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Executive slates spar at debate

With the ASSU general election a few days away, voters got a final chance to see all three slates running for ASSU Executive in a debate last night at the CoHo. The debate was co-sponsored by The Stanford Daily, The Stanford Review and Stanford in Government and moderated by Daily Deputy Editor Kate Abbott ’12 and Review Editor-in-Chief Autumn Carter ’11. Questions came from the moderators themselves and from voters who submitted queries in advance.

All three slates–Cruz/Macgregor-Dennis, Seldon/Vasquez and Hertz/Coggeshall–repeated many of the points published in their platforms throughout the campaign.

In their opening statement, Tenzin Seldon ’12 and Joe Vasquez ’11 came out with their two main initiatives: “bridging the gap” between various communities on campus and a fresh focus on mental health among the student body. On the opposing side, Michael Cruz ’12 and Stewart Macgregor-Dennis ’13 emphasized the theme of their campaign, “Stanford 2.0,” and discussed their desire to partner with student groups and bring an entrepreneurial mindset to the ASSU. Alex Hertz ’13 and Sam Coggeshall ’12, running as the Stanford Chaparral-backed slate, talked about the need for a more physically healthy student body.

The debate then moved to questions, where substantive differences emerged between the Seldon/Vasquez and Cruz/Macgregor-Dennis slates. Both campaigns, however, struck similar notes at the beginning of the debate when they explained what they believed was the most pressing issue facing Stanford students.

“If there was one issue we could tackle, I think we would tackle this issue of connectiveness and community at Stanford,” Cruz said. “It seems like a lot of students have this ‘Stanford Duck Syndrome’ that all of us have heard about, this idea that wellness isn’t here at Stanford.”

“Joe and I also believe that the most important issue concerning our student body right now is mental health and wellness,” Seldon said. “It is still heavily stigmatized on this campus.”

All three ASSU executive slates participated in a debate last night at the CoHo. (IAN GARCIA-DOTY/The Stanford Daily)

Seldon detailed several initiatives she planned to enact around mental health if elected, including a push for changes to resident assistant (RA) training, expanded utilization of existing mental health resources and more courses on the topic of “happiness.”

Two of the most contentious issues at the debate were each slate’s stance on the ROTC advisory question and their plans to effectively communicate and engage with the general student population. With respect to student engagement, Seldon and Vasquez both emphasized making personal connections with as many students as possible via dorm meetings, office hours and regular meetings with student group leaders. Macgregor-Dennis’ approach was starkly different; he detailed plans for the Executive to connect to students using technology, including a fully revamped ASSU website and an iPhone app.

The two slates clashed sharply on the ROTC advisory question. Cruz and Macgregor-Dennis aligned themselves with the “Campaign to Abstain,” a movement to influence students to vote abstain on the referendum.

“It really comes down to the fact that there’s a marginalized community and a discriminated-against community,” Macgregor-Dennis said. “Really, if we’re voting on these civil-rights issues, then we’re voting on civil-rights issues for both the marginalized and the discriminated against. We stand up for both these communities and that’s why we’re fully in support of the abstain campaign.”

Seldon and Vasquez declined to take a position on the issue, saying they believe the role of the Executive is to allow space for all viewpoints to be heard.

“We have to make sure that, as student representatives, we listen to all sides of the issue,” Seldon said.

“There’s a large contingent of the student body population on both sides of the issue,” Vasquez added. “By taking a very partisan approach and choosing one side of the issue, you’re potentially marginalizing and just creating an even bigger divide.”

The debate concluded after each slate was allowed to give a closing statement. In their final words, Cruz/Macgregor-Dennis promoted the bridging of the ASSU with entrepreneurship and public service, while Seldon/Vasquez explained their passion and commitment to achieve the goals delineated in their platform.

After a final burst of campaigning, the polls for the ASSU election will open on Thursday at 12:01 a.m. and close on Friday at 11:59 p.m. Voters can cast their ballots at ballot.stanford.edu. Results for all races will be announced on Saturday at 5 p.m. at the CoHo.

About Kabir Sawhney

Kabir Sawhney is currently a desk editor for the News section. He served as the Managing Editor of Sports last volume.