Widgets Magazine

Case brought against ASSU ROTC advisory bill

Alok Vaid-Menon ’13, president of Stanford Students for Queer Liberation (SSQL), filed a petition to bring a case against the ASSU with the Constitutional Council, which was approved this week. Constitutional Council case W2011-1, Vaid-Menon v. Cardona, will determine the constitutionality of a bill passed by the Undergraduate Senate to place an “advisory referendum” question on the spring elections ballot, which is intended to gauge student opinion regarding ROTC.

The Constitutional Council is the judicial branch of the ASSU, but Vaid-Menon’s case will be the first the body has heard in over one year. However, the Senate recently passed a bill redefining some of the roles of the Constitutional Council and of the solicitors general so that both can become more active bodies.

According to Constitutional Council Chair Samir Siddhanti ’12, before the Council’s Rules of Order were passed two weeks ago, “there was no framework for how to accept or try to a case.”

Siddhanti said that Vaid-Menon’s petition was filed late Sunday evening, and both parties were notified by Tuesday. He said that given the new rules, the five-member Council hopes to set a precedent by having a quick turnaround for trials.

“This is the very first trial we’ve gotten since the new group was brought in,” he said, “but that’s what we would like to do, especially given the time sensitive nature of this case.”

ASSU President Angelina Cardona ’11 authored the bill to place an “advisory referendum” question on the general elections ballot asking student opinion on the potential for ROTC to return to campus. Both the Senate and the Graduate Student Council voted to pass the bill at the beginning of February.

At the time, Cardona said that Vaid-Menon was consulted on the drafting of the language of the bill so that it could be presented with “neutral language.” In an interview with The Daily, Vaid-Menon said that despite consultation, he was “frustrated by the passing of the bill.”

“In no way did I ever give my complete acceptance of this bill,” he said. “This is a way for me to address my concerns.”

For Vaid-Menon, asking for student opinion by voting on support for the ROTC issue is like “putting civil rights on the ballot box.”

Vaid-Menon and SSQL oppose the return of ROTC to Stanford because it does not allow transgender students to participate.

“It frames ROTC as a question and not as a policy,” he said. “The University is very firm in its non-discrimination policy, which includes gender identity. It seems generally silly to have a question that violates this University policy.”

Siddhanti said that the evidence required to prove constitutionality of an ASSU bill or action varies from case to case.

“Most of the arguments are [ASSU] constitutionally based, and the petitioner argues why or why not there’s a violation, and in some cases people can bring witnesses,” he said. “It’s pretty much anything allowed in real court.”

“There’s also a segment for friends of the court to be heard,” Siddhanti added. “We want to make the process much more transparent and open to the public.”

Cardona said that she was “not surprised” to hear about the case. She said that she recommended the Constitutional Council as an avenue for Vaid-Menon to explore when he initially voiced concerns over the bill.

“When I showed [Vaid-Menon] the original draft, he had concerns about the bill in and of itself,” Cardona said.

“Situations like this is why the Constitutional Council exists and so I think that the trial will be good and the process will be an educational one for everyone,” she added.

Vaid-Menon argues that it is the responsibility of the ASSU to uphold University policies in addition to its own, including the non-discrimination policy.

“There’s this rhetoric for its still okay for people to vote and have a say on civil rights of other people,” he said. “We need to consider the ethics of voting on this bill.”

Although Vaid-Menon filed the petition as an individual, he said that his effort to aid SSQL’s opposition to ROTC means that his actions can be interpreted as on behalf of the group.

“I think, from my perspective, the distinguishing factor that doesn’t make the bill unconstitutional is that it’s a non-binding referendum, equitable to other avenues of input that the ad hoc committee has welcomed,” Cardona said. “That’s definitely within my bounds as president to have proposed and I still support [the bill].”

“That being said, I do understand where [Vaid-Menon] is coming from and want to do everything I can to support and represent the transgender community as well.”

Both Vaid-Menon and Cardona recognize that ultimately, the decision to recognize ROTC will be made by the Faculty Senate after receiving the report from the ad hoc committee in May.

“I don’t see this as that big of a deal, to be honest, because at the end of the day, people understand that the students themselves aren’t making this decision,” Vaid-Menon said. “This is much more of a symbolic campaign, and it’s time for students to hold the University accountable.”

“I hope the rhetoric behind this case doesn’t dwindle down to ROTC: should it return or should it not, because that’s not what this case is about,” Cardona said. “The question this case is focusing on is whether or not posing an advisory question to the campus community is constitutional or not.”

The trial will be next Wednesday, March 9, at 8 p.m. and open to the public. The location has not yet been determined.

  • ’11

    While it’s non-binding, I really hope that the Faculty Senate isn’t tempted to use any results of the ballot to make its decision. For one, any survey that has voluntary respondents is useless; the results are easily skewed. And for another, even if it were accurate, a minority’s rights and privileges should not be put up to a vote (that’s the reason the 14th amendment has the due process clause).

  • ’12

    Once again SSQL speaks on behalf of the entire LGBT community with a self-endowed sense of authority. This isn’t voting on a minority’s rights. This is just to gauge interest in how much of the campus would actually like to see ROTC return. I don’t personally support the return, but it doesn’t mean we can’t see what the rest of the campus thinks. It’d be nice to see how much of our campus actually knows the issues surrounding ROTC. I’ve hated being part of the LGBT community here because there is this annoying sense that some LGBT people are better than others and have the right to speak on behalf of everyone. Did you know a majority of my LGBT friends actually despise -that- LGBT community? While ROTC is a raging issue, I think Cardona’s bill was a right step in potentially refuting the argument that students want the return of ROTC, when quite frankly, I don’t think many care for it’s reestablishment.

    There are a lot of flaws in the Stanford community, and the LGBT community isn’t without its flaws.

    Take the inception of SSQL for instance– I sat in a corner of the firetruck house studying, while some 30 students came to establish SSQL shortly after the passing of prop 8. One wise student brought up the fact that it was a meeting for only the “LGBT elite” and that the wider community wasn’t even invited to it– that it was a shame such group with potential could be so closed. The people in SSQL seek control, and have the sense of higher being because they are fighting for something, while somehow managing to marginalize those that they are seemingly trying to protect. The LGBT community is misguided. I feel more accepted in the wider Stanford community than I do in the LGBT community.

    Calling this vote a violation of Stanford’s non-discrimination policy is far-reaching. It’s not voting on a minority’s rights, it’s voting on a government program. If that is such– go further reaching and call every Christian group that has a stance against homosexuality a violation to the non-discrimination policy. Call every comment, email, or article in support of ROTC a violation of the non-discrimination policy. SSQL is creating a relationship that just isn’t true, victimizing themselves and the entire LGBT community without having the authority to do so.

  • Concerned Student

    To ’12: No where in this article did SSQL suggest that it was speaking on behalf of the entire LGBT community. SSQL is speaking on behalf of SSQL and on behalf of transgender students involved with the organization who are upset by the prospect of the (discriminatory) ROTC program being brought back.

    Judging from your description, you were not there during the founding of SSQL. You were there during the founding of the Emma Goldman Society, SSQL’s predecessor. None of the original members of Emma Goldman are currently involved with SSQL. The sentiments that you are expressing are for a community of people who are no longer represented in the group.

    I would encourage you to express your anxiety with the LGBT community in more productive forums and ways rather than scapegoating SSQL.

  • Gay Student

    SSQL — stop pretending to speak for the Stanford LGBT community!

  • Why?

    Besides SSQL is there any student group on campus which campaigns AGAINST other students? I am honestly confused; how does the administration allow such behavior? This group has the Stanford name in its very title, and how embarrassing is that for other Stanford students? If this isn’t illegal, it is still wrong. Those involved should reconsider their negative campaign; Stanford is about creating and fostering ideas. ROTC’s existence would not impact SSQL’s existence, but the reverse, they feel, should be true. Please act more mature in these matters, for all of us.

  • Think about it

    If SSQL weren’t vocal in the ROTC debate, people would be wondering where the hell the LGBT community is. Or some other group would step up to the plate. SSQL doesn’t claim to speak for the entire LGBT community–if anyone in that community disagrees, they are free to speak about it.

  • @concerned student

    It’s a little hard to express said “anxiety with the LGBT community in more productive forums” because if you recall the event they had addressing this “elitist LGBT” issue, and several LGBT not feeling comfortable in the LGBT community… guess who showed up to that event. It’s hard to address an issue that’s so engrained. I just feel like this ROTC issue is just an anti-war effort using LGBT issues as a crutch. And while I am anti-war anti-ROTC I don’t promote the use of my personal identity to be such a centralized argument.

    I just don’t like the way SSQL “portrays” the LGBT community. I know I’ve heard it a lot. The LGBT community is represented by a very small portion of the actual gay community, and it’s tiresome when people start to think that LGBT people at Stanford are oversensitive people who push LGBT issues too far– and these are often people who are LGBT but disassociate themselves from the community for this reason.

  • LT

    ’12, gay student, @concerned student,

    Why don’t y’all step up then? Complaining on the internet about how the LGBT folks that do stuff get all the attention is not going to change anything. @concerned student admits that there was an event about this issue but no one it was catered to showed up. So you all think that Terra and SSQL aren’t the be-all-end-all of the queer community and prove it by…lurking in the background. Look, I understand that complaining is easier than doing, but I’m sure the administration will be ecstatic to approve an LGBT Students For Apathy group.

    PS. Why all this hatred for activism? Yeah, campus is about as politically active as a dirty sock but you all need to stop pulling the “oversensitive” card. It’s pretty sad to hear folks trying to shame and discourage people from being politically active and informed.

  • A Frustrated Trans Rights Supporter

    Alok Vaid-Menon spoke heavily of encouraging the administration to be “transparent” in its decision making. In a public email, he criticized Harvard after their decision to bring ROTC back for not “critically engaging with the perspectives of the Harvard community.” Nonetheless, he just pressed charges against the ASSU President for ballot that would assess how Stanford students really feel about this issue. We can argue all we want, but we don’t know what the campus at large thinks, and this ballot is the single best way to find out. Further, this ballot initiative would further advance the very kind of dialogue that SSQL supposedly wants to engender. It stuns me that they do not see the inherent contradiction in their position by trying to stifle a public vote on this issue.

    Fight for Trans rights by campaigning to get the American Psychological Association to remove being trans from its list of mental disorders. Write your Congressperson. Fund-raise for trans rights organizations. But don’t picket in front of the office of a man who cares about trans rights, but who doesn’t have the power to let trans individuals serve in the armed forces. By doing so, you are alienating your moderate supporters like me, and like so many others.

  • Robin Thomas

    @LT: I agree, I think more activism would be really valuable on this campus. I feel like at Berkeley, vocal students like Vaid-Menon are probably a dime-a-dozen, whereas at Stanford we just have a lot of students that don’t accomplish much more but occasionally griping through the Daily (myself among them). In fact, the only recent demonstrations that I can remember are the Condival against Condi Rice, occupying the Circle of Death after Prop 8 passed (Protesting Prop 8 at Stanford?! Come on.) and that annual white-roses-to-protest-abortion thing. It’s really too bad.

    Maybe we could do another town hall or something to have this discussion be more public and concrete? I mean, putting this in the election is a step toward discussion, but a single multiple choice question on a ballot doesn’t make for much of an exchange of thoughts.

  • @all

    I dunno, I just feel that they are attacking Cardona’s bill unnecessarily–It’s a neutral bill and would probably bring light to a controversy only ROTC and LGBT students know about to the rest of the Stanford Community. I think it would increase discourse. It seems like SSQL is just trying to stifle all arguments which to me is childish.

  • Don’t Feed the Troll

    Seriously? Alok Vaid-Menon wants to bring a case against Cardona for a ballot to gauge opinions?

    Vaid-Menon is clearly nothing more than a troll. The Daily should know better than to feed the troll and post this trash.

  • Khaled al-Aref

    Stanford Students for Palestinian Freedom also vigorously supports this petition. The Jewish people’s suppression of an entire nation must end.

    Khaled al-Aref ’12
    Stanford Students for Palestinian Freedom

  • Seriously?

    I’m sorry but how does Palestine factor into this debate at all? How does the ASSU including a question about the potential return of ROTC in any way relate to “the Jewish people’s suppression of an entire nation”?

  • Khaled al-Aref

    The US military is a major component of Jewish oppression of the Palestinian people.

    Khaled al-Aref ’12
    Stanford Students for Palestinian Freedom

  • Robin Thomas

    It could be that “Khaled” isn’t Khaled at all. Those are some pretty loaded statements and very conspiratorial.

  • JL

    @Khaled. I’m sorry but how is the US military a major component of Jewish oppression of the Palestinian people? Last I heard, it was Congress that approves $3billion annually in foreign military sales to Israel.

  • Robin Thomas

    Harvard just agreed to allow Navy ROTC on campus:


  • law student

    Stanford’s non-discrimination policy allows ROTC. The policy only bars unlawful discrimination. Military transgender policy is lawful, therefore allowed.

  • DEROS 73070

    Yeah- These people are a couple of decades late-they would have been right at home at some of those she-male bars on Tu Do street in Saigon.
    If this sort of thinking is representative of the general student body, an ROTC detachment on the Stanford campus would be an embarassment to the Army.
    Come back when you get your heads screwed on straight.

  • Chase

    @law student

    “Stanford’s non-discrimination policy allows ROTC. ” You are a law student, so I’m assuming that you just haven’t read the policy, because it’s eminently clear that allowing ROTC on campus is in direct breach of the the policy.


    “Stanford University admits qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the University.”

    The ROTC discriminates based on gender identiy, and therefore, is in breach of above policy. QED (quod erat you’re an idiot)

  • Johnny Pizov

    Maybe it’s time to change Stanford’s policies.

  • Billy

    @ Chase you conveniently left out the next part of the non-discrimination policy:
    “Consistent with its obligations under the law, Stanford prohibits unlawful discrimination, including harassment, on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other characteristic protected by applicable law in the administration of the University’s programs and activities.”

  • bobo

    ROTC also discriminates on the basis of disability.

  • @Chase

    You live in a fantasy world in your mind. Obviously you left out the rest of the non-discrimination policy because it doesn’t fit into your fantasy-mind-world.

    “Consistent with its obligations under the law, Stanford prohibits unlawful discrimination, including harassment, on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other characteristic protected by applicable law in the administration of the University’s programs and activities.”

  • common sense

    crazy people with gender identity disorder shouldn’t be in the military. Hermaphrodites should be allowed though.

  • @billy

    The second part of the non-discrimination policy is in direct violation of the first part and should be ignored.

  • @ “Khaled”

    “Stanford Students for Palestinian Freedom” is not a real group. Either it needs to join campus dialogue on a very contentious debate, or else you need to stop stirring sh*t up for no reason.

  • @ “Khaled”

    “Stanford Students for Palestinian Freedom” is not a real group. Either it needs to join campus dialogue on a very contentious debate, or else you need to stop stirring sh*t up for no reason while making the rest of us trying to engage in discourse look bad.