Against the Students of Stanford University: that’s the rebranded name of the ASSU and its accidental executive, Vianna Vo. Last Friday, Vo sent a memo to Vice Provost for Student Affairs, Susie Brubaker-Cole. In that memo, Vo (whose job is to represent the student body) advocated against the planned return to campus in spring quarter for juniors and seniors.
“[T]he ASSU believes that bringing only graduate and special circumstance students back to campus will preserve the well-being of those already on-campus, and signal the importance of placing community needs over the individual as we continue to face the pandemic.”
Vo makes clear in her statement that to her, “community” doesn’t include all students. The “community” is exclusive, and if you don’t fall into the right categories, you aren’t in it. If you are a graduate student, an athlete, international, are already on campus, or have circumstances that Vianna Vo deems sufficiently “special,” rejoice in your community-ness! But anyone who doesn’t fit - including many who are suffering silently from social isolation, substance abuse, self-harm, and even suicidal ideation - is just an “individual.''
Students should have an equal claim to the University that they love, regardless of circumstance. For graduating seniors, a limited spring quarter is the last chance they will have to be on campus. Apparently, they need to pay their $18,491/quarter tuition, check their privilege, and think of the greater good of the “community.”
Unfortunately, it is not a surprise that Vo would voice such a radically anti-student position. After all, she was not even elected by the student body to her current position. Vo only became ASSU Executive after the previous Exec, Munira Alimire, resigned over the summer. Vo was Alimire’s running mate when they ran unopposed last year. This memo makes clear that Vo does not and cannot represent students.
Let’s review the facts on reopening Stanford.
The science on college reopenings is not controversial. Purdue University, with over 45,000 students (nearly triple the size of Stanford), saw a total of 7 (SEVEN) campus hospitalizations in 15 weeks of Fall semester. Their campus dorms were 85% full. Stanford is proposing substantially lower occupancy, with far stricter measures and enforcement.
If you think the risk of seven hospitalizations (and for the record, Stanford hasn’t reported any campus COVID hospitalizations) is too high a price for Stanford to reopen, then we might as well permanently close. In the academic year 2017-2018, 51 students were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning. We may never know how many Stanford students have been hospitalized for overdose or alcohol poisoning during the pandemic, away from campus. But remember - that’s an “individual” problem!
According to the CDC, Americans aged 15-24 (which encompasses nearly all Stanford undergraduates) are at 11x higher risk for suicide than death from COVID-19. Students are over 20x more likely to be hospitalized or die from a traffic accident while driving to campus.
Since June 30, Stanford has conducted over 138,000 student tests, with 181 positive results. That is a positivity rate of 0.13% among students. Among faculty and staff, the positivity rate is 0.19%. For comparison, in Santa Clara county the positivity rate is 4.65% So, COVID-19 spread at Stanford is less than 3% of the spread in the surrounding community.
Re-opening Stanford with its robust testing, contact tracing, and isolation protocols, is not a serious risk to local residents. And it is obviously not a risk to students. Many of our peer institutions, public and private, are successfully opening their campuses with community support. Stanford is fully capable of doing the same, and it is ignorant to suggest otherwise.
According to the Daily, Vo admitted that she doesn’t know (or care, evidently) whether she is representing students: “Due to the quick turnaround for this memo, we were unable to survey the entire student body… We relied on the perspectives of members in the ASSU to make these recommendations. As such, we cannot state how reflective our stance is of the student body.”
The Review would be glad to clarify for her: the student body does not support this insane position. Her dismissive attitude towards the “individuals” outside her preferred categories is nauseating. Every Stanford student is an individual, everyone is part of the Stanford community, and all deserve the respect of our “student leaders.”
Since Vianna Vo doesn’t care whether she represents all students, and is actually advocating against the interests of a majority of undergraduate students, she should resign as ASSU Executive. It would be fitting, given that she wasn’t elected as president in the first place. Her resignation would send a strong message that if you want to be a student advocate it is your job to advocate for all students, regardless of their background. The Review would also like to know which “perspectives of members in the ASSU” informed her anti-student memo.
The statements that Senators offered to the Daily in response to the memo were pathetic. Senator Tim Vrakas made sure to note the “good intentions'' of the memo, while pointing out it does not represent the opinions of students. Senate Chair Michael Brown boldly declared that Stanford might be able operate “somewhat like a university.” Is there any chance Brown can act somewhat like a leader?
The Review will be watching tonight’s ASSU Senate meeting to see if any Senators care to take a stand for the students they claim to represent. So Senators: DO YOUR JOB!