For the past four years, it has taken concerted efforts from various individuals and student groups to spotlight the inherent lack of support available to student families.
Along with the leadership and advocacy from leaders like Rosie Nelson, members of the Student Parent Alliance and Mothers in Academia have been able to voice our needs and craft a shared agenda supporting students who care for young dependents.
A key step in our advocacy work was to ensure we asked the right questions and gathered the necessary evidence to present to administration as they shape future policies impacting student families. Last spring, Rosie Nelson’s leadership in the Graduate Student Council (GSC) ensured that student parent and caregiver data was collected through the spring survey. She intentionally increased outreach and partnerships to ensure involvement of impacted students on decision-making and provided funding to student groups so that advocacy efforts around diversity, inclusion and social justice-minded issues would be at the forefront of the GSC agenda. Her efforts in actively recruiting GSC representatives to represent interests of students with families, as well as ensuring that committees invite and include students with families, has been a testament to her strong leadership and inclusion work.
Rosie and Shanta’s ASSU Exec platform explicitly focuses on addressing ongoing family housing affordability. Along with their general concerns about overall housing affordability for Stanford students, staff and faculty, they recognize that students with families in particular are restricted to a smaller, more costly subset of housing options on-campus and I know they will continue to advocate for affordable housing that meet the needs for the diversity of families we have within our student communities.
Rosie has been instrumental in encouraging greater transparency in how budgeting and decision-making has been taking place regarding student and dependent health care insurance. She, along with Shanta, believe in long-term policies and practices that ensure the safety and health of the student body. They understand that providing affordable healthcare coverage for students and their families recognizes the differential needs faced by student families, especially if a family is solely dependent on the graduate student’s living stipend. Beyond just understanding these concerns, however, they have concrete plans on how to address these challenges. They have shown through their leadership, with Rosie as current GSC Co-Chair and Shanta as Undergraduate Senate Chair last year, that when they set their mind to something, they work tirelessly to achieve success.
Shanta and Rosie’s campaign is grounded in a simple yet a rarely actualized idea: “No decisions about us, without us.” Both have a strong track record of demanding student stakeholders who will be affected by policy changes are actually heard by the administration. For example, Rosie has ensured that more voices have had the chance to be heard in GSC meetings and within university committees. She implemented a new parliamentary procedure strategy in GSC meetings that allowed for all attendees to respond and participate, prioritizing questions and creating an organized way for all attendees to contribute. These changes gave quieter students and students less familiar with GSC meeting structure greater opportunities for involvement. With Rosie’s support, GSC members took on greater responsibilities in other university settings, increased connections with administration and formed stronger and more explicit relationships with graduate student activists across Stanford, including the Stanford Solidarity Network and the Student Parent Alliance.
Together Shanta and Rosie stand for diversity and inclusion. I believe that their vision for uplifting and amplifying student voices will be incredibly powerful in bringing together student leaders, activists and administrators in solving the most intractable problems faced by the Stanford student community. Shanta and Rosie’s slate has a unique understanding of the issues that affect graduate students and for the first time in almost two decades, we as graduate students have the opportunity to be represented by one of our own. I encourage you to join me in voting for Shanta and Rosie as the next ASSU Exec.
— Tina Cheuk, Ph.D. candidate, Graduate School of Education