Women, non-Greeks go to Brown

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March 29, 2016

2:44 AM

President-elect Eboni Brown ’17, who won the March 24 Student Assembly election by a margin of 39 votes, was elected with strong support from women, members of social justice organizations and those who prioritize mental health issues, a survey conducted by The Flat Hat March 18-24 suggests. Brown fared weakest among voters in Greek organizations, who were also more likely to say that they were going to vote.

The survey, which predicted Brown’s victory, was conducted by random paper ballot as well as online over email, with a sample of 137 students. The survey did not meet scientific standards of randomness and because part of the sample was self-selected, an unintentional bias may be present in the results. The survey results reflect a larger margin of victory for Brown than election results, suggesting demographic data might also be skewed toward Brown.

40 percent of respondents said that they were a part of a Greek organization on campus. Of these, 56.1 percent said they supported Ambrose, 34.1 percent said they supported Brown and 9.8 percent said they supported Canakis.

Ambrose is a member of Pi Beta Phi and Jacob is a member of Kappa Alpha Theta. According to Delta Delta Delta member Nia Gibson ’17, who worked on Ambrose and Jacob’s campaign, this involvement in Greek life at the College may have helped sway voters.

“Everyone in Greek life knows each other,” Gibson said. “Everyone in Greek life knew [Ambrose and Jacob] were two really great people who were active on campus and striving to make a difference.”

Of the 60 percent of respondents who identified themselves as non-Greek, only 27.6 percent supported Ambrose. 69 percent of non-Greeks supported Brown, and only 3.4 percent said they supported Canakis.

43 percent of respondents to the survey identified themselves as members of a social justice organization on campus. These students were far more likely to support Brown than they were to support either of the other candidates.

Erica West ’17 is co-president of William and Larry, the policy arm of the Lambda Alliance that advocates for increased rights of members of the LGBTQ community. She said that supporting Brown made sense for students who were active in social justice, citing Brown’s involvement in the PLUS program and with the Center for Student Diversity. She also cited posts that Brown and McKiernan have made on their personal Facebook pages advocating for social justice issues.

“A lot of what we consider is who are people we see at [social justice] events the most, who are people we can link their names and what they believe in and their faces together,” West said when asked what students concerned with diversity and other social justice issues considered when selecting a candidate. “Ultimately those people were Eboni and Hannah.”

Of respondents who identified as part of a social justice organization, 75 percent said they supported Brown, 22.5 percent said they supported Ambrose and 2.5 percent said they supported Canakis.

On the other hand, the 57 percent of respondents who said they were not members of social justice organizations were more likely to support Ambrose, with 50 percent of non-members supporting Ambrose, 41.4 percent supporting Brown and 8.6 percent supporting Canakis.

As part of the survey, respondents were asked to rank a list of six issues in order of importance to them in this election. Mental health was the most potent issue, with the next most important issues being the effectiveness of the Student Assembly, sexual assault, transparency, diversity and, least important to respondents, sustainability.

Mental health was a key issue in this year’s election, making an appearance in the platforms of all three tickets. The students who ranked mental health as the most important issue of the election were much more likely to support Brown than to support any of the other candidates. Of those who ranked mental health first, 60 percent said they supported Brown, 40 percent said they supported Ambrose and none said they supported Canakis.

Students who ranked mental health as their least pressing issue were much more likely to support Canakis than those who ranked mental health first. 62.5 percent of students who ranked mental health as least important supported Brown, 25 percent supported Ambrose and 12.5 percent supported Canakis.

Another key issue that was played up during campaigning, especially during the debate, was transparency, which all of the candidates focused on, especially as it related to the creation of an SA website. Out of the six issues provided, respondents ranked transparency the fourth most important issue on average. Although support for Brown extended across multiple demographics, a majority of respondents who ranked transparency as the most important issue supported Ambrose. 56.3 percent of those who prioritized transparency supported Ambrose, 37.5 supported Brown and 6.3 percent supported Canakis.

Despite the fact that most of Canakis’ platform rested on plans to build a website to increase transparency, respondents who ranked transparency as the least important issue were more likely to support him than respondents who ranked transparency as most important. 11.1 percent of those who ranked transparency last supported Canakis, as compared to the 6.3 percent who supported him and ranked transparency first.

Additionally, despite Canakis’s focus on his status as an “outsider” candidate aiming to bring vitality to SA, he lacked wide support among respondents who prioritized effectiveness of the Student Assembly as the election’s most important issue.

“We are going to spice things up,” Canakis said at the debate. “We need flavor in the Student Assembly. It is a stale piece of bread with no flavor. We are going to bring energy and excitement to the SA. … We are the Sriracha the SA needs.”

Nevertheless, of those who ranked effectiveness of SA as the most important issue, only 5.9 percent said they supported Canakis, with 58.8 percent saying they supported Brown and 35.3 percent saying they supported Ambrose.

Although respondents were least likely to rank it as this election’s most important issue, sustainability was an important issue for the candidates, especially for Ambrose and Jacob. Jacob’s involvement with the Student Environmental Action Coalition and the pair’s detailed outline for sustainability within their seven-page platform was more extensive than any of the other tickets’ plans for sustainability, but respondents who ranked sustainability as the most important issue of the election were still far more likely to support Brown, with her ticket receiving 64.7 percent of these students supporting her, 29.4 percent supporting Ambrose and 5.9 percent supporting Canakis.

Seize the Grid Facilitator Anne Davis ‘16 worked with Ambrose and Jacob on their campaign and said that she was excited sustainability was an important issue in this year’s election.

“People always put sustainability as a shout out but they don’t always go that in depth into it,” Davis said.

She also said that while she supported Ambrose, she had friends who supported Brown and she recognized that it was a closer race than in previous years.

“I’m someone that never cares about SA elections ever … I don’t get into all that stuff,” Davis said. “This was a very tight race and even friend groups were split. It was good to see that, finally.”

I’m someone that never cares about SA elections ever … I don’t get into all that stuff. This was a very tight race and even friend groups were split. It was good to see that, finally,” Davis said.

While the prioritization of different issues addressed by the candidates comprised some of the most significant insights in the survey, there were also divisions in support along other demographic lines.

There was a clear divide on support for candidates along gender lines. A majority of respondents who self-identified as male said they supported Ambrose, with 51.5 percent of males supporting her, 39.4 percent of male respondents supporting Brown and 9.1 percent supporting Canakis. Female respondents, on the other hand, were much more likely to support Brown, with 64.1 percent supporting her, 31.3 percent supporting Ambrose and 4.7 percent supporting Canakis.

A majority of respondents of all races supported Brown. She received the support of 100 percent of African American respondents, 62.5 percent of Asian respondents, 50 percent of Hispanic respondents and 53.4 percent of white respondents. Ambrose received relatively equal support across racial groups, excluding those who self-identified as African American. She received support from 37.5 percent of Asian respondents, 33.3 percent of Hispanic respondents and 39.7 percent of white respondents. No African American or Asian respondents said they supported Canakis. He received the support of 16.7 percent of Hispanic respondents and 6.8 percent of white respondents.

In Thursday’s election, Brown received 43 percent of the vote, Ambrose received 42 percent, and Canakis received 15 percent. In the survey, Brown was supported by 55 percent of respondents, Ambrose by 39 percent and Canakis by 6 percent. While the order in which the candidates were ranked in the survey was mirrored by the results of Thursday’s election, the percentage of votes each candidate received differed significantly from the results of The Flat Hat’s survey. The margin by which Brown won the election was a mere one percent, rather than the 16 percent predicted by the survey.

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Emily Chaumont

Managing Editor Emily Chaumont '18 is an English and Gender, Sexuality, Women's Studies double major from Manassas, Virginia. After graduation, she will be pursuing her M.A.Ed. in Elementary Education through William and Mary's School of Education. She formerly served as Variety Editor and News Editor and runs a college productivity lifestyle blog at honeybeejoyous.com.

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