ASSU Co-Chairs of Entrepreneurship Dan Thompson ’13 and Jon Manzi ’13 announced their resignation last Friday in a letter sent out to student email lists. In the letter, Thompson and Manzi stated that E2.0 — a branch of the ASSU formed this year that advocates on behalf of student entrepreneurs on campus — would be separated from the rest of the student government.
E2.0 will now function as an independent student group and raise all funds from outside sources, Thompson said.
The announcement came as part of a letter in which E2.0 responded to criticisms regarding a mass email the organization sent out to the student body Thursday morning, which referenced Oprah Winfrey as a sexual-assault survivor and an entrepreneur.
According to Thompson, the intention of the initial email was to show that entrepreneurship “was not just for the white, wealthy computer scientists of the world” — one of the criticisms he said E2.0 had been receiving — but rather a force for social change. He said that Winfrey’s story was particularly empowering to him because he was a victim of violence as a result of his sexual orientation.
Viviana Arcia ’13, president of the Women’s Coalition, said in an email to The Daily that the letter “made it seem as if all survivors of sexual violence and abuse can and should move beyond the assault and should do so in an entrepreneurial, self-reliant manner.”
She said that this ignores the fact that many survivors of sexual violence cannot cope with the trauma without help from external sources like counselors, family, friends and advocates.
In their letter of resignation, Thompson and Manzi stated that they “deeply regret that this email may have hurt and offended numerous survivors and other concerned students.”
Thompson said he and Manzi individually responded to all of the negative feedback that they received and communicated with the leaders of women’s organizations on campus. He said E2.0 plans on forming a board of students that would be responsible for reaching out to different communities on campus, so they could learn more about their individual stories and determine how entrepreneurship could best benefit those groups moving forward.
ASSU Vice President Stewart Macgregor-Dennis ’13 said that the ASSU also apologizes for the letter E2.0 sent out on Thursday and is in the process of reaching out to the communities and individuals who have been affected.
Thompson said that E2.0 had planned on separating from the ASSU before this incident.
“[The email incident] didn’t affect the decision,” Thompson said. “It affected the timing.”
According to Thompson, the ASSU and E2.0 had been considering the best way to separate from each other since the beginning of the school year in response to opinions pieces criticizing the ASSU for becoming too tech-oriented and entrepreneurial, which were published in campus publications such as The Unofficial Stanford Blog and The Daily.
Thompson said, however, that they were nervous that an announcement of separation could create “volatile press for the ASSU and E2.0.”
“We really wanted to frame [the decision to separate E2.0 from the ASSU] correctly,” Thompson said. “So we needed to respond to this email, and we thought . . . we just needed to do both at once or else we are going to have two really dramatic emails in a row.”
Thompson said that the mission of E2.0 was to advocate on behalf of student entrepreneurs on campus — a goal that didn’t mesh well with that of the ASSU, which is aimed at serving all students. He said the decision for E2.0 and the ASSU to part ways was mutual.
“It seemed logical to separate the two to allow E2.0 to fully embrace entrepreneurship and the ASSU to take a full-balance approach,” Macgregor-Dennis said.
The ASSU Executive hired Thompson and Manzi at the end of last spring quarter to be Co-Chairs of Entrepreneurship. Together with Macgregor-Dennis, they decided to form E2.0 within the framework of the ASSU. According to Magregor-Dennis, the goal of E2.0 was to “create a body that would realize the entrepreneurship part of the platform that we [ASSU President Michael Cruz ’12 and Macgregor-Dennis] ran on.”
Macgregor-Dennis said, however, that the presence of E2.0 within the ASSU made it look as if the ASSU had a disproportionate focus on entrepreneurship instead of on the entire student body. He added that those involved with E2.0, including himself, tended to be “loud” about their initiatives, using social media to talk about their projects in ways that other parts of the ASSU did not, which resulted in more press attention.
“I have particular passions in entrepreneurship and technology and social entrepreneurship, but I think the feedback has pushed me — rightly so — to take a more balanced approach,” Macgregor-Dennis said. “What I’m hoping moving forward is that this will be a win-win for the ASSU and E2.0, and I can still have some my entrepreneurship passions within the ASSU, but some more of them can be realized outside of it.”
It remains undecided in what capacity, if any, Macgregor-Dennis will continue to participate in E2.0. Macgregor-Dennis said the ASSU Exec has also not determined yet whether they will replace the Chairs of Entrepreneurship or leave the positions vacant.
E2.0 will continue moving forward with its initiatives independently, according to Thompson. He said the organization’s main projects include creating an entrepreneurship-themed dorm on campus, developing an entrepreneurship-mentorship program and interfacing with the Graduate School of Business to establish a forum where business students could provide feedback on undergraduate enterprises.
Thompson said they have already started discussions with University officials — including President John Hennessy and Dean of Residential Education Deborah Golder — about creating the entrepreneurship dorm, which is currently E2.0’s main objective.
“I honestly believe everything that we’re doing will be for the best for Stanford, but I really appreciated the feedback and didn’t take it personally,” Thompson said. “A lot of people felt this was not the role of the ASSU, especially given the scope of our initiatives. We were really taking up a lot of press, so I understood where people were coming from.”
Macgregor-Dennis said he also believes E2.0 will go on to create positive change for entrepreneurs on campus — even though the organization will now act separately from the ASSU. He said that E2.0 has served as a learning experience for the ASSU Exec.
“I think we [the Exec] learned that we need to make a conscious, deliberate effort to serve all students at all times,” Macgregor-Dennis said.