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Guide to the 2016 ASSU Elections

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Between April 7-8, the student body will vote for student officers, Special Fees requests from student groups and referendums on specific issues. The Stanford Daily presents a guide to the people and issues on the ballot.

Timeline and Logistics

Up till March 9, ASSU candidates, student groups and referendum drafters each solicited signatures to reach targets set by the ASSU Bylaws. Only petitions that make the thresholds will be eligible for vote when voting begins on April 7. Polls will close on April 8, and the results will be announced at an election results party on April 9 at 5 p.m. at a currently undetermined location.

Students will be voting for elected officials including Class Presidents as well as the three elected bodies of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU): the Undergraduate Senate, the Graduate Student Council (GSC) and the ASSU Executive. Students will also vote on whether certain student groups should receive special fees and whether referendums should be passed.

Special Fees allow groups to seek large amounts of funding that exceed thresholds for standard funding grants, which are directly approved by the Undergraduate Senate and the Graduate Student Council. To do so, they need to get a majority of votes from the student body. This year, 13 groups are seeking Special Fees, up from just five last year. Some groups, such as the International Undergraduate Community, are applying because their requests for increased funding were rejected by student legislators.

In addition, four referendums have made it to the ballot. One challenges the Office of Student Affairs’ opposition to Full Moon on the Quad, while another seeks to stave off any attempts on the administration’s part to impose a partial or total ban on alcohol consumption. The third referendum proposes that the university institute a Western Civilization requirement for all undergraduates. The third referendum was initially removed from the ballot by ASSU Elections Commissioner Eric Wilson ’17, but has since been cleared for the election. The ASSU Senate itself placed a referendum to readminister the campus climate survey on the ballot, based on a resolution drafted by current Senator Matthew Cohen ‘18.

Who am I voting for, anyway?

The ASSU Senate and the GSC make up the ASSU’s legislative branch, which funds campus events, works with student groups and acts as a liaison with administrators. All 15 undergraduate Senators serve on one of six committees: Advocacy, Academic Affairs, Administration and Rules, Appropriations, Communications and Student Life. The elected Senate chair runs meetings, oversees the work of the Senate and represents the undergraduate Senate in the ASSU Executive.

Recently, the outgoing Senate has launched the movement to remove Junípero Serra’s name from school buildings and roads, negotiated a $100 food stipend for students in need over spring break and responded to the Office of Student Affairs’ concerns about Full Moon on the Quad.

The elected ASSU Executives serve as student body President and Vice-President. The President and Vice-President link the undergraduate and graduate student communities with the Faculty Senate and administration. To do so, they attend key decision-making dialogues and send Executive Updates to the whole student body. This year’s Executives, John-Lancaster Finley ’16 and Brandon Hill ’16, took the Undergraduate Senate resolution on Junípero Serra to the Faculty Senate, the Graduate Student Council and the school administration for approval and further action.

Together with a nominated cabinet, the ASSU Executives also set high-level aims and launch key initiatives for the whole student body in partnership with student representatives, faculty and the administration. Under the leadership of Finley and Hill, the Executive has taken on sexual assault, sustainability and mental health. Their work in sexual assault prevention includes hosting a town hall with school leaders, launching awareness events and proposing a compulsory gender identity class for freshmen and sophomores to the Faculty Senate.

ASSU Executive: transparency, mental health and campus diversity

To run for the ASSU Executive, each slate — consisting of a President and Vice President — worked over winter quarter to hit the 200-signature mark necessary to make it onto the ballot. This coming election, Jackson Beard ’17 and Amanda Edelman ’17 are taking on the Chaparral’s satirical slate of Tristan Navarro ’18 and Scott Mutchnik ’19. The two contesting slates represent a decrease from the four slates that ran last year.

The Beard/Edelman slate emphasized listening to the student voice. Beard and Edelman stated that they “spent the past five months asking individuals and communities on campus what they think would best improve their Stanford experience,” and better communication was a recurring theme in their initiatives.

The resulting slate statement proposed greater funding for campus psychological services, platforms for dialogue among faculty, students and campus communities, as well as greater diversity in faculty and campus health staff. Beard and Edelman’s focus on mental health, sexual assault and campus diversity mirror the outgoing Executives’ core goals.

Beard/Edelman received 325 signatures, the most of any slate this year.

Meanwhile, Navarro/Mutchnik summed up their stance with a pithy call to action: “Join Navarro/Mutchnik 2016 to refocus the University on what matters: Graduate students!”

The pair of undergraduate candidates proposed to defend Teaching Assistants’ leisure time and disband the Undergraduate Senate, all in the name of uplifting graduate students at Stanford. Their campaign acronym, “UNTIE,” presents a thought-provoking parallel to the Beard/Edelman promise to “UNITE” with the student body to build a better campus environment.

Undergraduate Senate: WAYS, FLI and FMOTQ

This year, 37 candidates are running for the ASSU senate, with seven out of the 15 current senators running for reelection. A campaign by “Emperor Palpatine” gathered 202 signatures, the most of any Senate slate, with Junwon Park following with 162 signatures.

Many Senate candidates echoed the Executive slates’ call for campus diversity and mental health resources. However, the senate candidates more explicitly addressed recent controversies.

For instance, candidates framed their take on campus diversity in response to the Stanford Review’s proposed Western Civilization requirement.

“We can all learn to appreciate the value of the humanities, but requiring Western Civilization of all students is not the way to do it,” Matthew Wigler ’19 wrote in his position statement, addressing the proposal directly.

“Rather, adding an additional WAY in the humanities that compels students to study a historic/cultural experience other than their own is a better way to enhance our understanding both of the liberal arts and of each other,” Wigler added.

Others saw the potentially divisive debates sparked by these controversies as a problem in itself.

“We must be mature enough and united enough to discuss issues together,” Ali Sarilgan ’19 wrote. “Any student should be able to comment on the Western Civilization debate without being marginalized. The Native American leadership and Catholic leadership teams should connect and discuss Junípero Serra’s name together.”

On mental health, candidates criticized the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) waiting times.

“Wait times at CAPS this quarter have ranged from 1.5 weeks to much longer, due to a variety of reasons,” Michelle Huang ’19 wrote. “After attending a community outreach meeting for CAPS, I have a solid idea of what’s going on: an inefficient phone triage system, misconceptions regarding the purpose of CAPS and an insufficient outside referral system, among more.”

Candidates also pointed to the University’s increasingly tough stance on Full Moon on the Quad (FMOTQ) and campus alcohol use.

“A good Senate would fight to keep FMOTQ and resist the administration’s plan to turn RAs into policemen, charged with stamping out all usage of hard alcohol, a story I exposed,” Elliot Kaufman ’18 wrote. “This kind of mindset not only disempowers you, but has been shown time and time again to make students less safe.”

Freshman candidates in particular sought to lower barriers for first-generation college students from low-income backgrounds.

“Being a FLI (first-generation, low income) student myself, I understand the hardships a student, even at Stanford, can face,” Romeo Umana ’19 wrote. “Some of them include having to send money home, not even being able to go home without taking out loans for flights and missing out on opportunities such as music lessons.”

Meanwhile, current Senators seeking re-election emphasized their track record and commitment on new issue areas.

“In my work with the Senate this past year, I’ve learned a lot about what makes a successful Senator… I promise to work equally hard in my second term [as in my first],” Hattie Gawande ’18 wrote.

Contact Fangzhou Liu  fzliu96 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Anne-Marie Hwang at amhwang ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Fangzhou Liu ’19 was Vol. 253 Executive Editor; before that, she co-led the news section. She grew up in Singapore and studies computer science and linguistics.