David’s Dream Year

David Gobaud ’08 M.S. ’10 and Jay de la Torre ’10 won the ASSU executive race with a solid mandate of 3,190 votes, almost twice as many as their primary opponents, Bennett Hauser ’10 and Matthew Sprague ’10. But after de la Torre announced he would resign after receiving a suspension for an honor code violation, observers suggest Gobaud became increasingly isolated, leading to an administration with successes but also noteworthy and growing criticism.

Outgoing ASSU President Jonny Dorsey put Gobaud in contact with fellow Sigma Nu, Jay de la Torre.  Gobaud worked as a projects manager for the winning Dorsey/Harris slate, having run the previous year and lost by a short margin.  A popular and extroverted campus figure, de la Torre appeared to be the perfect running mate for the more discrete Gobaud, and rapidly became, in the words of former Senator Zachary Warma ’11, “the public face of the campaign, with Gobaud retreating in relative seclusion.”****

After the elections, de la Torre continued to be the slate’s most prominent, affable figurehead, and many students joining the executive cabinet because of him.  In November, however, news transpired that de la Torre would resign from his position upon receiving a suspension for an honor code violation.

Even his eventual selection of Andy Parker, the mild-mannered head of the Stanford Democrats, as the new Vice President, was not enough to fill the void left by de la Torre’s resignation.  For better or for worse, David Gobaud was left to bear the burden of public opinion alone.

Success

David Gobaud undeniably possessed numerous assets as a campus organizer. To begin, all university activists who had the chance to work with Gobaud praised the relentless passion he displayed at his job. “It was like living a dream for him. It is indisputable that he was totally dedicated to the job,” said former Senator Shelley Gao ’11.

In the words of former Senate Chair Varun Sivaram ‘11, “The student body had nothing more to ask of David Gobaud in terms of his dedication and commitment to serving them. Not only did he devote a lot of time to the job, he actively solicited input, visited about every social event on campus, and did his research in an organized and analytical fashion.” Indeed, even Gobaud’s most vehement critics do not deny that he spent long hours working on and attending to his various projects, often pushing himself to the brink of exhaustion. ****

As a computer science major, David Gobaud also made great use of his impressive array of technological talent. “Gobaud’s strength lies in his technical abilities,” says Gao.  Among Gobaud’s successes were creating an online reservation system for old union rooms, finalizing the ASSU calendar, as well as elaborating impressive websites and flyers.

When asked what he saw to be the crowning moment of his administration, Gobaud immediately referred to the online Haiti fundraising challenged he created.  “At the time, there was no one really organizing students,” said Gobaud.  “We just made it dead simple.”

The site became a ready-to-go donating platform that was eventually joined by 26 partner institutions, and raised over $400,00 dollars. “There’s no question, I think, that was my biggest success,” he said.

Some of the most notable changes Gobaud orchestrated included obtaining a reduction of  prices at the Axe & Palm and the Vaden Health Fee, as well as transgender health coverage; initiating a host of health and wellness initiatives, including wellness week; creating GAIA, a unified green group on campus; designing the Vegas spring break; organizing Future Fest, featuring De La Soul and Van Jones; and holding multiple town hall meetings.

Criticism

Despite his successes, Gobaud did not enjoy a faultless term. His relationships with the Senate, and, to a lesser degree, the judicial branch, were tense during his term.  In the words of former Senator Zachary Warma ’11, before de la Torre’s resignation, “Gobaud appeared to view the Senate as a sort of irritant for Jay to handle. He seemingly had no respect for legislative processes.”

After de la Torre left the executive team, relations between Gobaud and the Senate progressively deteriorated.  “I think things broke down in November, publicly,” said current ASSU Vice President and former Senator Kelsei Wharton ’12.

In some cases, relations reached the point of antipathy. “He rarely came to meetings,” said Sivaram, “and, when he did, invariably discussion would devolve into shouting matches.” Although he did agree that de la Torre’s resignation was the downfall of his relations with the legislative branch of the ASSU, Gobaud could not provide an explanation for the tension between the Executive and the Senate.

However, the final nail in the coffin came with an e-mail Gobaud sent to the public Graduate Student Council lists.  In the message, Gobaud lashed at the legislative branches of the ASSU:

“You, the Graduate Student Council, an independent legislative body, have allowed yourselves to be led like sheep by the Undergraduate Senate which has become corrupted by a vocal rogue minority with a partisan political agenda that they have had all year. This minority has unfortunately been able to control the Undergraduate Senate because the rest of the senators have not spoken up or taken their job seriously until recently.”

While Warma refers to the e-mail as “a slight lapse in sanity,” Gao remarked that “it was very inappropriate and completely unprofessional for him to speak of his colleagues in such a manner in a public forum. Demonstration of a lack of respect for other branches of ASSU, and the checks and balances inherent in our democratic governance was disconcerting.”

When asked about this controversial e-mail, David Gobaud did not express regret, and felt his response was justified.  He characterized the GSC’s course of action at the time as “completely absurd.  And they dropped it after my speech.”

Gobaud also appeared to have a strained relationship with the University administration.  According to Jeff Wachtel, a top assistant to President Hennessy, “You can be strong, and have a strong opinion, but be respectful and thoughtful.  It’s just an odd way to go about it, to start confrontational… David Gobaud was unhappy with everything we did.  But I think that there were issues that he could have approached in a more effective way”.

Top administrators notably regretted Gobaud’s tendency to excessively e-mail the President, often sending several messages in one day. “I think there is a risk, when you are dealing with busy people, of perhaps over communicating, or not having everything lined up before you bring an issue forward,” said Wachtel.

In response to this criticism, Gobaud stated, “I did send a lot of e-mails, there’s no question about it. I’ll say that in the end, they did actually answer them all.  Maybe I did work more than any past president, and that’s why it resulted in so many e-mails.  Because we were doing so many things.”

Gobaud also had a habit of requesting impromptu meetings with the President.  According to Wachtel, David Gobaud would “show up and demand to meet up with the President.  But if you’re not going to make an appointment, you have to accept that you might not be able to see the President. It’s just the reality of running a big university”.

When asked to characterize the nature of his relationship with the administration, Gobaud answered “wonderful.”

One final point of contention surrounding Gobaud’s term is whether the actions of his administration will have lasting effects. Regarding the longevity of his policies, Gobaud cited events such as Future Fest, which will become an annual event, the transgender surgical care coverage, and the online reservation system in Old Union.  “A lot of it was not just online…you look at composting in Tresidder or the Axe and Palm.  I don’t think *that *is going anywhere,” defended Gobaud.

However, despite the large amount of projects he started, many argue that many of his biggest achievements were either intangible, too punctual, or irrelevant. These critics hold that Internet sites or speaker events, although helpful, will essentially lack concrete, long-term effects on student life.

At the end of the day, however, Gobaud maintained, “I can’t think of any big mistake, and there isn’t anything I would have done differently,” And as his concluding remark, Gobaud declared that being the ASSU executive President was “by far the best thing I’ve done at Stanford.  I’m definitely going to miss it.  I wish I could do it for longer.”

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