Fourteen graduate students will vie for positions on the Graduate Student Council (GSC), the representative body for just over 60 percent of students at Stanford, in this year’s ASSU elections. Eight current Councilors, including GSC Co-chairs Bryce Anzelmo and Trevor Martin, will seek re-election.
According to Martin, a third year graduate student in biology, the GSC impacts student life in three main ways: programming, like the annual grad formal; funding, in a close parallel to the operations of the ASSU Undergraduate Senate; and advocacy, or representing the diverse interests and experiences of over 11,000 graduate students.
Martin pointed to the website launched by the GSC this year as an example of how the body has tried to become more relevant to the lives of students. After Martin found that many of his peers did not know what the GSC was involved in, “one of [the website’s] main goals was to be able to answer that question very easily.”
The reality, however, is that graduate students are consistently apathetic about the GSC and the ASSU. Last year, less than 10 percent of graduate students voted in the ASSU elections.
For the fourth time in five years, the number of seats on the Council will outnumber the number of candidates running. Only two out of 14 candidates will “lose” their elections, as the vast majority of candidates will be returned unopposed. And even then, losing candidates will likely be given the opportunity to serve in the GSC anyway.
The GSC reserves five seats for at-large representation, with the remaining 10 of the GSC’s 15 seats are apportioned based on a student’s field of study.
This year, only two candidates have declared for the at-large seats, so, barring a write-in campaign, the ASSU election will not successfully fill the GSC. That being said, the last three elections have returned councilors elected by a single write-in vote.
The process of filling empty seats is governed by the ASSU Constitution and the GSC bylaws, which request that the GSC vote on who will fill the seats. According to Paul Harold, a third-year law student and the GSC parliamentarian, any graduate student will be able to apply because any vacant seats would be in the at-large district.
Record number of students seeking re-election
About half of this year’s GSC will return as Councilors again next year, with the vast majority running in uncontested races. Councilor Petr Johanes ’12, a masters student at the Graduate School of Education who is running uncontested for re-election, says that the lack of competition simply represents the tradeoffs inherent in life as a graduate student.
“It could be because not a lot of people know about the GSC, it could be because research demands and other demands are too great for the GSC to be a part of someone’s life,” he said.
He pointed to the diversity of students who belong to the University’s graduate ranks, ranging from coterms still very much in “college” to parents with families to feed and children to raise.
“Graduate life is very different from undergraduate life,” he said.
According to Martin, having so many current Councilors coasting towards re-election with few new faces campaigning against them will be a mixed blessing for the body next year.
“On one end, it’s great because the projects we’re working on require continuity. I think institutional memory is a big problem with student government and the GSC in particular,” he said. “But there is a downside. There may be fewer fresh ideas, it might be a sign that we need to work on our outreach a bit…or maybe people are happy with their representatives. It’s hard to say.”
Contact Edward Ngai at edngai “at” stanford.edu.