Thinking there was a lack of independent and moderate voices in political conversations on campus, Charles Foster ’18 decided to start a No Labels chapter at Stanford this year. No Labels is a national organization that dedicates itself to promoting open-mindedness regarding political beliefs and finding solutions to issues in America.
Locally, the Stanford No Labels chapter aims to promote bipartisan debate and problem solving, said Foster, who is serving as co-chair of the organization.
“The way we built [No Labels] is a bipartisan political think tank for moving beyond party lines and towards real solutions in the community and on campus,” No Labels co-chair Andrew Ntim ’18 said.
One of the chapter’s main goals is to change the conversation to embrace voices from all different perspectives — whether they are more moderate or extreme — and perhaps make solutions to issues more apparent through more open conversations. Ntim felt “a lot of the conversations and discussions around these issues have centered around the more extreme views.”
In terms of finding solutions, the chapter is looking towards a more bottom-up approach, seeking lateral influence through community leaders and students rather than hierarchical influence through state politicians, according to Foster and Ntim. They also hope to spread awareness about and find potential solutions for various issues by encouraging conversations that embrace all voices and viewpoints.
“The Stanford spirit is making this organization take on a very different shape [from the other college chapters],” Foster said. “We’re not just a group of people who are going to do a letter-writing campaign trying to get members of Congress to support. We’re much more active.”
“We think that innovation is possible with Stanford students and working with community leaders,” he added. “We think that can bring real change.”
No Labels holds meetings every Wednesday night, and its members discuss various national, local and campus issues. Issues they have discussed include national environmental policies, local policies affecting housing and homelessness in Mountain View and on-campus policies regarding sexual assault and campus climate.
“I felt so far removed from anything happening in this world that I figured [No Labels] seemed like an interesting place. I can be the boring data-driven economist here and be like, ‘Okay, can we ask it from this angle or this angle?’” said No Labels member Albert Gehami ’17. “No one is there to push an agenda or offend anyone. It’s just a bunch of people talking [about an issue].”
To spread their message across campus, the chapter hopes to bring in local community leaders to further discussions and lead workshops. On Nov. 11, the chapter hosted a discussion on local Bay Area issues with Chris Clark, the 2012 mayor of Mountain View and one of the youngest LGBTQ mayors in the nation. Topics of discussion included housing policy, minimum wage and the role technology and business play on a local level.
Foster and Ntim also want to work with other student groups like Stanford in Government (SIG) and Stanford Conservative Society to have conversations about issues that are affecting the community.
“We have an incredible resource on campus,” Ntim said. “Just all these incredibly motivated, smart students who want to change things and bring about better policies and bring about better outcomes for local and national communities. We think that by bringing people together and working towards these common goals, we can do that.”
Contact Kristy Duong at kristy5 ‘at’ stanford.edu.