By Fangzhou Liu
Tristan Navarro ’18 and Scott Mutchnik ’19 are looking to remind students what really makes this University tick and turn: graduate students. Despite acknowledging they don’t actually want the position, the two are running for ASSU Exec to highlight issues surrounding graduate students, Senate transparency and campus climate, all without taking things too seriously. The Daily spoke with Navarro and Mutchnik about their platform, plans of action and inspirations.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): What made you decide to run?
Navarro: We saw no one else running save the one slate, and we thought we could bring some interesting issues to the election.
Mutchnik: Yes, we wanted it to be less of a coronation and more of an election.
TSD: What are some of the issues you wanted to highlight?
Navarro: Even before the issues, we thought that if these people [Beard and Edelman] might actually want the position — didn’t Plato say that “He who seeks to govern should not govern,” or something?
Mutchnik: Actually, it was Aristotle.
Navarro: Yes, Scott [Mutchnik] would know. He’s a math and philosophy guy. So yes, highlighting issues is really our aim, not so much getting the position. If I got the position, I would have to drop out of my Oxford study abroad.
But in another sense, because we don’t really want it, it would be better if we got it. It’s counter-intuitive, but it actually makes a lot of sense, if you think about it.
TSD: What are some of the key aspects of your platform?
Navarro: Our platform is summed up by the slogan UNTIE. Some people think that the slogan is a response to Beard/Edelman [whose slogan is UNITE], but it really came out of our desire to be a cheerleader for the grad students. They just haven’t had a cheerleader in the past.
Mutchnik: Yes, and you can tell we had an impact because Beard and Edelman changed their platform online, and their message is no longer UNITE. It’s very different now, it has a lot more about grad students, the ASSU Senate candidates are mentioning them, even The Daily has talked about grad students a lot more.
TSD: Great, could you list some of the concrete measures you have in mind?
Navarro: We’re very concerned about climate and campus climate, so one of our main priorities is a comprehensive system to change the weather at Stanford.
Some specifics would include having it rain at least 20 to 30 days per year. We want to ensure that Stanford remains a sustainable watershed. We’re going to shoot up silver nitrate, which will crystallize water droplets, creating sometimes rain and sometimes hail — we do want it to hail on occasion. That’s important.
Mutchnik: Another major part of our platform is a new Engaging Biodiversity requirement. We’re going to require that every department has a list of 10 plants and animals to gain mastery of before a student graduates with a diploma in that department.
Navarro: We also want to deal with issues that are closer to the people, such as door alarms. Now you know door alarms are a little annoying, so we’re proposing to lower the volume by exactly 11 decibels. And we’re going to allow each dorm to record a resident’s voice reading a unique message, so that it’s more personal.
TSD: What stands out for me is the specificity of your plans. How did you arrive at 11 decibels specifically?
Navarro: Specificity is a good thing. If everyone’s complaining about door alarms, then we want to say exactly how many decibels to decrease it by. The logistics have always been at the back of our minds, we’ve always been attuned to what’s going on around campus.
TSD: Great. Do you want to continue with your platform?
Navarro: Sure. Another change we’re really advocating for is transparency in the financial process. To that end, we’re going to build a glass hut in White Plaza, where the Undergraduate Senate can meet.
In terms of appropriations, we want to adhere to the social contract. We’re going to create a giant pool of funding, that is, a pool full of $1 of $2 bills, because that’s the most concrete form that everyone can access.
TSD: Could you elaborate on how that would work, regulation-wise?
Navarro: We’re going to allow all clubs to draw funding from the source of cash, and it will take place right next to the glass hut, so that it’s very visible and enforced by the community itself instead of by an outside body of leaders. They’ll take out armfuls of dollar bills, maybe in wheelbarrows, where everyone can see you.
Mutchnik: And of course, our ultimate plan for transparency is to abolish the Undergraduate Senate, so that you can see right through it.
TSD: How do you plan to go about this? And what would replace the Senate in that case?
Navarro: I believe under Section III, Article IX of the bylaws, if a typo is found in a bill and the president signs off on it, it can be removed without any technical issues.
Once we abolish the Senate, their job functions can be done more easily with only the execs, or else we could let grad students figure it out. They’d be good at that.
TSD: Sounds like a plan. Finally, what are some of your political inspirations?
Mutchnik: Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee … These are people running for the Democratic Party nomination, and they’re putting themselves out there, though they weren’t sure they would get it. That’s the kind of spirit Aristotle would appreciate.
Navarro: Yeah, I believe Chafee’s election promise was to get us to adopt the metric system, which just makes so much more sense. Very inspiring man.
Contact Fangzhou Liu at fzliu96 ‘at’ stanford.edu.