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Candidates talk mental health reform, community centers at ASSU Executive Debate

Patrick Monreal/The Stanford Daily

Four out of the five Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) Executive slates gathered in the Black Community Services Center on Sunday afternoon to debate some of the University’s most pressing issues, from mental health services to campus social life.

About 20 to 30 students attended the debate, hosted by the ASSU Election Commission and moderated by managing editor of Stanford Politics Jake Dow ’19 and Stanford in Government Chair Olivia Martin ’19. Each slate was given two minutes to answer each question with occasional thirty-second rebuttals permitted.

Candidates

Kojoh Atta ’20 and Yusef Ferhani ’20 are self-described as “two FLI guys on a mission to shake things up, speak truth to power and hold Stanford accountable.” Atta served as chair of the 19th Undergraduate Senate and is the current co-president of the Black Student Union. Their platform focuses on several FLI issues, including the reduction of course fees, along with mental health issues.

Erica Scott ’20 and Isaiah Drummond ’20 are endorsed by the Students of Color Coalition (SOCC). Scott currently serves as co-chair of the ASSU’s Committee on Academic Freedom and previously served on Frosh Council and the 19th Undergraduate Senate. Drummond is currently Stanford in Government’s Co-Director of Diversity and Outreach and a Residential Assistant in Meier Hall. Scott and Drummond’s platform focuses on protecting free speech, standing up for Stanford workers, pushing the University to address the housing crisis, promoting sustainability, reforming mental health and better diversity and inclusion training for faculty.

Kimiko Hirota ’20 and Bryce Tuttle ’20 are endorsed by The Stanford Daily, First Generation and Low-Income Partnership, Fossil Free Stanford and the Women’s Coalition. Hirota currently serves as co-director of community centers and diversity and was a member of the 19th Undergraduate Senate. Tuttle has served as the Co-Director of Disability Advocacy for the ASSU for the past two years and was a key organizer behind the petition and Senate resolution to create a permanent Disability Community Center. Hirota and Tuttle’s platform addresses mental health, sexual violence, disability equity, bigotry and housing affordability.

Two satirical slates also joined the race this year. This year’s Stanford Flipside slate — “DavidMan, the Man who is David” — is comprised of Benjamin Davidson ’21 and Gracie Newman ’21. Their vision for Stanford consists of ten satirical “commandments,” including the expulsion of mentally healthy students, arming of the Stanford Equestrian team, extermination of all squirrels and slashing of the The Daily’s budget forcing the publication to become the “Stanford Yearly.” Throughout the debate, the two were stroking their spider Tom, drinking from a hip flask and eating pieces of paper seasoned with pepper.

Anthony Beron ’20 and Ricardo Sanchez Romero ’20 — who make up “Fiesta Party” — were not present at the debate. Their promises at the outset of the campaign ranged from placing a wave machine on Roble Field to refilling Lake Lagunita. Now, the two vow to plant flowers in Lake Lagunita, increase funding for Stanford’s meditation center and host arts and crafts tables at Tresidder Memorial Union.

The debate

At the start of the debate, each slate was given the opportunity to introduce themselves and their platform. Hirota and Tuttle both cited their work with community centers over the past three years and active roles within the ASSU as their reasons for running.

Scott spoke about her work on Undergraduate Senate with sustainability and free speech, while Drummond added that he brings an essential outside voice to the table.

“Oftentimes, it’s very easy for people who have been inside the ASSU their whole time here to have a very narrow focus and forget that most of us here don’t have that perspective,” Drummond said. “So I have that outside perspective on this slate … I am the only [residential] staff member to be running.”

Ferhani also stressed this outsider role, and Atta, while former chair of the Undergraduate Senate, stressed his passion for making Stanford a better place over his previous experience. Davidson and Newman expressed their primary vision of increasing public understanding of Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative with respects to deontological ethics.

“We should also mention that we the DavidMan are a puppet of the Flipside,” Davidson said. “Any statement made by us should be given all due respect, as you would give to the Flipside — which is none.”

After the introductions, Dow asked each slate what their first priority in office would be. Scott spoke on the state of political polarization on campus, free speech issues and standardizing response to controversial speakers on campus, while Drummond called on the University to have a serious conversation about mental health on campus.

Atta explained his priority would first be in eliminating course fees and possibly expanding welcome grants to FLI students. Hirota and Tuttle stressed mental health reform, including the elimination of initial phone screenings to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). Newman suggested giving Stanford Taiko twenty megaphones.

When asked about what they would continue from Shanta Katipamula ’19 and Rosie Nelson’s administration, each slate praised Katipamula and Nelson’s dedication to the Stanford community. Scott and Drummond especially stressed the current executives’ Title IX advocacy, while Atta emphasized that the ASSU needs to target students who are not usually involved in the ASSU. Hirota and Tuttle answered that Katipamula and Nelson’s dedication to graduate issues was something they would continue as executives.

Dow then asked about each slate’s position on mental health issues. Each slate, aside from the Flipside, called for far-reaching reform to CAPS and the leave of absence policy.

“We lost two students in the School of Engineering in the last two months,” Tuttle said. “This is a time where Stanford can’t afford to not make change.”

With regards to Title IX policy, Drummond and Scott proposed a stronger relationship between the ASSU and Greek life on campus, to which Ferhani — a member of a fraternity himself — strongly agreed. Hirota expressed the need for rape kits to be more available on campus.

“Currently, survivors have to travel to San Jose and sit there for hours right after an assault, which is, just seriously, horrible,” Hirota said.

In January 2018, the University engaged in negotiations with Santa Clara County to make rape kits more accessible. Neither Vaden Health Center nor Stanford Medicine offer Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) examinations.

Drama between Hirota and Atta began to unfold at the conclusion of the debate over Hirota’s role in securing increased funds for campus community centers. Atta claimed that funding was the result of a huge effort on behalf of the ASSU and community centers — not “just one person.”

“I just wanted to quickly comment on Kojoh’s response to my claiming that I helped increase community center last year,” Hirota said. “That is a true statement, and I want to be able to take credit for that. I started doing that work my freshman year … we were inviting all community centers student staff to help us mobilize around around community center funding.”

After the debate, Atta addressed this controversy with The Daily.

“I think one thing I look for is a leader who talks about the ‘we’ and not the ‘I,’” Atta said. “Those, who kind of, you know, are giving credit where credit is due to the various people who have been involved.”

Students will be able to vote via an emailed ballot in the ASSU elections on Wednesday and Thursday.

Contact Patrick Monreal at pmonreal ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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