition, Lawler and Maas are committed to advocating student issues at the city level, such as city single-member districts and neighborhood alliances. Lawler served for two years on the West Campus Neighborhood Association, which reviews and provides feedback on proposed changes to the neighborhood before implementation. When the city proposed to add 400 parking meters to the West Campus area, Lawler brought students into the discussion and fought for the neighborhood to receive more of the revenue from the meters.

Though Maas, who has no experience in SG, can bring a fresh perspective to the organization, he has a lot to learn about how not only SG but the University operates. Maas has not yet been tasked with engaging the University, but as vice president, he would serve as the chair of the Student Services Budget Committee, a responsibility that requires extensive knowledge of organizations and students on campus. Despite his inexperience with SG, Maas serves on the Inter-Cooperative Council board of directors, where he is partly responsible for overseeing a multimillion dollar budget. This experience will serve him well on the SSBC.

Lawler touts the referendum he authored on tuition, while working as a representative in SG. While it is important to gather student input, we hope Lawler does not rely on referenda as the only means to engage with students. Instead, he and Maas must work to mobilize the student body to voice their opinions on the issues that matter to them. Lawler should realize that the bolder his demands are, the more student support he needs, and with less student support, he may have to make some compromises.

Nonetheless, we are confident that Lawler and Maas are qualified and able to lead the student body next year. Though we admire the sincerity of opponents Thor Lund and Wills Brown, we believe their shallow understanding of University and SG operations and their lack of understanding of the roles of SG president and vice president would be detrimental to their term in office.

While no candidates are perfect, Lawler and Maas would be best equipped to lead the University next year as it continues to face a variety of internal and external challenges.

Six weeks ago, the Student Government presidential and vice presidential races each had five candidates. After weeks of deliberation over the disqualification of candidates Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara, the SG Judicial Court gave the final word Monday, leaving only two candidates on the ballot.

After more than six hours of deliberation and testimony from multiple parties, the SG Judicial Court sustained the Election Supervisory Board’s second disqualification of Gardner and Guevara Monday. Gardner said the court’s decision was tough to hear but said he did not plan to appeal to the Office of the Dean of Students or a Travis County court.

The SG presidential elections will take place Wednesday and Thursday of this week. The candidates are urban studies senior John Lawler and mechanical engineering senior Thor Lund.

Gardner said his and Guevara’s options for reinstatement on the ballot are limited at this point. He said he thinks the Board is biased against them because they disqualified Guevara and him twice.

“If you look at it, this is very unprecedented,” Gardner said. “There’s never been a disqualification like this over a small thing. If it were any other year, we wouldn’t have gotten disqualified. If it was any other candidate, we wouldn’t have gotten disqualified.”

Gardner said while he currently serves as external financial director for SG President Natalie Butler, he did not approve the Election Code because he does not vote on legislation. The SG General Assembly approved the Election Code on Jan. 17 with the association provision that disqualified Gardner and Guevara the first time.

The Board first disqualified the pair on Feb. 22 for associating with a candidate from another race. Gardner subsequently filed a lawsuit against UT for violating his First Amendment rights to association, but dropped the lawsuit when UT suspended the association provision for review on March 19 and reinstated him and Guevara.

“It’s unfortunate it really only takes five people to control the board,” Gardner said. “It’s unfortunate students weren’t able to decide. That’s the reality — we didn’t have a chance to get voted on. If our offenses are so serious let students decide that, not nine people.”

The SG General Assembly must look into the Election Code with diligence so unjust disqualifications do not happen in the future, Gardner said.

The candidates appealed their second disqualification last week, claiming the Board violated procedure when administering the disqualification, thereby violating their Fifth and Sixth Amendment constitutional rights. The Fifth Amendment protects people from being tried for the same offence twice, while the Sixth Amendment gives the affected party a right to know charges filed against him in order to gather a counsel.

Lawler said although the elections have lasted longer than he originally thought, he sees them as a test for him and running mate Terrence Maas. He said he and Maas have spent their time speaking at different organizations while the Election Supervisory Board and SG Judicial Court deliberated Gardner’s disqualification.

"[The prolonging of the elections] has been a distractor to all the positive things that have been going on with our campaign," Lawler said. “We’re not concerned with what’s fair and unfair at the moment, we’re trying to bring specific issues to light.”

Lund said a lot of students have been confused as to what exactly is going on in the SG presidential elections. Lund and running mate Wills Brown recently launched a campaign video entitled “Sh*t nobody says about SG elections” in an attempt to show students they sympathize with their frustration.

Lund said he feels the elections have been fair to his campaign.

“Fair is an interesting word because a lot of things aren’t fair, but I don’t feel that we’ve been wronged,” Lund said. “It’s not the situation that defines you, but how you perceive the situation.”

Lawler has not had any complaints filed against him during the elections. Lund has had one complaint filed against him by Gardner/Guevara campaign manager Alex Jones for copyright infringement, but he did not acquire any fines.

Gardner said he was very confident he and Guevara had a good chance of winning the elections and does not know if he will support a candidate for Wednesday’s and Thursday’s elections between Lawler and Lund. He said he does not know if he will stay at UT for another year to finish his Spanish degree or graduate with the McCombs School of Business in May.

If he does stay, he has not decided whether he will be involved in SG again.

“I’m not going to completely check out because I’m not president,” Gardner said. “A lot of me thinks it’s still possible to have an impact and improve campus and be a leader.”

Printed on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 as: Judicial Court upholds Gardner disqualification 

Mayor Lee Leffingwill is endorsing John Lawler, a Student Government presidential candidate, in hopes of creating a stronger connection between student issues and city policies.

Photo Credit: Shannon Kintner | Daily Texan Staff

Mayor Lee Leffingwell endorsed Student Government presidential candidate John Lawler and running mate Terrence Maas last week in efforts to get the city to collaborate on issues affecting students this election year.

Lawler said he received the news about Leffingwell’s endorsement last Wednesday and is very excited to receive his support because he and Maas ran their campaign based on their experience in dealing with city issues that affect students. This is the first time Leffingwell has endorsed an SG president candidate since he took office in 2009.

“Oftentimes it is advantageous for the University and the city to collaborate, and with John [Lawler] at the helm, well have someone who knows the ropes of both entities,” Leffingwell said. “I look forward to working with John and his team very soon.”

Lawler said this year is a big year for students because the city will vote on whether to implement a single-member districts policy for City Council. If voters choose to implement such a policy, each of Austin’s major areas would have its own City Council member, possibly giving UT its own council member. Currently, the city elects its council members from the city as a whole for six at-large positions on Austin City Council.

Lawler interned for Leffingwell in 2009, and he said he has met with members of the mayor’s office and been to many City Council meetings throughout his tenure as a representative.

“We’re not only the candidates running for office that are talking the most about city issues, but we have the most experience and the most support going into this area,” Lawler said. “The moment we are allowed to step into office, we’ve got the relationships built to get our agenda done.”

The temporary restraining order issued by a Travis County Court judge on the Student Government presidential elections has been extended to March 27, leaving the newly elected general assembly leaderless until at least then.

Leo Barnes, UT associate vice president for legal affairs, said the court extended the restraining order on the Madison Gardner lawsuit and that UT is still considering all of its options regarding the case. Former SG presidential candidate Madison Gardner appealed to Judge Tim Sulak on Feb. 27 to issue a temporary restraining order on the SG president and vice president elections and review the basis of his and running mate Antonio Guevara’s disqualification.

Barnes said the extension does not necessarily mean the issue will go unresolved until then. In a March 2 interview with The Daily Texan, Barnes said UT did not want to appear to have favoritism for particular students in the case. He said UT is always willing to negotiate outside of court.

“We always want to be reasonable and open to talking to people about what options there may be,” Barnes said in the interview. “On this specific thing, we would always be willing to talk to people but don’t know if we would be able to reach an agreement or not.”

Gardner, a former SG presidential candidate, filed a lawsuit against UT and UT Student Government claiming the Election Code the Election Supervisory Board and the Judicial Court used to disqualify him and Guevara was unconstitutional because it violated their first amendment rights to association.  

The Election Supervisory Board disqualified Gardner and Guevara on Feb. 22 for associating their campaign with then Student Events Center presidential candidate Carissa Kelley, who appeared in their printed ad materials, videos and on their website. According to the Election Code, association between any candidates can result in disqualification.

Alden Harris, SG Judicial Court chief justice, said he thinks any settlement by UT that would put Gardner and Guevara back on the ballot is not in the interests of SG and the University.

“We think we made the right decision [to disqualify them],” Harris said. “We think it’s important to enforce the rules of the election. Putting them back on the ballot because they sued is letting them get around the rules.”

Harris said he believes the Election Code does not violate the U.S. Constitution and that he feels Gardner and Guevara do not have a strong case. He said he believes if the University settles the case it will likely be because of the time and money it would take to litigate it.

John Lawler and Thor Lund remain the only presidential candidates on the ballot at the moment and have both said they will continue campaigning until the issue is resolved. Lawler and Lund are allowed to spend an additional $150 for every week the election goes unresolved.

Gardner said he heard about the extension from his lawyer Jason Snell Monday morning and has had no communication with UT legal or the Election Supervisory Board for the past couple of days. He said the lack of development in the case has been tough for his campaign because he and Guevara do not know when to mobilize their supporters and what they are supposed to be preparing for.

Gardner said he does not plan on campaigning until he knows for certain whether he and Guevara will be on the ballot or not.

“I think it will hurt voter turnout because things have been dragging on for so long,” he said. “I think the further you get into spring break, the harder it will to get people to vote.”

Lund said he feels the situation is becoming more about individuals and their personal gains rather than the students and their needs.

“Regardless, we will continue with what we have been doing from day one, and that includes staying positive and focusing on how we can help the student body,” Lund said.

Lawler said although he does not know Gardner, Guevara or their lawyer Snell are thinking, he feels dragging out the election negatively impacts those who have campaigned cleanly and students who do not have the time to follow every minute of the election cycle.

Update: Both parties agreed to extend the temporary restraining order and Judge Suzanne Covington, the presiding judge at the time, approved the extension.

A Travis County judge may determine whether former Student Government presidential candidate Madison Gardner and running mate Antonio Guevara will be allowed back on the election ballot by Monday, March 12, according to the Texas Attorney General’s office.

Judge Tim Sulak issued a temporary restraining order for at least 14 days against the SG executive alliance elections on Feb. 27 to review Gardner’s case and determine whether he and Guevara were wrongfully disqualified from the elections. The Daily Texan received information from an anonymous source on Wednesday in response to Gardner’s lawsuit against UT. The source claimed a document Gardner signed in 2010 affirms that Gardner believes SG candidates give up certain rights to free speech during an election.

Gardner filed a lawsuit against the University of Texas and the University of Texas Student Government claiming the Election Code that the Election Supervisory Board and the SG Judicial Court used to disqualify him and Guevara is unconstitutional because it violates their constitutional rights to freedom of association.

The source requested to remain anonymous because of fear of retaliation from the Gardner campaign.

“Candidates who wish to run for office voluntarily enter into the agreement created by the Election Code,” the document stated. “The Election Code is an established set of rules that governs campus election processes and certain stipulations do limit the right of free speech. Nevertheless, candidates voluntarily submit themselves to the Election Code when running for office, and thus, give up certain rights to speech.”

Gardner said the document was taken out of context and does not relate to his suit at the moment. He said he endorsed the document in an attempt to get the Appellate Court to allow elected representatives to endorse executive alliance candidates in the run off election after the campus-wide positions had been filed.

“That’s one of the downsides of [my] experience in SG,” Gardner said. “Any single piece of evidence or legislation with my name on it over the last three years, people can interpret it and use it against me.”

Gardner said he wants to keep this issue positive and reaffirmed that he wants the election to be decided by students, not a court.

Election Supervisory Board vice-chair Truc Nguyen said the next few weeks are being treated as a run off election period and the ESB meets every Thursday to decide whether to extend the period. With this in place, presidential candidates John Lawler and Thor Lund will be allowed to spend an extra $150 each week the election is postponed in addition to their $900 spending limit. Both Lawler and Lund are allowed to campaign until the Travis County court sets an election date.

Leo Barnes, UT associate vice president for legal affairs, is representing UT in the lawsuit and said the administration is working through Assistant Attorney General Daniel Perkins.

“The administration is not taking sides as far as the students,” Barnes said. “We don’t want to appear to have favoritism. The elections are of the students, by the students and for the students, and that has been important.”

Barnes said the administration is willing to work with Gardner and Guevara to discuss options and develop an agreement. Lawler testified at the case’s initial hearing last week and said he did not have the financial resources to run a campaign for two more weeks. He said extending the election is giving those who have more money and resources an unfair advantage.

“The document illustrates the absurdity that this case represents,” Lawler said. “I have always encouraged everyone to pour over my record and to test me on my record and test my opponents records as well.”

Lawler said he is focusing on social media, making a video and tabling on the West Mall to save money this week.

Lund said he is planning on campaigning throughout the week and that the burden does not stop at finances.

“I’m trying to keep up with all my school work as well,” Lund said. “Can I afford to focus all my attention on this and still maintain my grades in rigorous engineering courses? We’ll have to see. But I am a student first and my scholarship money depends on my GPA.”

Printed on Tuesday, March 6, 2012 as:

The Election Supervisory Board has put student governance at UT in a fragile position for the next year. Disqualification of multiple candidates approaches election by fiat, something that is clearly and overwhelmingly counter to the values of democracy.

When we wrote the election code, disqualification was supposed to be a consequence for the gravest of trespasses. The missteps of the Yaman Desai campaign and the Madison Gardner campaign failed to meet that standard.

Unfortunately, the remaining executive tickets have failed to understand the depth of the problem.

Say for a moment that John Lawler wins (a likely proposition given his experience with University-wide elections). In that case, disqualification hurts the Lawler campaign most of all, as Lawler and his running mate Terrence Maas will never be seen with any sort of popular mandate.

I cannot attest to the actual likelihood of the Thor Lund and Wills Brown campaign winning, but truthfully, it doesn’t matter. The appearance is that the ESB has picked next year’s student body president, a perception that will only be dispelled if Lawler loses or if turnout is higher than last year’s.

Speaking of turnout, presidential tickets drive it. More people will vote in competitive elections — for all the positions on the ballot. With two candidates out, and consequently a major segment of the student body feeling disenfranchised, there will be lower turnout overall.

Lower turnout means less scrutiny of down-ballot candidates and, further, less transparency all year long on issues students care about, such as tuition or the impending 2013 legislative session.

There is one probable benefit to the likely low turnout: a significantly lower signature threshold for a referendum to repair the ESB and the election code so that the students — not un-elected appointees — pick their leaders.

John Woods is a former SG graduate school representative.