In the days leading up to the 2012 ASSU elections, the Stanford campus and community became embroiled in a firestorm of controversy. In an election that was supposed to lack any explosive or enveloping political/ideological issues, and in which voter turnout saw a notable drop (undergraduate turnout dropped 16.6% to a five year low according to the ASSU Elections Committee), the 2012 Exec race became dominated by vitriolic attacks against Stewart MacGregor-Dennis ‘13—then ASSU vice president and the presidential candidate on the ballot with running mate Druthi Ghanta ’14.
What began as heated political debate over news that MacGregor-Dennis had spent 2000 dollars over his tenure on online services to gain social network followers ended in an onslaught of personal attacks. If you visited the Facebook page MemeChu at the time, you likely saw tens of memes attacking MacGregor Dennis’ entrepreneurialism. Even more shocking, if you checked your email in the days leading up to the election, and you received two campus wide emails—the first was a sharply worded, lengthy email from “Senator Palpatine,” and the second from firstname.lastname@example.org unmasking Palpatine using questionable Internet practices.
After all of this drama, however, election results were clear-cut. Robbie Zimbroff ’12 and William Wagstaff ’12— two coterm students that ran on a platform of common sense solutions—won earning 87% of the total vote or 2998 votes according to the ASSU Election Committee. And in the end, this victory felt inevitable.
With the support of a number of campus groups like SOCC, JSA, and QueerCo, with their role as outsiders shaking up the ASSU, it makes sense that Zimbroff/Wagstaff won in a landslide. The campus sentiment was clear: the student body had enough of current ASSU administration, and was ready for change.
But, more than a month after the election, the question arises—where is this change? Given the vitriol of the election, a lull in ASSU Exec politics was to be expected. Yet, in due time, the MacGregor-Dennis controversy and personalities of the election season would fade into the background, and civility would return to Stanford political life.
Indeed, with the decisive nature of the elections, it appeared that it couldn’t be long before business as usual would resume in the ASSU and Zimbroff-Wagstaff, after a much-deserved break, would begin to roll out their agenda and start turning platform ideas and campaign promises into reality. But, in the month and a half following the election, it’s hard to stop wondering what exactly has been done.
At first glance, the answer appears to be that nothing has been done. Weeks after the election, Zimbroff/Wagstaff have not appeared to make any headway in fulfilling their campaign promises of increasing engagement and making the ASSU more visible. Indeed, The Stanford Flipside headline from May 14th reads, “Why Haven’t Zimbroff/Wagstaff Done Anything Yet?” Although the article progresses into satire and pokes fun at the milestones touted by Stanford 2.0 exec team at this time last year, the title of the Flipside article does have a ring of truth.
However, Zimbroff/Wagstaff point out that there is much more to the ASSU and their work than meets the eye. In an interview with the Review, they asserted, “A lot of what we have done so far is set ourselves up to be in a position to be successful in the upcoming months. There are a million little things that fall onto your lap the second you take office, and we have been trying to clean those off our desks so that we can get to work on the things we want to do.”
One of the significant things that fell into their lap was the Nominating Commissions process. As Zimbroff/Wagstaff explained, one of their first tasks following the election was to approve an interim NomCom process, advertise, and solicit and interview candidates to appoint students to over 40 campus-wide committees. The task fell to them after the process was left uncompleted in the year due to failed ASSU Constitutional revisions.
And, according to Zimbroff/Wagstaff, much of their work has been preparatory work to “clean up” before moving forward. Indeed, they acknowledge that, “Most of what we have been doing is un-sexy, behind-the-scenes, and fairly proscribed work of the ASSU.”
Of course, this busy work is not something that is very apparent and tangible to the student body. However, Zimbroff/Wagstaff do not seem fazed by the growing sentiment that they haven’t accomplished much. As they explained, “For now, we don’t think many people will be losing sleep that they’re not hearing from the ASSU Execs before we have too much to talk about.”
Furthermore, Zimbroff/Wagstaff asserted that their campaign and executive slate isn’t about publicizing short-term successes. “We’re skeptical of most instances in which student government ‘rolls out’ a whole slate of initiatives at once. We think that “checking off” boxes of accomplishments is exactly what students don’t* *want from ASSU Execs,” state Zimbroff/Wagstaff.
Instead, it is apparent that the new ASSU Exec is really focused on their long-term vision—of reversing apathy toward the ASSU and turning the ASSU into a practical, functioning body that “can work on behalf of students in ways that affect their day-to-day lives,” as they themselves articulated.
Admittedly, Zimbroff/Wagstaff’s practical and forward-looking tone is a breath of fresh air when compared to the soaring idealism and boastful campus-wide emails of the previous exec team.
Given that it is only spring quarter, that busy work is to be expected in the ASSU, and that the NomCom process was a complex and time-sensitive issue, Zimbroff/Wagstaff are asking for a fair shot.