By Tia Schwab
ASSU Executive slates Khaled/Ocon, Justice & Vicki and Means/Lozano debated their platforms for the coming year on Tuesday night at an event hosted by the ASSU Elections Commission and co-sponsored by The Daily and KZSU.
The candidates discussed their goals to promote student and faculty diversity, increase transparency and resources regarding sexual assault response and better support graduate students. Their full platforms are available online at the ASSU Elections Commission website.
Promoting inclusivity, diversity
Debate moderator and KZSU news director Inyoung Choi ’20 opened the event by asking candidates how they would make Stanford a “safe space” and promote inclusivity among the diverse student population.
Justice & Vicki plan to critically evaluate the resources currently available through clubs, community centers and mental health and sexual assault response services to ensure that they are “targeted towards the diversity of students on campus” and accessible to all.
Their platform approaches safety for students and inclusive dialogue as two separate issues.
“While safety is prerequisite and important, it does not necessitate inclusive dialogue,” Vicki Niu ’18 said. “Safety is about making sure that all students feel that Stanford is a home, [a place] where they feel like they can be their full selves. Inclusive dialogue is about how we can build upon that and build strategic solidarity between communities.”
Khaled/Ocon plan on creating new spaces on campus for conversations around intersectionality, such as an interfaith house and a center of “racial reconciliation.” To accomplish this, “it will be crucial for us to build partnerships between different communities,” Khaled Aounallah ’19 said.
In addition, Khaled/Ocon want to increase funding and resources for existing community centers.
“What’s important is that Stanford substantiates its claim to diversity,” Michael Ocon ’20 said. “As it stands right now, our community centers are underfunded [and] underserved.”
Means/Lozano would also like to create new centers on campus, including a community center for students with disabilities and a multicultural and multiethnic community center.
Their second goal is to increase academic diversity.
“We still have a heavily male-dominant faculty, [and] we still have a lack of diversity in many majors and departments,” said Pablo Lozano ’18. “We’d like to approach that through the hiring and retention of diverse faculty that is more representative of students that are on campus.”
Referencing the controversy surrounding Stanford’s dismissal of Crystal Riggins, Choi asked the candidates to expand on their plans to address sexual assault on campus.
Justice & Vicki will make it a priority to educate students on the Title IX process and what resources are available to survivors.
“What we’re thinking about is how can we make sure that survivors are the most empowered to make the decisions that will make it as easy as possible for them to get the justice they want and deserve,” Niu said.
For Justice & Vicki, one important step will be making rape kits more accessible, as students must currently travel to San Jose for an evidentiary exam.
Khaled/Ocon will advocate for changes to the existing Title IX sexual assault hearing process.
Currently, three panelists representing Stanford faculty, staff and graduate students hear Title IX cases, and there must be a unanimous decision for the accused to be found responsible.
Khaled/Ocon urge Stanford to add an undergraduate community representative to this panel and employ a majority-rules standard rather than requiring unanimity. In addition, they want victims to have access to both a legal aid and a “support person” during the Title IX process.
“People should not have to choose between the purpose of the case and their own mental health,” Aounallah said.
Ocon added that in order to gather more accurate data about sexual assault on campus via the campus climate survey, Stanford needs to expand and clarify its definition of sexual assault and explicitly state that “the lack of consent is sexual assault.”
Means/Lozano echoed Aounallah and Ocon, stressing the importance of changing the three-panelist, unanimous-vote Title IX process.
However, for Means/Lozano, an important precursor to all sexual assault response policies is educating students on what affirmative consent is.
In addition, Means/Lozano would like to better promote resources outside of Title IX, such as SARA’s healing yoga and healing art programs.
For any change to happen, “Stanford has to be willing to take criticism,” Means said.
Expanding graduate housing
Choi closed the debate by turning to the issue of insufficient graduate housing on campus.
“[The administration] tends to be reactive instead of proactive when it comes to issues that target specific populations, and this is applicable to graduate students in the case of affordable housing,” Niu said.
“Being proactive for us means that we hold ourselves accountable to be knowledgeable about these issues, to understand that right now we have about 60 percent of graduate students living on campus, as opposed to 98 percent of undergraduates,” Tention said. “Is that equitable treatment?”
Khaled/Ocon want to go beyond increasing affordable housing to improve graduate students’ overall Stanford experience. Their tactics include planning more social events and expanding student health care to cover graduate students’ families.
Means/Lozano want to explore immediate options that go beyond building more graduate housing such as subsidizing off-campus housing and travel to campus.
“Long-range planning is great for future grad students, but we also have to worry about the graduate students now,” Means said.