By Melody Wong
The Stanford Flipside debuted its controversial Segway in White Plaza last Friday, bookending a campaign marked by a series of debates last spring when the group petitioned for about $7,000 of ASSU special fees to fund the purchase.
The group said it plans to bring the Segway to White Plaza each week to give students and readers a chance to try it out, as part of a weekly event called “Flipside Fridays.”
The Flipside, a satirical weekly campus publication, claims to have been partly serious but mainly facetious in its request for special fees to purchase a Segway. The group hoped to draw student voter attention to the special fees budget proposals on the ballot last spring, as well as flaws in the special fees process as a whole.
According to Jeremy Keeshin ’12, Flipside president, “The best message you can make as a joke is actually doing the thing you’re making fun of.”
Each year, certain eligible student groups are allotted ASSU funding from general fees collected from all students. Qualifying groups can petition for students to vote to grant them a special fee collected directly from students each quarter.
Special fees petitions require the signatures of 10 to 15 percent of the student body and, if placed on the ballot, approval by a majority of voters, which must constitute at least 15 percent of eligible voters. The Daily currently receives special fees.
Amid much controversy and debate, the Flipside’s budget proposal passed last April with 69 percent of the vote, which roughly translated to 32 percent of the undergraduate population as a whole, thereby meeting the ASSU requirements.
The Flipside proceeded with its purchase of a Segway, which the group said it currently uses for distribution purposes in addition to Friday entertainment.
Whether or not the Flipside’s Segway campaign and the ensuing debate have inspired changes to the special fees process remains to be seen. ASSU Senate Chair Rafael Vazquez ’12 was unavailable for comment before publication.
“Any reform of the system has to go through the ASSU governing body, the Undergraduate Senate and the Graduate Student Council,” said current ASSU Elections Commissioner and Flipside managing editor Adam Adler ’12.
An ASSU Commission on the Governing Documents is “basically trying to restructure everything,” Adler added.
Not all students appreciated the humorous manner the Flipside employed to illustrate its point. Some students voiced their displeasure at what they deemed the Flipside’s wasteful spending. A few accused the Flipside of exploiting the loopholes of the very system it was trying to expose.
However, not everyone opposed the Flipside’s choice of method to reveal the flaws of the current special fees system.
“The Flipside has exposed some problems with the special fees system in that even when you’re requesting a Segway, you can still get approved by the student body. And it shows that the student body doesn’t really read what’s in those proposals,” said Adam Klein ’13. “The Flipside operates through comedy. Like ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,’ they use comedy to expose issues in the real world. In this case, the Stanford world.”
Whether or not the Flipside’s statement was successful may be debatable. Despite the mixed responses concerning the purchase, for the Flipside staff, purchasing a Segway accomplished its desired effect.
“A lot of people did start talking about it,” Keeshin said. “You can read articles, you can read opinions on both sides. But whether or not you agree, the fact that we have it, it’s pretty clear that we got people talking. And that’s one of our main messages.”