In next month’s Stanford ASSU election, students will vote on a bill called “The Freshman Senators Act,” which proposes allowing freshmen to serve as ASSU Senators. It’s a ridiculous and unnecessary measure that will lead to more spending, more paid student bureaucrats, and more administrative bloat in the ASSU. If you plan on submitting an ASSU ballot, you should vote against it!
If the bill is passed, the ASSU Senate will have five new Senate seats exclusively for freshmen. This would increase the size of the ASSU Senate from the existing 15 slots to a total of 20.
This may not seem like a big deal, but every Stanford student pays over $500 (reduced to $375 during the pandemic) in fees to the ASSU annually. In return, the ASSU spends thousands of dollars of students’ money paying its own members, as well as their “staff.” This year, the ASSU Senate spent over $29,000 in salaries for Senators, up from $16,000 in 2017. The ASSU also paid out $4500 to “Senate Aides,” students assigned to each Senator.
Extraordinarily, some Senators aren’t satisfied with their current compensation and are calling for their stipends to be increased even more! Adding 5 more Senators would, at the current levels, increase salary spending by over $10,000 without any clear improvements in structure or function. Increasing the size of a political body has never made it operate more smoothly, and adding 5 freshmen to the Senate will not be an exception.
In order to seat the freshman Senators, the bill proposes a Fall Quarter special ASSU election just four weeks into the Quarter. Convening an election right as Stanford freshmen are beginning to get settled into college life would be distracting and unnecessary. The same freshmen are eligible to run for the Senate in Spring Quarter. Is waiting two quarters really that hard?
It’s difficult to imagine how a freshman could articulate a coherent vision for student government four weeks into their first quarter at Stanford, especially since students with many more years of experience struggle at the same task.
The bill’s stated justification for why freshman Senators are needed is that “the Freshmen Class did not consent to be governed by the ASSU Undergraduate Senate.”
Consent of the governed? It’s a student senate, not a real parliamentary body. None of us consented to be “governed” by the ASSU. Language like this reminds us that the ASSU in its current form is not a forum for solving student concerns - it’s an elaborate role-playing game designed to let activists practice melodramatic speeches, write sanctimonious statements, and prepare for their future Congressional runs.
The ASSU Senate does not govern anything other than the distribution of funds for student groups. In recent years, the ASSU has strayed from this objective and turned into an activist behemoth that spends thousands of dollars on the salaries of its leaders and does little to address actual student concerns (in fact, the ASSU often works against students’ interests!). Adding freshmen Senators to the fray will not fix the ASSU’s decay - it will make the situation worse.
The ASSU needs to be cut to size and defunded, not expanded. We need fewer paid student bureaucrats, not more of them. If you are concerned that the ASSU is too big and misguided, vote against the Freshmen Senators Act. And while you’re at it, consider choosing to opt out of the quarterly ASSU fee - the money you save will be better spent on, well, pretty much anything else.