The Swords and Stadiums Era was an era of ASUCD History that lasted from 1998 through to the Fall of 2004. Named for the campus secret society, Sword and Sandals (in its commonly mispronounced form "Swords and Sandals") and Aggie Stadium, this period had a major focus on expanding the campus and its athletics program. The era also saw the rise of the slate system, when the first permanent party, L.E.A.D. was founded in 2000.
|Eras of ASUCD|
|ASUCD Federal Era1994-1997|
|Swords and Stadiums Era1998 - Fall 2004|
|ASUCD PerestroikaFall 2004 - Spring 2005|
Backroom Deals and Fee Increases
With the creation of the ASUCD Senate back in the ASUCD Federal Era, the President's power had been strengthened and the rule of the Davis College Republicans had been shattered. We were at the height of the post-Cold War boom nationally, and things were pretty good for the UC System economically.
As a result, newly elected Senators were much more receptive to the idea of spending to build an even better campus. Such an vision was put forward by Bob Franks, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs — that the campus should become a Division 1 Athletics school, and that all sorts of new buildings be built on campus. The problem was a lack of funding.
So Franks turned to the students, the only available cash-cow in the deficit-conscious 1990s. He cultivated friendships with ASUCD officials through the campus' secret society, Sword and Sandals and brought them around to support the fees for UC Davis Athletics in 1995 in the Student Activities and Services Initiative Fee. But stopping budget cuts was just the beginning of the plan.
Seeing as students seemed relatively easy to convince to raise their own fees once during their student careers, a series of initiatives were sponsored to support UCD Athletics. Although they seemed to originate from student sources like Aggie Pack and ASUCD at first glance, the real push behind the measures were AVC Bob Franks, Larry Swanson (Associate Director of Athletics), and Scott Brayton (Athletic Department intern/employee). They used their connections to lobby the students directly in a place where they would not be monitored — the ritual rooms of Sword and Sandals. While the parties involved certainly hoped to improve their campus and leave a legacy, opponents have called the behavior collusion in a backroom deal to increase student fees.
Either way, the Move to D1 progressed through two fee referenda: the FACE Initiative was approved in 1999, and the 2003 Campus Expansion Initiative. The latter bill passed on most of the fee increases on to two school years in the future, after which time many voters would have graduated. Each initiative from the SASI forward promised a few things to other communities on campus, like the SRRC or the Coffee House remodel, but the lion's share of each went to UC Davis Athletics for construction and scholarships.
Advocacy and the birth of the slate system
In January of 1999, summary judgement had been issued in ASUCR v. Regents, declaring that student fees could be used for lobbying so long as an opt-out mechanism was in place. This nullified the policy put in place by conservative activist Regents like Ward Connerly, which prohibited student government advocacy outside the UC System.
The senate had thus far been focused on the campus through construction and student activities, but many students felt that it was a time for a shift. The time was ripe for the ASUCD to dive back into advocacy. In 2000, Matt Huerta and Erica Alfaro started the L.E.A.D. slate to emphasize these issues, like diversity, activism, and philanthropy in ASUCD and the campus community as a whole.
Originally, LEAD was much like any other slate of candidates, coming together for a single election, and not even running candidates the following Fall election — but another slate did: UNITE. But the following winter, in 2001, the LEAD ticket once again assembled to run for office. After the particularly embarrassing election scandal around Tiqula Bledsoe, and his somewhat embezzle-riffic presidency, voters were ready for a change. They elected C.S. Lai on a platform that included the CEI. Soon Student Action merged with UNITE, and the reign of Student Focus had begun.
Despite the scandals, the name LEAD managed to survive — due to a few charismatic members like Caleb Hervey, a strong core constituency, and the short memories of the voting public. Besides, it wasn't long before Focus was making scandals of their own, including an ASUCD Supreme Court that declared the CEI vote unconstitutional. Undeterred, the Administration decided that they wanted to raise fees anyway, ASUCD had a little "impeach the Chief Justice" witch hunt (which are surprisingly common in student governments), and everyone went on the merry way to paying higher fees.
The Rise and Fall of Focus
The Student Focus administrations were marked by concern for the campus and local activities, with particular interest in issues that affected fraternities and sororities, their political base. As managers, though, they were plagued by problems. Ideas for new units like ASUCD Campus Safety and the ASUCD Student Advocacy Office just didn't work out. Other units, with history stretching back to the founding of ASUCD, like El Rodeo, ran up huge deficits.
Focus continued the trend towards more student advocacy, opposing the Open Container Ordinance and endorsing future California Aggie columnist Lamar Heystek for City Council. The latter action, however, was illegal under federal rules for 501(c)3 organizations, and led to an IRS audit and the Lamargate scandal. Though in the end, no real harm was done to ASUCD or its leadership through the honest misunderstanding of the law.
However, by 2002, student fees started rising, and continued to rise sharply. California's budget deficits would continue to last another decade, and students were just beginning to feel the pain. While they did manage to successfully approve the CEI referendum in 2003, the subsequent increase in student fees truly started to hurt the pro-Athletics Student Focus slate.
In 2003, the Davis College Green Party pushed through a major change of its own, thanks to the efforts of SonnyMohammadzadeh and ChrisJerdonek. Choice Voting was approved, and would lead to the end of single slate sweeps of elections. Under the new system, it guaranteed majority rule and minority representation, and made the Senate much more diverse. This too had an effect of weakening the hold of Student Focus.
Finally, Ackerman resigned.
With a fresh scandal and years of insider politics, things finally came to a head in the Winter 2004 ASUCD Election, in which LEAD gained control of the government with a growing coalition. Meanwhile, student activists initiated the ASUCD Perestroika — an movement towards accountability and transparency for ASUCD.
When Kalen Gallagher gave his farewell address to the Senate, he called Choice Voting "a disease". But Choice Voting was here to stay. Student Focus eventually succumbed, while LEAD developed immunity and symbiosis.
This era is marked by a real physical legacy: the construction of the ARC, Schaal Aquatics Center, Aggie Stadium, a renovated Coffee House, the Student Community Center, among others. The Move to D1 transition is now complete, and what once was a powerful Division II school is now a middling force in Division I/AA Athletics.
However, this led UC Davis to become, for a time, the most expensive public university in the state in terms of undergraduate student fees. The vision was achieved, but students are still paying the price for all of these massive construction programs.
Aggie Pack remained a hot-button issue for the future of ASUCD, though their political involvement became less after Bob Franks' retirement.
While it was not the core purpose of most of the administrations of the era, there was a steady increase in the role of advocacy in student government, particularly at the state level, and especially at the city level. Those outside the LEAD slate stayed on friendly terms with the campus Administration, which led to the increasing disconnect between UCSA and ASUCD that eventually came to a head during the Harms Hegemony.
Party systems, or slates as they became known in ASUCD, were firmly established. Due to high turnover in the student, they can never be truly stable, but the landscape of the political system has been forever changed to organized campaigning and the occasional party-line vote.
Finally, the era was responsible for the catchphrase of the generation, "Ackerman resigned", which is still typed on the hallowed forums of the Internet to this day.