As you vote just a few days from now, the Editorial Board of the Stanford Review highly encourages you to put a “1” next to the names of Ryan Peacock and Jonathan Bakke. But before delving directly into the agenda of Peacock/Bakke, a bit of ASSU History 101 is in order to set the context for this year’s election. The story is more or a less a simple one – over the past two administrations, we have witnessed a massive growth in government and ambition. The size of cabinets have grown exponentially, as the Executive attempts to run shuttles, sell cups, promote sustainability, build kindergarten classrooms, and host large, expensive events related to service.
The result has been twofold. First, the Executive has lost sight of what are indeed the most important functions of the ASSU: funding and advocacy. Second, the massive agenda has resulted in few substantive accomplishments (but let’s give credit where it’s due: President Gobaud has built a lot of websites) and many boondoggles (think Wellness Room, which has now absorbed close to $15,000).
That storyline of waste and inefficiency motivates our endorsement of the Peacock/Bakke slate. Both are graduate students in chemical engineering and will bring a mature and well-reasoned outlook into office. They are both well-experienced in the ways of student government: Peacock currently serves on the Graduate Student Council and was heavily involved in student government at Rice University, while Bakke is now completing a term as chair of the Nominations Commission and was the student body president at Tulane.
And in the age of ineffectual programs hailed with the chorus of “wellness and sustainability,” their maturity and experience will serve the Stanford student body well. In an interview with the Review, they listed primary goals as “[reducing] the overall bureaucracy of the Exec” and “drastically [increasing] accountability.” They intend to run the ASSU “as a business and not a bureaucracy,” as they attempt to maximize the amount of tangible good that the Exec provides to the overall student body.
Rather than continuing the trend of increasing cabinets and ambitions, Peacock and Bakke will attempt to streamline the operations of the Executive, reducing the size of the cabinet to a reasonable core of fewer than 10 people and eliminating the vast majority of salaries (both have promised to slash their own salaries by at least 50%). The result will be more funding allocated directly to students, VSOs, and events that will have real impact on student life on campus.
Peacock and Bakke have laid out a funding plan that includes dedicating discretionary funds and all money freed up from salary cuts to be used in a “grant system,” in which the Exec will hand out small and medium-sized grants to individuals and student organizations for efforts ranging from social events to building efficiency improvements. The grant system will attempt to reduce the endless bureaucracy of the status quo system by empowering students. Rather than constructing further committees and hosting further meetings, this proposal would take advantage of existing VSO infrastructure of talented, knowledgeable, and committed students to accomplish far more than the ASSU itself ever could.
The reprioritizing of funds toward students should do much to increase the credibility of the ASSU and decrease waste and corrupt spending. Toward those ends, Peacock and Bakke also intend to implement significant ethics reform to ensure that those in student government are held fully accountable.
The second focus of the Peacock/Bakke administration would be recommitting the ASSU to successful advocacy of student views to the university administration. The Gobaud administration has often, unfortunately, taken an overly combative stance when discussing initiatives with university officials, resulting in few successful advocacy efforts. Peacock and Bakke will take a new approach, which includes a “more professional demeanor with the administration” and an “[understanding] that in order to get things accomplished, we need to be willing to work with and not against the administration.”
The slate also intends to refocus the ASSU on issues of advocacy that are actually affect students on a day-to-day basis. One primary issue will be academics, an often overlooked issue. Peacock and Bakke have a well-developed plan to substantially increase the quality and quantity of advising on campus, which would utilize their experience as teaching assistants and their connections in the grad community. They will also seek to increase student input on a wide set of academic issues, such as the impending undergraduate curriculum report. Other priorities of the slate include advocating for free speech, keeping the ASSU focused on campus issues, and continuing funding reforms of this year’s Senate and GSC.
Now because of the “instant run-off” system of the ASSU election, we would be remiss not to provide our recommendations for your complete ballot. After Peacock/Bakke, the Editorial Board suggests placing your vote for Thom Scher and Stephanie Werner. Scher would bring a wealth of experience to the position now that he has spent a year working in Student Activities and Leadership. He would make an effective advocate of student needs and has the ability to make significant progress on a wide set of issues, such as appropriations, ethics reform, and party approval reform. Scher has also pledged to eliminate the Wellness Room.
As for the third spot on your ballot, we recommend the No-Rain Campaign, which is formed by Katherine Heflin and Daniel Leifer. Although their platform reveals some of their inexperience with regard to the ASSU, they have presented creative and substantive proposals to a number of important issues including advising and appropriations. The ASSU would not go up in flames on their watch; they are deserving of a spot on your ballot.
And there you have it: Peacock – 1, Scher – 2, No-Rain – 3. May the best slate win, and may the Wellness Room’s doors be closed for good.
— The Editorial Board