On April 14, the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) elections commission announced that Shanta Katipamula ’19 and Graduate School of Education Ph.D. candidate Rosie Nelson would be the next executives of the ASSU for the 2018-2019 academic year.
The Shanta-Rosie slate won 61.92 percent of the vote, more than twice as much as the second place slate, which earned 27.3 percent. The winners made connecting undergraduate and graduate students a central component of their platform.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): How did you first get involved in student politics?
Shanta Katipamula (SK): For me it was really a combination of the spaces I was in my freshman year. I was an intern at the Women’s Community Center and that really exposed me to a lot of different issues that that particular community faces on this campus and got me really interested in sexual violence at Stanford. Then I had some really good freshman [Resident Assistants] that really encouraged me to run for Senate my freshman year. That’s how that started, and the rest is history, I guess.
Rosie Nelson (RN): I hadn’t done anything with student government at any of the previous schools that I attended. I thought that they were pretty ineffective and not useful. But when I was here, we had elections and no one was running from the Graduate School of Education for our position on the Graduate Student Council (GSC), and so I decided to see if it was possible to win with a single write-in vote, and I did win with a single write-in vote. There were five of us that got write-in votes, and I was the only person who was actually willing to do it. So that was how I joined the GSC. Part of the reason I became co-chair was because I felt that it was sometimes hard for me to be heard at meetings, because I tended to be someone who didn’t like to actively interrupt people or just jump in. We were very casual about our procedures at the time, so I wanted to make sure that people could be better heard in meetings. It’s been a great experience. I’m glad I did it.
TSD: How did you two decide to run for ASSU executive together?
SK: I wasn’t initially planning to run for executive. I was chair of Senate last year, and chairing was a very interesting experience. I was able to get a lot done but at the same time it was very time consuming and very draining. I felt like I was constantly managing internal drama and politics that I felt like it was a waste of my time because the ASSU could be so much more effective if instead of all this internal politics we focused all that energy on working to create change with the administration. So I was a little hesitant to return to this kind of lifestyle, but I had a lot of conversations with people when I was off campus for the fall, and a lot of people reached out to me and really wanted me to run. It was really nice knowing there were people who supported me and felt like I could do well in this role.
RN: I had been trying to think about different ways to help grad students become more engaged with student government, and part of the challenge with that is beyond the Graduate Student Council, we haven’t seen grad students involved much in other areas of student government here at Stanford. Part of it became a way for me to bring a graduate perspective to other parts of the ASSU so we can start collaborating a little bit more. We probably won’t be able to do as much as we would like in just our year, but hopefully we can set things in motion such that there’s ongoing collaboration in future years. Regardless of the outcome of the election, I really wanted more people to get into it and vote and think about the process because I hoped it would engage people in a different way, beyond having a grad student [as an executive].
TSD: Your website had a list of important dates to note during the campaign. Going forward, what are some important dates on your calendars?
SK: Next week sometime is when the elected officials will be sworn in. I think they’re still working out which particular date our swearing in will happen. Traditionally, execs have been sworn in with Undergraduate Senate, but we don’t think that makes a lot of sense. We could do that, but the GSC often feels left out, and we definitely want to make sure we’re not adding to that [isolation] from the very beginning because it’s the opposite of what we want to achieve. We are looking forward to whenever the swearing happens. From there, we’re looking at our five promises: those are our top priorities as we wrap up this quarter. Also on the top of our list is putting together a cabinet that is diverse, balanced between both student populations, and from there, working on making progress on our promises.
TSD: What do you think will be the biggest challenge the two of you will face in office?
SK: A big motivation for running and a big theme for our campaign is convincing the administration that they need to listen to us, and they need to listen to other students beyond us. We’ve seen in our previous experience that there are so many conversations and decisions that happen where no one thinks about consulting students. We want to, from our very first introductory meetings, emphasize that if something is going to affect students in the slightest possible way, [the administration] should talk to someone about it just to make sure. It’s better for them too because then things don’t blow up in their face, [such as] when they do something without consulting students.
RN: And I think even more than just consulting students in general, thinking about the students that administrators choose to consult, because I tend to see the same few people who are consulted over and over about specific issues. While they have fantastic perspectives, I think it would be good to get some other perspectives rather than continuing to ask the same few people.
TSD: Any advice for the incoming ASSU senators?
SK: I would advise them to just think about what their goals are, what is the most effective way to accomplish them? If their goal is to create [a] policy change, how do you actually achieve that? Who are the partners? People often see Senate as this flashy body that can make a lot of noise but doesn’t do that much beyond funding. That is just a function of how it’s been in the past; [the incoming senators] can actively change that, and Senate can be such a useful advocacy platform and create a lot of policy changes, and we would like to work with Senators on projects in our role as exec. It’s thinking through things, like talking to all the stakeholders, talking to the administration, so writing and proposing a bill should be the last step, not the first step.
RN: I think the advice I would give to the undergraduate Senate is to be kind and listen to one another. I think that sometimes, from what I’ve observed as an outsider, I think that sometimes the undergraduate Senate can be stymied somewhat by interpersonal conflicts within the Senate. I think recognizing that it’s more powerful to build a coalition together, and to really come together to address the issues that are important to everyone, even though there might be personality differences, or people might not get along in other contexts in their life, and they don’t have to. At least to better represent the student body, if we’re kind and listen to one another, within the context of student government, and support one another in our efforts we can get more accomplished. It might be that you decide not to hang out with someone ever again after being on Senate, or they might become one of your best friends, but just being able to have working relationships, and being able to move past some of the interpersonal conflicts to really focus on the issues, I think is really valuable.
SK: Partnerships. Partner with us. Partner with the GSC. Partner with student groups. The more people you can get together to agree on something, the stronger you are, whether that’s people on Senate [or] people outside of Senate.
This transcript has been lightly edited and condensed.
Contact Michael Espinosa at mesp2021 ‘at’ stanford.edu.