Justin Bennett, Aiden Tariku win ASOSU presidential election

ASOSU President-elect Justin Bennett (right) and Vice President-elect Aiden Tariku share a laugh on Saturday, Feb. 17, following the presidential elections results.

Joe Wolf, ASOSU Beat Reporter

Student government elections see record turnout of near 21 percent.

As the rest of campus had already left for the night, the Associated Students of Oregon State University Elections Committee huddled around the light of a laptop screen, wordlessly awaiting the 10 p.m. deadline that would signify the end to voting and a new student government president on Friday evening.

After three weeks of campaigning, all it took was a few taps on a keyboard to find that Justin Bennett and Aiden Tariku, one of four tickets competing for the position, had won the election for ASOSU president and vice president. All that remained was a phone call.

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According to Bennett, he and future Vice President Tariku wanted to be alone as they waited to see if the work they had put into their campaign had finally paid off.

“It was a glorious moment,” Tariku said. “I remember standing on the front porch with all of our friends inside, just waiting. We wanted to not outwardly celebrate, but the moment we heard ‘congratulations’ Justin yelled louder than I have ever heard. That is a moment I will never forget.”

Bennett, currently the executive director of government relations in the ASOSU executive branch, will resign his position and take on the official, paid role of president-elect. Tariku, a current senator, will also resign his position and take on the role of vice president-elect. Between now and the June 1 inauguration, the two will try to learn what they can from the current administration, as well as past student government presidents.

For sitting President Simon Brundage, campaigning for the position last election was one of the most emotionally grueling experiences in his life, and he noted losing would have been heartbreaking. 

“I would say to tickets who do not win to practice self-care and to recognize that your hard work did not go undervalued,” Brundage said. “I would advise the incoming administration to talk to the other tickets for advice, since students voted for them and are stakeholders in the decisions that the next president will be making.”

Bennett echoed his current supervisor, recognizing that the tickets he and Tariku ran against ran good campaigns and brought up other points of view.

“I would like to sit down with them and see if we can implement some of those programs and efforts as well,” Bennett said.

Tariku noted that despite the competition between candidates, the pairs all fundamentally agreed on core issues of tuition affordability, as well as transparency and accountability.

“Student fees go toward funding ASOSU, so every student should have the right to understand what is going on,” Tariku said.

ASOSU Faculty Adviser Drew Desilet oversees the transition, ensuring the president and vice president-elect are training to search for and hire employees, removing implicit bias or unethical hiring practices. Once chosen, the pair will meet with the Dean of Students and the Vice Provost for Student Affairs, as well as President Ed Ray. The only formal power these members of the student government have is to nominate their cabinet officials, Desilet said.

“I really try to push the sitting president and vice president to finish out strong,” Desilet said. “They look at their platform and what is still undone, and try to get those things done.”

In his final term in office, sitting President Brundage intends to focus on one overarching project: the proposed rewrite of the ASOSU constitution. Currently, a rough draft of the changes the administration is looking to make exists, including a narrowed focus of the membership of the student government’s constituency, Brundage said.

As currently written, students who attend the OSU Cascades campus are technically represented by ASOSU, despite the fact that these students do not pay the Corvallis student fee and have their own representation in the Associated Students of Cascades Campus. For Brundage, another priority would be to revamp the specifications for Cabinet members, as the needs of students have changed over time.

“ASOSU has a real impact on campus,” Brundage said. “If these governing documents change how student government governs, students at large are stakeholders in this decision and they should approach it with intense scrutiny.”

Brundage said the transition process that was fine-tuned last year will be for the most part continued. He will meet with the president-elect to give more details on the position to take, particularly developing an agenda.

“I think the toughest part about being an ASOSU president is figuring out what is up next,” Brundage said. “I just want to make sure they are aware of what resources are available to them, to help them make decisions.”

Brundage echoed Desilet, noting the importance of hiring a Cabinet as one of the most important responsibilities of the president-elect.

“When they are building the hiring committee, they are building a group of stakeholders,” Brundage said. “When we were building our committee, we had members of the current administration who had institutional knowledge, as well as representatives from Diversity and Cultural Engagement and residence hall life.”

On the campaign trail, Bennett found that student groups were more interested in hearing their message than he and Tariku had previously thought.

“We really want to maintain those relationships and keep people informed on what is going on,” Bennett said.

Bennett said he incoming administration is looking to make next year’s campaigns even easier for presidential candidates by providing them with the opportunity to table and interact with students. 

Tariku, who will serve as the Chief Elections Officer as a part of the vice presidential role, would like to meet with all of the tickets next year and make sure they understand the election rules completely.

“Another thing I want to do is change the span of campaigning,” Tariku said. “I do not know what I would decrease it to exactly, but three weeks felt really, really long.”