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OPINIONS

Vote Miller/Saba for ASSU Executive

For the 2014-15 ASSU Executive, The Stanford Daily’s Editorial Board unanimously endorses Lauren Miller ’15 and Geo Saba ’15, the slate that we feel will best serve the student body over the upcoming year through a combination of focused and measurable policies and a firm grasp on the nuances and appropriate role of the ASSU.

Throughout the interview process and Monday’s Executive slate debate, the Board found both of this year’s credible slates to possess remarkable qualities. Both Miller/Saba and Woodson/Richard demonstrated clear leadership ability, a passion for serving the student body in its entirety and platforms that combine ambition and attention to detail. Given the ASSU’s recent struggles in attracting a credible set of candidates at all levels of the ballot, both slates represent an opportunity for the rejuvenation of Stanford’s student government – and, through their shared support for initiatives like increasing the ASSU’s engagement with freshmen, we think highly of both slates’ ability to leave a constructive legacy. Nevertheless, given that institutional decay and the limitations of time and scope imposed on any ASSU Executive, we feel most confident in Miller/Saba’s ability to make the most of their term in office.

In recent years, the ASSU has worked best when it has sought to improve on existing processes and resources, or to better support Stanford’s abundance of thriving student organizations. Conversely, it has historically struggled when seeking to assume too much responsibility or to function as a centralized body for a student population that is both decentralized and largely apathetic towards the ASSU. Miller and Saba – a former Senator and the current Chair of the Constitutional Council, respectively – have a unique familiarity with the ASSU and how best to operate within the institution’s framework, allowing them to seek to impact campus life from the very start of their term and effectively respond to unforeseen and contentious issues as they emerge.

Equally importantly, Miller/Saba demonstrated a greater degree of realism with regards to the ASSU’s limitations, the importance of prioritizing between various legislative initiatives and the value of emphasizing initiatives – like increasing the availability of meeting and practice spaces – that can be accomplished within a year, rather than dashing between divergent efforts, imposing on the work of student groups and administrators with more experience in a given field and ultimately becoming overwhelmed by an overly ambitious workload.

This familiarity with how best to serve the student body from within the ASSU will benefit the Miller/Saba slate most clearly with regards to the implementation of the SAFE Reform proposal, should it win approval from the student body at the end of this week. A comprehensive overhaul of Stanford’s student activities funding system is a necessary and critical measure, and one that both slates have professed support for. Given, however, the importance of a smooth transition, we retain more confidence in the more experienced slate’s ability to effectively manage the changeover.

A successful Executive should also be able to effectively represent the student body in its entirety, including possessing the ability to forge connections with segments of the student body that have been historically neglected. Miller has demonstrated the ability to build relationships with divergent groups across campus, a trait that will prove valuable over the upcoming year. Saba’s status as a student-athlete, meanwhile, represents an opportunity to not only engage with a significant and often distant part of the Stanford community but also to draw on the lessons and resources that the student-athlete community has successfully made use of.

We commend Woodson and Richard for their planned engagement with the student-athlete community, and we are enthusiastic about their idea of implementing the Athletic Department’s popular mentorship program across the broader student body, but we view the Miller/Saba slate as better positioned to implement it.

Woodson and Richard’s strengths as a slate and as candidates remain significant. The slate demonstrated a remarkable enthusiasm for establishing relationships with students, faculty and administrators that would stand any ASSU Executive in good stead. They moreover produced a platform that stood apart in its comprehensive nature and attention to detail, and we encourage Miller and Saba to adopt measures like an emphasis on improved advising. We remain concerned, however, that the slate appears to have adopted somewhat of a scattershot approach to its legislative priorities, some of which seem unattainable within just a year, and feel that it would benefit from the focus and attention to feasibility – if not the slightly more cursory approach to details – demonstrated by the Miller/Saba slate.

This endorsement is an affirmative one. The Stanford community would ultimately be well served by either slate, and we encourage the successful slate to draw on the better ideas of its rival. Nevertheless, the Miller/Saba slate offers a combination of more experienced leadership, the intent of combining realistic and pragmatic short- and long-term measures into a comprehensive and successful legacy and the ability to broaden the appeal of the ASSU to an alarmingly apathetic community. For those reasons, this Board extends our full support to the Miller/Saba slate in this year’s ASSU election.

The Stanford Daily’s Editorial Board is chaired by President and Editor in Chief George Chen ’15. He is joined by Executive Editor Marshall Watkins ’15, Managing Editor of Sports Do-Hyoung Park ’16 and Managing Editor of Opinions Winston Shi ’16.

Contact the Editorial Board at eic@stanforddaily.com, or email opinions@stanforddaily.com to submit op-eds.

About Editorial Board

Editorials represent the views of The Stanford Daily, an independent newspaper serving Stanford and the surrounding community. The Daily's Editorial Board is chaired by President and Editor in Chief George Chen, who is joined by Executive Editor Marshall Watkins, Managing Editor of News Catherine Zaw, Managing Editor of Sports Do-Hyoung Park and Managing Editor of Opinions Winston Shi. To contact the Editorial Board chair, submit an op-ed (limited to 700 words) or submit a letter to the editor (limited to 500 words) at eic@stanforddaily.com.
  • Jonathan Poto

    Rebuttal!

    “Measurable Change” vs. “Impact Now”: Assessing the ASSU Exec Candidates from a Well-being Perspective

    Here for my fifth year at Stanford, I’ve experience many of the same highs and lows as you have, blissfully overloading myself with student groups,
    valiantly struggling to keep up with classes, or spectacularly failing to date someone longer than a month. These struggles give all of us perspective on what can be done to improve our situation, as well as the institutions that shape our experience. In my five years at Stanford two larger questions relating to the integrity of this institution have loomed at the center…
    “How can we improve mental well being, to improve lives and stop suicide on campus?” and “How can we reduce and eventually end sexual violence on campus?”. While student groups have carried the primary load of improving student lives in these areas, they lack access to governing structures and the plurality of other student viewpoints to advocate for a structured social agenda.

    The ASSU, and in particular the Executive President and Vice President have the organization and legitimacy to advocate for a healthier campus, if (and this is a big if) they connect the appropriate networks of student groups, ASSU branches, and Stanford administrators to make changes. Without a vision of what change should look like, and without the experience to navigate these groups, this is impossible. The executive slates for Miller-Saba and Woodson-Richard reveal to what extent the candidates have the vision and experience needed to organize and advocate in the areas of mental and sexual health.

    Both slates have recent and extensive ASSU experience with Miller as a Senator, Saba as a Chair of the Constitutional Council, and Woodson as ASSU Executive Social Impact Manager, last year. Miller-Saba’s experience has a legal and political orientation, with Miller as an executive member of the Pre-Law Society and Saba as a Stanford in Government committee member. Woodson and Richard are leaders in public service and community organizing at Stanford, with Richard previously as NAACP International Affairs Co-Chair and Woodson as Director of Outreach for the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. The legal and civic political orientations of the respective candidates are both valuable in looking at campus health, and its very much a toss-up as to who has more valuable experience.

    That being said, I have an opinion on which slate is more likely to leverage its connections into change. On a basic level, Woodson-Richard appear to be able to commit the time to the job of ASSU executive. Woodson and Richard have apparently worked out their schedules such that they can take class loads close to the 12-unit minimum, whereas Sala would be hindered by the difficulty of training and traveling with his baseball team for tournaments and spring quarter league play, while simultaneously leading as executive. Advocacy agendas, especially in areas with as much political inertia as health and wellness require year round leadership to maintain pressure on institutions requiring change.

    Finally, and most importantly, we see a gulf between the two slates in their proposed Executive Plan. Miller-Saba’s website is refreshingly clear in delineating its goals of “Serving Student Groups”, [Increasing] “Community Engagement”, and [Improving] “Student Well-Being”. Unfortunately their vision of what Well-Being means is frought with problems. For one, Miller-Saba’s slate gives us no insight into whether the candidates have a plan on reducing sexual violence and improving the dialogue on the topic, besides “Work with the SARA office”.

    On the topic of mental health, their plan to bring counselors into specific community centers, is intriguing, but far from comprehensive. Which community centers will have counselors? With what level of care?… Finally, Miller Saba’s plan for ASSU-sponsored de-stress yourself” weeks during dead weeks begs the question of what is going to be done from Week 1 to Week 10. These plans project as pet projects rather than a systematic tackling of health issues, and the candidates lack of documentation in the machinations of these plans borders on egregious.
    Woodson-Richard’s platform suffers the opposite problem. Their website is over-saturated with ideas on how to address a panoply of problems on campus. That being said their vision when it comes to sexual health and mental well-being is prescient. Tellingly, the first agenda on their website is “Fixing Health”. When it comes to mental health Woodson Richard have identified many of the principle problems students face, including the need for increased CAPS support, approaching student’s from their own point of interest, such as through the arts, and looking at athlete-specific mental health challenges. As a whole, their eleven points for mental and emotional wellbeing makes it clear that mental health has been a key consideration for the campaign rather than an afterthought.

    On the topic of sexual health, Woodson-Richard have similarly identified critical points for change in a detailed and systematic way. Their push to incorporate sexual assault education into NSO is critical to address a freshman population that is generally vulnerable and lacking the experiences necessary to seek help in the case of sexual assault. Their call to involve students in developing the new position of Title IX Coordinator will engage students in the legal discussion and execution of policies greatly impacting their health. Finally, Woodson-Richard’s plan to devote time in RA training to LGBTQ sensitivity and understanding shows that Woodson-Richard’s are truly representing all student body interests in these issues of sexual health.

    Leaving the farm this year, I won’t personally see the benefits of an improved campus, but that does not stop me from wanting to improve this place that’s been my home. Student government is not a startup, but a complex institution of stewardship and advocacy for change. In the case of mental-wellbeing I prefer to see a wealth of ideas to address diverse emotional and health needs rather than a snappy one-stop set of solutions. For that reason I am voting for Woodson-Richard, who I see as a greater choice for protecting our right to a safe and healthy Stanford.

    - Jonathan Poto, Class of 2014 (MS&E)

    disclaimer: I attended one Woodson-Richard meeting prior to writing this, but after having independently come to the conclusions above.