By Lucy Svoboda
ASSU Co-Presidents Billy Gallagher ’14 and Dan Ashton ’14 have officially appointed their executive cabinet, selecting 15 cabinet members from a pool of 50 applicants. The cabinet held their first meeting on Monday evening.
The size of next year’s cabinet marks a significant increase over this year’s cabinet, which consisted of three members. It remains smaller, however, than the cabinet of former ASSU President Michael Cruz ’12 and Vice President Stewart Macgregor-Dennis ’13, which had 16 members.
“Essentially Dan and I thought that offering a spot to anyone [like Cruz and Macgregor-Dennis did] wasn’t going to work as well, but we did feel like we wanted a bigger body than [outgoing ASSU Executives] Robbie [Zimbroff ’12 M.A. ’13 and Will [Wagstaff ’12 M.A. ’13] had,” Gallagher said. “Fifteen was the number we came up with to keep the cabinet small and focused with tangible objectives.”
Unlike Zimbroff and Wagstaff, who waited until summer before making cabinet appointments, Gallagher and Ashton started their search immediately after being elected.
In addition to sending out a campus-wide email with an application, the co-presidents sought out former colleagues—from Ashton’s time in the ASSU Undergraduate Senate and Gallagher’s time at The Daily—and other outstanding students. They also sought out individuals from several endorsement groups involved in the ASSU election process.
“Ultimately, we looked for individuals who were very motivated, very self driven, and able to deliver a project totally by themselves,” Gallagher said. “We also wanted a cabinet that represented a good breadth and depth of the student body.”
Using a basic scoring process, Gallagher and Ashton selected 25 students to interview and eventually gave positions to 15 people, slightly more than their initial target of 10 to 12 people. The final 15 include a coterminal student, a law student, a student at the Graduate School of Business and a mixture of undergraduates.
“More than 15 would be too much for us to manage, and less than 15 would be denying too many good candidates,” Gallagher said. “We felt like these really talented people are willing to help the ASSU and work with it, and there was not really any compelling reason to deny them from doing that.”
Cabinet appointee and former ASSU Senator Viraj Bindra ’15 described the incoming cabinet as the right size.
“I think that three people precludes the cabinet from doing much else when you already have one person who is in charge of all of the financial stuff on the Exec side,” he said. “I think that [having] 15 [members] allows a lot of us to pursue our own smaller initiatives and also come together and put all hands on deck for bigger things that we want to get done.”
Unlike the outgoing cabinet, none of the new cabinet members will have formal titles. Members will each work on individual projects, but the co-presidents expressed hope that the absence of titles will give members the flexibility to work on several different types of projects.
“I think it allows us to adapt more to the student body instead of pigeonholing everyone in something that’s static for the whole year,” Gallagher said.
Susie Choi ’12 J.D. ’15, a first-year law student who is returning to the Executive cabinet for the third time in her Stanford career, expressed surprise at the lack of teams or chairs, which had been used in her two previous years on cabinet (2008-2009 and 2010-2011). She noted, however, that the change might prove useful.
“In the past I was solely working on projects pertaining to a single issue, which was a little bit limiting in a sense,” she said. “While the team structure could definitely be useful, I think that not having it could really help us branch out into areas that pop up during the year.”
Gallagher expressed hope that this structural change will eliminate any hierarchy within the cabinet.
“We really feel that any of these people could have been an ASSU Exec,” Gallagher said. “I can emphasize the fact that these are all equal members.”
The only exception to the lack of hierarchy is Chief of Staff Alon Elhanan ’14. Elhanan, a former ASSU senator, will be responsible for helping Ashton and Gallagher with day-to-day business and overseeing the cabinet members.
“My number one goal is making sure the cabinet is a well-functioning organization,” he said. “[It] is a project that in itself…needs to have clear goals and clear outlines. My job is to check that the rest of the cabinet are staying on their game, are motivated and have all of the resources that they need to complete their tasks.”
While that will be Elhanan’s main responsibility, he is also committed to making sure that the ASSU’s various institutions work together better.
“I’m really going to try to make it a focus of my position to make sure that Dan and Billy as Exec are interacting with the Senate and class presidents in a way that creates synergy,” Elhanan said. “To be practical, the ASSU is sometimes not on the same page. I think that there can really be a lot of good done by sharing information and sharing resources.”
The new cabinet’s first meeting Monday reflected a broad desire to work with the Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Council to achieve mutually desirable goals, and a general consensus developed around being more accessible to students and creating a campus community that will allow more student overlap beyond residential environments and student groups.
“We are going to consolidate all of our ideas within the next couple of weeks and work will definitely start this summer,” Bindra said. “Everyone is really raring to get started.”