The race for ASSU Executive has begun, and a number of slates have launched petitions on the ASSU elections site. The Daily sat down with the candidates to gain a better sense of what each slate hopes to accomplish if elected.
“A New Conversation”: James Mwaura and Charles Mbatia
James Mwaura and Charles Mbatia, both current juniors, are running because they haven’t felt represented by their student government lately.
“There’s a feeling that a lot of these other slates have been in the ASSU for quite some time, and one of their main focuses is making the ASSU run more efficiently,” Mwaura said. However according to Mwaura, this focus causes the ASSU to lose sight of what they are supposed to do–provide students with a service.
“Our vision is very clear…we want to provide the best possible services and most unclouded dialogue,” said Mwaura.
Mwaura is involved in several business-oriented student groups, such as the Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students (BASES), while Mbatia serves as an officer for Intramural Sports, leadership experiences the pair says complement each other well.
Of all the candidates, Mwaura and Mbatia stressed the importance of the ASSU representing the student voice to the administration the most.
“While the ASSU might be good at running itself, what they’re there for–to represent the students for the administration–they’re failing in that respect.”
They cited the Chi Theta Chi lease termination and rising tuition prices as areas where they would engage the University in conversation to represent student interest.
“A lot of times, you tend to wonder where your dollar is actually going,” said Mwaura, referring to increases in tuition, bookstore prices and late night dining prices.
The group brings several other new ideas as well–including end-of-quarter yard sales, improving non-techie career fairs and working with faculty to bring online lectures to humanities classes, which often lack that option.
“Family Matters”: Julian Okuyiga and Ben Hoffman
“There’s an inherent fallacy that the ASSU Exec can revolutionize our Stanford experience by incorporating changes into all these different facets of the administration and student life,” said Ben Hoffman ‘ 13, of the Family Matters slate.
Hoffman, along with Julian Okuyiga ‘ 13, are unique among the field this year because they propose no major changes for the way the ASSU currently operates. They largely want to keep the status quo, except for one, huge initiative:
Bring back Lake Lagunita.
The pair doesn’t want to destroy the ASSU–they (somewhat uncaringly) say they would appoint qualified and experienced cabinet officials, and maintain the ASSU’s role as a liaison between student groups and the University. They just have a different focus.
“We’d put forth efforts to bring experienced people in as Cabinet officers, draw on that insight, but that won’t be our biggest problem,” Okuyiga said.
It may be a long shot, but both Hoffman and Okuyiga have given the problem of Lake Lag some thought. They’ve identified four main issues: the tiger salamander, water usage, restoration of a derelict dam and liability issues. The solutions aren’t fully formed yet –the slate suggested species relocation may solve the tiger salamander problem and requiring students to learn to swim like other colleges may solve the liability issues–however the pair believes that with alumni support, bringing back the Lake is an achievable goal.
“It would bring a whole new aspect to Stanford life in general,” Hoffman said, recalling how alumni he has talked to recall their time around Lake Lag very fondly.
The pair even noted that a place for Stanford students to chill, relax and unwind may improve mental health on campus. Or, as Hoffman put it, “Solving the Stanford duck syndrome–with a lake.”
“Zimbroff-Wagstaff”: Robbie Zimbroff and William Wagstaff
Robbie Zimbroff ‘ 12 and William Wagstaff ‘ 12 are ASSU outsiders, but the two Ujamaa Resident Assistants and future co-terms believe this offers them a fresh opportunity to “reconnect” the ASSU with the student body.
While both have a track record and future plan focusing on promoting diversity on campus, their campaign isn’t so simple–the pair also wants to bring concrete changes to what they termed “student problems.”
“People with ASSU experience have already shown they fall into the same cycle of jargon and a big election cycle, where you promise big things, but they don’t actualize in a way that people want,” Zimbroff said.
Talking with each other and other students about simple problems, such as a perceived lack of late-night dining options and poor quality of Vaden Health Center, the pair said they began to discuss the things they would do if in charge. Then they thought, “Why not us?”
“The ASSU is disconnected [from students],” Zimbroff said. “If we re-focus on what people are talking about, that could be a really positive thing.”
The pair also identified a problem of scope. By narrowing the focus of the ASSU to these “student problems”, the duo hopes to improve the efficiency of the ASSU.
“We’re not going to be able to promise every single person every single thing that they want,” Zimbroff said. “All we want to do is to help people and take action toward those goals in concrete ways.”
“Open Source Candidates”: Daniel Koning and Kian Ameli
The Stanford Chaparral decided to field a slate with a unique twist this year, taking the idea of “crowdsourcing” to its extreme–the entire slate can be defined and modified by anyone.
Daniel Koning ‘ 14 and Kian Ameli ‘ 13, sporting matching aviators and gloves, answered questions about their slate’s platform with poetic waxing on moonlight, and discussed the moral implications of supporting food trucks–which the pair suggested may run someone over–on campus.
An interesting moment came when Ameli defined his vision for the role of the ASSU vice president.
“It’s a subtly domineering role,” Ameli said, turning to Koning to ask, “You’re OK with that right?”
“You’re my anchor, and I love you for that,” responded Koning.
“Right,” Amelia said. “Another way to say it would be, ‘first the worst, second the best’.”
Despite their unconventional methods, don’t jump to label the pair a “joke-slate” –they see themselves as the “channel for democracy.”
“If people choose to treat us as a joke, we’ll never rise above that,” said Koning. “But remember, this is democratization. The people decide.”
“Well,” qualified Ameli, “whoever edits the Wiki decides.”
“Macgregor-Dennis & Druthi”: Stewart Macgregor-Dennis and Druthi Ghanta
Stewart Macgregor-Dennis, current ASSU Vice-President, is widely credited with forming the new entrepreneur-themed dorm on campus. In fact, he’s a bit of a campus celebrity, earning his own meme on the Stanford meme page “MemeChu” and going around to freshmen dorms to talk with students about the ASSU.
While it was common knowledge Macgregor-Dennis would run for ASSU Executive, his running mate remained a question mark–until now. Druthi Ghanta ‘ 14 has never been involved in the ASSU, though Macgregor-Dennis praised her for her effectiveness.
“Her more service-oriented and non-profit background combines well with my slightly more entrepreneurial background,” said Macgregor-Dennis, adding that the pair had “synergy” when they met recently to discuss running together.
Due to being ill, Ghanta was not available to interview with The Daily before publication.
Though Macgregor-Dennis and Ghanta will not release their full platform until the beginning of spring quarter, Macgregor-Dennis cited several items, such as hard liquor consumption on campus and the lack of housing for international students during winter break, as examples of challenges he hopes to tackle.
“We don’t have to go through the lengthy process of building relationships and figuring out how the ASSU works,” Macgregor-Dennis said, commenting on his experience in the ASSU Executive.
“There are definitely areas where it took us a while to learn, as I think it does with all executives,” Macregor-Dennis said of his current term with ASSU President Michael Cruz ‘12. “I think [Druthi and I] will be able to start on day one.”
“United We Stan(for)d”: Brianna Pang and Dan DeLong
Brianna Pang ‘ 13 and Dan DeLong ‘ 13 both served in this year’s ASSU Senate, with Pang as chair of the Appropriations Committee. Both have extensive experience working with students, in particular financial officers of different student groups.
The pair originally discovered their desire to be in student government while living in Toyon their sophomore year. They take partial responsibility for preventing Toyonito, the student performance center located behind Toyon, from being converted to a package center for East Campus. By bringing in University administrators, DeLong and Pang say they were able to advocate for students’ concerns that they would lose a valuable performance space.
“Through that experience, we realized the ASSU has a unique platform to affect change, being the intermediaries between students and administrators,” Pang said.
Both Pang and DeLong stress the ASSU’s role as a facilitator–instead of pursuing its own initiatives, the role of the ASSU Executive is to help student groups, they said.
“Why don’t we give those student groups access to administrators, the funding, the resources and the tools that are necessary for those student groups to carry out their mission?” asked DeLong.
Unlike several other slates, Pang and DeLong are focused on reforming the internal workings of the ASSU. Referring to complaints about problems with Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE), the arm of the ASSU that manages student group banking and student investments on campus, Pang and DeLong said they would guarantee student reimbursement checks within seven days.
“It’s an internal function of [the] ASSU, but it also affects so many students and student groups,” Pang said.
The pair also referenced transparency and talked about their plan to scan and make available to the entire campus all receipts of the ASSU and student groups.