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Inside the slates: Stanford Gladiators and L.E.A.D Stanford compete for top student government spots

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The Stanford Gladiators — Micheal Brown ’22 and Emily Nichols ’23 — and L.E.A.D. Stanford — Christian Giadolor ’21 M.A. ’22 and Cricket Bidleman ’21 M.A. ’22 — are vying for the support of the student body in this year’s Associated Students of Stanford University executive election. 

Brown and Giadolor are running for executive president and Nichols and Bidleman for vice president. Together, the president and vice president lead the ASSU Executive Branch and guide the Executive Cabinet, whose members lead targeted initiatives. Both slates have already met the 200-vote threshold needed to secure a spot on the electoral ballot. 

While the Stanford Gladiators and L.E.A.D. Stanford share common visions for Stanford, such as centering the experiences of marginalized students and bridging divides across student populations, they differ in terms of what issues they plan to prioritize and their candidates’ respective experiences with the ASSU. 

Brown and Nichols both serve as elected senators, with Brown serving as senate chair and Nichols as senate communications chair, while Giadolor and Bidleman hold ASSU leadership positions but have not served in elected roles. Giadolor is on the ASSU constitutional review committee and is a student representative to the Board of Trustees, and Bidleman has been the ASSU communications director for the past two years. 

Stanford Gladiators is framing their platform through a community lens, with focuses on making institutional reforms to the ASSU, uplifting racial and social justice equity by supporting first-generation and low-income students and faculty diversity and fighting for affordability and mental health support. Brown and Nichols are also hoping to maximize their impact by leveraging external advocacy efforts and engaging with student leaders across the country. 

Giadolor and Bidleman, both of whom are pursuing graduate degrees next year, are focused on the unification of the graduate and undergraduate populations and are emphasizing their commitment to advocating for the needs and concerns of graduate students. They are also highlighting their respective experiences working within the operational structure of the ASSU and with the administration, and are centering disability advocacy and values of love, empathy and humanity in their campaign. 

The Stanford Gladiators 

Brown and Nichols’ slate, whose name is based on the protagonists in the popular TV show Scandal, is centered on community, care and family. In fact, Nichols said, those are the values that initially brought her and Brown together. They met before Stanford, when Brown was a mentor in the Ron Brown GPS Program and Nichols reached out to them for help with her college applications. At Stanford, Nichols gained exposure to student government as a senate associate for Brown, who is now the chair of the Undergraduate Senate. The two have worked closely together ever since Nichols was elected to the Senate and became its communications chair. 

“Our decision to run with each other wasn’t on happenstance,” Brown said, adding that both they and Nichols are first-generation low-income students from the South — Brown from Houston, Nichols from Baton Rouge — who have lived experience as marginalized individuals at Stanford and beyond.

Both candidates also have a background in community organizing, experience which they view as essential to their ability to enact change and intimately understand the issues facing the student body.

They currently serve on the Leadership Development Committee at the Black Community Services Center and previously ran as part of the People’s Caucus slate, which included ten candidates of color fighting for racial justice and institutional change.

“All of those perspectives really do inform how we work together and how we understand each other, and also how we understand the experiences of the student body,” Brown said.

Their core proposal, the “ASSU New Deal,” focuses on institutional and cultural reform within the ASSU. The plan includes three central tenets: improving student engagement with the ASSU, expanding ASSU programming with a focus on student services and improving the structural and logistical function of the ASSU. 

When it comes to enacting structural and institutional change, Brown and Nichols are guided by the motto “the marathon continues,” which was coined by the late rapper Nipsey Hustle. Whether in terms of the departmentalization of African and African-American Studies or “challenging the University to stand up for what it could be,” Brown said the slate believes that the “struggle that we’re fighting in is a marathon, it’s not a sprint.”

The Stanford Gladiators believes that maximizing the impact of the ASSU stems from collaboration across ASSU branches and with student governments around the country. 

“What we see now is that the struggles students are facing aren’t just limited to the pandemic but are going to follow us even after, so it’s about how we are ensuring that students feel supported and are able to pursue their academic interests and their passions” Nichols, who is striving to advance academic equity in part by pushing for a test-optional admissions process, said. 

In Brown’s view, their and Nichols’ experience in elected roles and on the ground is what differentiates them from their opponents. “I would actually encourage people to look deeply into the backgrounds of each candidate to see whether people do work out of political convenience or concern for community issues, which is rooted in experience and work organizing,” Brown said. 

L.E.A.D. Stanford 

L.E.A.D. Stanford, which represents Giadolor and Bidleman’s guiding principles of love, empathy advocacy and direction, is rooted in emphasizing the humanity in and diverse experiences of the student body. This includes focusing on the unified needs of the undergraduate and graduate populations — both candidates are pursuing graduate degrees next year — in addition to centering the student experience and promoting disability advocacy and equity. 

Giadolor said that L.E.A.D Stanford hopes to support a Stanford experience “in which all students feel represented [and] are receiving the support that they need and that we can be ceaseless and tireless advocates for them.” This mission encompasses three tenets: emphasizing the humanity in one another, reimagining the role of the ASSU Executive and meeting with all stakeholders to understand a range of student needs. 

“I want to make sure that everyone on campus is aware that, yes, we are the student government, we’re the legislative body for the students, but we’re composed of students,” Bidleman said. “We are people, we belong to the Stanford community, we love the Stanford community and that love is what fuels our desire to continue making change.”

Giadolor and Bidleman both have experience with advocacy in spaces beyond Stanford. 

Giadolor, who is Black and gay, is an advocate for social and racial justice and serves as the president of his local Black Lives Matter chapter. He currently serves on the ASSU constitutional review committee and as a student representative to the Board of Trustees. Giadolor is also the director of business development for Stanford Student Enterprises.

Bidleman, who is blind, has been a disability advocate at the federal level and believes that she can use the vice presidential position to bring disability issues to the forefront of the conversation. She said that working with the ASSU has given her the confidence to advocate for herself and the ability to see herself as a powerful advocate.

Giadolor and Bidleman emphasized their understanding of ASSU operations having both served in “capacities that are directly core to the ability of the ASSU to function,” Giadolor said, and highlighted their experience working with administrators on behalf of the student community. 

Bidleman added that though she has not held an elected position in the ASSU, she has worked extensively with both governing bodies as communications director and remains committed to emphasizing transparency and accessibility across the University.

Giadolor and Bidleman cited their respect for the Stanford Gladiators, but emphasized what sets their slate apart. “It is our empathy, and our love for Stanford that really motivates our actions, and we really want to demonstrate that and emphasize that,” Giadalor said. “I would also add that it is the diversity of our experiences on campus, beyond even within the ASSU, that I think gives Cricket and myself a unique perspective on how we can really motivate institutional change.”

The primary election cycle ends this Friday. Students will have the opportunity to vote for either the Stanford Gladiators or L.E.A.D. Stanford in the general election, which commences on April 29. 

Spring quarter memo

Though the two slates primarily shied away from criticizing one another, Brown stressed the importance of “holding people accountable for their record” and referenced how Bidleman was a member of the ASSU Executive Committee when they made a recommendation against inviting upperclassmen back to campus for spring quarter. 

“I’ll say it now publicly: I was the person who leaked the memo to The Daily from our group chat because I was very much opposed to that and I felt as though that document really could have had an outsized influence on the decision that was being made,” Brown said, referring to a memo that was sent to Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole. “That was the judgment that I had over Cricket and over the other people in the executive committee to ensure that the student body was actually informed about what was happening.” 

Bidleman explained that in her role as ASSU communications director, she serves on the Executive Committee and contributes to much of the body’s written materials, including the memo. She said that Brown, too, was at the meeting in which the committee decided to recommend against allowing juniors and seniors to come back to campus, and that the decision was made with input from leaders across the ASSU. 

“I did not make the decision unilaterally,” Bidleman said, though she said that she did voice concerns about the need to be cautious. “I had actually very little to do with the final decision. I did help write the memo because that’s my job. And I really wanted to make sure that graduate students are represented,” she added, explaining that graduate student representatives voiced concerns about students’ lack of compliance with the Campus Compact. 

“I am not nearly responsible for that decision that was made by the whole group, and I believe that if there had been a much stronger objection than it should have been made at the time, not after the fact,” Bidleman added.

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Georgia Rosenberg is a managing editor in the News section. Contact her at grosenberg 'at' stanforddaily.com!