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Op-Ed: Stanford Democrats stand by endorsement

In recent years, ASSU Elections have achieved near-joke status with students outside of a small group who are intimately involved with the operation of student government. This state of affairs is due in part to widespread apathy among voters and a chronic inability of candidates to deliver on stereotypically vague campaign proposals. As the election approaches, the Executive Board of the Stanford Democrats would like to reaffirm our belief that the ASSU still has a role to play in the lives of Stanford students, specifically as a bridge between administrators and the student body and as a platform that facilitates a wide variety of student-based initiatives. As a result, the Stanford Democrats are endorsing Shahab Fadavi ’15, Lauren Miller ’15, Jack Weller ’15, and Garima Sharma ’15 as candidates for ASSU Senate.

These candidates share a realistic idea of what the Senate can be and what they can and, more importantly, cannot achieve if they were to be elected. Specifically, Shahab, Jack, Lauren and Garima all convinced us that they were passionate about changing the current Senate’s hostile atmosphere and lobbying for a specific set of issues, not just the glamorous topic of appropriations reform. Their individual commitments to student wellness, advising reform and ASSU accessibility (rather than  “transparency”), are the first steps towards redirecting the focus of Senate from internal reform and bickering to providing tangible progress and changes for the student body.

Three executive slates, MacGregor-Dennis/Ghanta, Mwaura/Mbatia and Zimbroff/Wagstaff, applied for our official endorsement. The board was generally impressed with all three slates. Mwaura and Mbatia presented a fresh and clear set of objectives that emphasized a commitment to achievable goals that would safeguard student interests and re-focus ASSU actions on the needs of the average student who does not care about the specific wording of the ASSU Constitution, for instance. The Zimbroff-Wagstaff slate shared this common sense approach to campaign priorities and a clear focus on the student body along with a collaborative demeanor that would be well suited to the position. The board felt, however, that these two slates had the same general goals as other slates running in this and, more importantly, previous elections. While we appreciated the sincerity and fresh personalities that Zimbroff and Wagstaff offered, we regret that they reverted to the many of same “buzz words” and promises that we have heard from several past ASSU Execs. As such, the Stanford Democrats believe that Stewart MacGregor-Dennis’s prior experience as an ASSU Senator and current ASSU Vice President makes him the most qualified candidate to be the next student body president. Specifically, he has a thorough understanding of the ASSU’s rules, procedures and abilities that will enable him to effectively lobby for student interests and start achieving his tangible campaign goals from day one.

In the past, as MacGregor-Dennis himself is quick to acknowledge from personal experience, ASSU Executives have wasted significant portions of the year because they lack this type of institutional knowledge and personal relationship with University administrators. We also believe that Druthi Ghanta provides the slate with the necessary balance of an ASSU outsider who can bring new perspectives to the table. MacGregor-Dennis and Ghanta believe that the ASSU should actively facilitate the various initiatives brought to it by passionate students, rather than just promote the platforms of its endorsers. The Stanford Democrats firmly believe that such an inclusive approach, which will certainly produce a mix of successes and some failures, will lead to the development of initiatives that benefit all students in the long term.

It is not the endorsing board’s job to defend all of MacGregor-Dennis’s actions; however, based on our understanding of the facts right now, he is being accused of using his own money to engage in actions that were legal at the time he did them. We feel that the amount of attention given to the recent Stewart MacGregor-Dennis “outsourcing scandal” highlights the extent to which non-issues pervade the current ASSU campaign, but we also understand and can relate to the anger and outpouring of concern towards MacGregor-Dennis’s actions. Hiring a company to boost his social media profile is misleading, but legal and does not determine whether he can achieve his platform or not. Finally, while MacGregor-Dennis’s life plan has reached quasi-meme status with the student body, we believe that such attention to detail, self-reflection and refinement of his goals are something the Exec should constantly be doing and will only help the ASSU create tangible changes for students. Whether his choices were ethical is a decision to be made by each individual voter, but we sincerely hope that level heads will prevail as the elections approach.

In conclusion, the Stanford Democrats believe that the ASSU should be composed of individuals that have a realistic understanding of how the ASSU functions and what it can actually achieve. Institutional knowledge and personal relationships can in this case better help an Executive team and senators take full advantage of their term to achieve the goals in their platform. Therefore, we urge the student body to consider Stewart MacGregor-Dennis ’13 and Druthi Ghanta ’14 for ASSU Executive and Shahab Fadavi, Lauren Miller, Jack Weller, and Garima Sharma for ASSU Senate.

 

The Stanford Democrats Endorsement emphasized the candidates’ ability to work for the student body rather than just their political affiliations. The endorsement process consisted of an application and interview conducted by members of the executive board: Lindsay Lamont ’13, Rahul Sastry ’13, Namir Shah ’14 and Russ Islam ’15. Jack Weller, who is the current co-chair of social media for the Stanford Democrats, was not involved in any aspect of the endorsement process.

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