ASB elections show higher student involvement, passionate candidates


Angela Wong, Reporter

Gunn’s annual Associated Student Body (ASB) elections took place this month, with applications available for a myriad of positions, from ASB President to Spirit Commissioner. An annual elections assembly took place on Mar. 19 to allow each candidate to share their ideas, and the election voting period was from Mar. 20 at 8 a.m. to Mar. 22 at 3:30 p.m. Junior Josh Mei was elected as ASB President, with junior Kendrick You as ASB Vice President (VP) and junior Claire Cheng as School Board Representative.

ASB elections are held every year to elect students willing to represent the student body and oversee specific tasks relating to school events, activities and the Gunn community. Thus, students running are advised to have their individual talents, skills and interests while continuing to develop new leadership and organizational skills.

Student activities director Lisa Hall saw an increase in student voting participation but will continue working toward a higher percentage in the years to come. “Last year, we were probably in the low 60 percent for school wide participation, and we hit 70 percent this year, which is really great,” Hall said. “SEC will be holding meetings to talk about how the elections process went this year, and they’ll be setting new goals to improve.”

For Mei, who ran unopposed for ASB President, leadership has always been an integral part of his school life. “I ran just because I’ve been serving my class as class president these past three years, and I think it’s time to expand that service to the rest of the school,” Mei said. Besides the Student Executive Council (SEC), which Mei has been a part of since seventh grade, he also writes for The Oracle and The Chariot, helps out with the Christian Club and TedX and participates in Gunn Business.

His campaign’s foundation consists of three principles: community, support and communication. “As ASB President, my main goals are to hold more logistically sound events next year and to bring more people together across Gunn into a more cohesive community,” Mei said. His long-term vision for Gunn includes overall well-being and atmosphere. “Ideally, I hope Gunn can be a community that people are proud of,” Mei said. “I hope when I visit Gunn in two or three years coming back from college, I can see that the people here really care about each other.”

You, the winning VP candidate, also has previous leadership experience. He has served in various student council roles since eighth grade and was previously the VP of two clubs. Outside of Gunn, You is the senior patrol leader of his Boy Scout Troop, volunteers around Palo Alto and works at a Farmers’ Market. As VP, You hopes to prioritize issues that don’t solely affect certain groups of students but apply to many different communities; this plan includes the issue of the average club size lowering as more clubs appear. In the years to come, You envisions a tight-knit, informed community. “I want to make sure that I get to know every single person in my class by the end of the year,” You said. “For the school, I want to expand our club fairs to reach as many people as possible and our Meet and Greet events I created this year.”

Unlike Mei and You, Cheng did not have previous SEC experience but regularly voices her opinions to the administration as a debate novice captain and VP of the Palo Alto Youth Council. “I train younger students in debate, so I think that really opens me up to what freshmen and sophomores really think about everything that’s going on in the school, like the CS requirement, SELF classes, Standards-based Grading and what they think about Gunn in general as a school,” Cheng said.  “I’m definitely a very vocal person and I think that whenever I see things that are not being done to what the majority of people think I feel compelled to act. As School Board Representative, Cheng plans to prioritize admin-student communication and efficacy. “I want to make sure every student, or at least the majority of students on campus, know what’s being talked about on the board,” Cheng said. “We can improve by sending out a general summary of issues discussed at the board or have frequent channel of communication, either that’s Facebook or Schoology. We can also definitely have more frequent polls and surveys for the students.”

Junior Ashley Poon, who also ran for the VP position, has been on SEC throughout her middle and high school years and will continue to install free menstrual product machines in girls’ bathrooms around campus as a part of her personal awareness mission.

Lastly, VP candidate junior Joyce Lian came from a different standpoint in her campaign. While Lian hasn’t been involved with SEC before, she respects the council’s ideas and the hard work they put into the school and has shown leadership skills in other aspects. “I schedule trips and plan conferences in our Model United Nations club,” she said. “I’m also on the girls’ varsity basketball team. As one of the older members, there’s a natural leadership role that I have to take on.” Lian, who ran for student council for the first time, believes everyone has a fair shot in the elections. “I was a new face in the in the election because I know a lot of people don’t really know who I am,” Lian said. “That was also my advantage because they don’t know what exactly I can bring to the table, so I can always surprise them.”

Meanwhile, many Gunn students displayed skepticism about the validity of SEC elections, for they’re seen as “popularity contests.” Mei questions the definition of popularity itself. “What does popularity really mean? That you’re friendly? That people like you? That you don’t mind getting in front of your friend groups and leading them?” Mei said. “In an representative position such as class president, I think all those skills are very valuable.” Poon held a similar mindset to the role popularity plays in elections. “If we elected somebody that people didn’t like, then a lot of people wouldn’t be comfortable with telling them their views, their opinions, their ideas for school or any kind of feedback,” Poon said. “That doesn’t contribute to a functioning SEC.”

Cheng agrees that popularity is beneficial for a well-rounded candidate. “A lot of the times, popularity isn’t just measured by your so-perceived social strata. I think it’s also just how much people like you and how much they’re willing to reach out, and I think that’s a very important skill regardless of what position you are,” Cheng said. “But you have to trust that if your qualifications really are there, then you have to highlight that in your campaign. You have to make that a message that students know and I don’t think that the popularity thing rules out the fact that a qualified candidate can run.”

You agrees with the close link between popularity and holding a student council office position that derives mostly from the format of elections themselves. “There’s just not much to be done there,” You said. “But, if you have something to say about it, why not just run for a position instead of complaining?”

At the end of the day, Lian believes the elections assembly makes a lasting impact on voters. “They get to fairly choose who they vote for because all candidates were able to express their ideas,” Lian said. “That’s when people who might not know all three of the candidates can choose because it does level the playing field.”

Even so, Hall believes the “perfect election” doesn’t exist. “This year’s process went pretty smoothly, but there are always hiccups. It’s a high stakes thing for the people that are running, and there’s a certain amount of anxiety that goes along with it.” Nonetheless, Hall believes Mei, You and Cheng are great choices for their respective positions. “I haven’t had Claire in my class before, but she’s very knowledgeable about the position, so she’ll do fine,” Hall said. “Joshua and Kendrick have been on SEC for a few years, so they’ve seen the pros and cons of the positions they’re in. Higher positions have a lot more management of the class and that involves understanding those people, so it’s helpful to have experience if you’re going to be Student Body President or Senior Class President, but it’s not necessarily required for the other positions.”

Elections for ASB Appointed Officer positions, such as Jr. Class Site Council Representative and Diversity Commissioner, are ongoing, with completed application packets due Mar. 29.