Rattiner wins TCU presidency

Ben Gittleson // Published May 18, 2009 in Tufts Daily

Junior Brandon Rattiner won the Tufts Community Union (TCU) presidency on the last day of classes this semester, April 27, with Senators Chas Morrison and Samia Zahran finishing in second and third place, respectively.

Rattiner, who ran a campaign centered on building community, assumed the presidency immediately after the results were certified shortly after midnight on April 28.

“It’s one of the most exciting moments of my entire life,” Rattiner told the Daily right after winning. “I’m honored by the opportunity to represent such an incredible school, and my heart goes out to Chas and Samia because they really ran such wonderful campaigns.”

Students voting for president could choose first and second choices in order to facilitate an instant runoff if needed. Rattiner won 47 percent of first-choice ballots; Morrison, a sophomore, received 37 percent of the vote; and 14 percent went to Zahran, a sophomore. Two percent of voters abstained.

No candidate won a majority, so Zahran was eliminated for coming in last place, and an instant runoff took place. With second-choice ballots included this time, Rattiner netted 52 percent of the vote while Morrison received 40 percent.

The ballot also featured two referenda and one “non-binding referendum question.”

A proposal to expand the TCU Constitution’s nondiscrimination policy to include the phrase “gender identity and expression” passed, as did a referendum to add a fifth member to the Elections Commission (ECOM). The ballot question, which asked voters whether the Senate should invest $300,000 worth of recovered funds in the university’s endowment, passed as well.

Morrison remained in good spirits after his loss.

“We ran a great campaign, and I’m just grateful for all my staff and all the volunteers who put in so much time and effort,” he told the Daily. “It was a wonderful experience … And even though things didn’t work out the way I had hoped, I’m looking forward to continuing working on behalf of the student body next year.”

Zahran told the Daily she was glad the election was over.

“I had fun,” she said. “I’m just glad it’s done with. I’m relieved. I am proud of myself because I started so late … I’m just glad that I got people to vote who don’t normally vote.”

She had harsh words for Rattiner, though, whose supporters she accused of taking down Morrison’s signs the night before and committing other campaign violations.

“I’m just disappointed with Brandon, that’s all,” she said. “He’s immature, his whole team, in taking down Chas’ posters. I feel like I’m not comfortable with him leading the school because that shows very poor behavior and a bad attitude to have for a leader of the school, and that is indicative of his character.”

Zahran declined to say how she knew about the alleged violations. On the night before the election, there was a problem involving Morrison’s lawn signs and a Rattiner staffer, but Morrison told the Daily that night that the problem had been a misunderstanding and had been resolved.

ECOM Chair Adam Weldai did say on the day of the vote, though, that ECOM had received a variety of complaints throughout the campaign about campaign violations, although no candidate had been specifically accused of misconduct. The violations were generally related to postering, chalking and campus signage, Weldai said.

But the election itself, in which 48 percent of undergraduates cast a ballot, went smoothly.

“It was a perfectly normal, clean, rather boring day,” said Weldai, adding that ECOM received no complaints the day of the election about the vote.

The percentage of students who voted jumped nine percent from last year, although voting last year was nine hours shorter due to a problem with WebCenter. Forty-five percent of eligible voters cast a ballot two years ago.

Weldai, a senior, said the number of students who participated in the process this time was “awesome.”

“I think the turnout represents the student body’s level of interest in what’s going on,” he said. Weldai was especially pleased with the interest as two voided freshman Senate elections had caused the presidential election to shift back to the last day of classes.

After his win, Rattiner celebrated at a party at the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house. He said he was happy the election had finally come to a close, giving him a chance to relax with friends.

“Tonight, I’m just going to take the night off and really thank the people who … helped make this happen,” he said soon after hearing the results, noting in particular the dedication of his campaign manager, sophomore Katy Simon.

Rattiner’s campaign focused on the “here and now” for students, aiming to build community within the student body, and said he wanted to be realistic about what the Senate could accomplish.

During his campaign, Rattiner said he aimed to bolster school pride and promote intellectualism at Tufts.

Outgoing TCU President Duncan Pickard, a junior, praised Rattiner’s ability to lead, which he said Rattiner had proven this year on Senate.

“I think that that style of leadership is very effective in realizing projects that benefit the student body,” said Pickard, adding that all of the candidates performed well.

“I was really impressed with their campaigns,” he said. “The great thing about running for TCU president is that no matter what happens … you’ve already made an impact on Tufts.”