Students complain that year after year, the ASSU and potential candidates promise the same things over and over again, and year after year bold platforms to improve student life fall short of expectations and make little impact. Given the organizational culture of the ASSU, where cooperation between branches is nonexistent and each segment feels a need to act on its own and work only for their own goals only to their own credit, this should be no surprise. As it stands, little interaction occurs between the executives and the Senate as each pursues their own agendas, while the Graduate Student Council is allowed to consistently undermine campus-wide initiatives and the Nominations Commission acts as a body independent of the ASSU. Before recurring issues can be successfully acted upon and real progress made, the ASSU needs to understand that together they serve the student body and that they must act in unison to realize the full potential of the resources at their disposal.
These issues do not seem as exciting as many of the bold promises candidates for ASSU office commonly make. Yet solving these problems is precisely what the ASSU needs to live up to the promise of a student government worthy of Stanford. While many slates for ASSU executives offer strong ideas for improving students’ well-being, one slate is uniquely aware of the necessity of institutional reform for effectively implementing their platform. We believe that Priyanka Sharma and Jack Cackler are the right slate to tackle these problems.
As the current chair of the Undergraduate Senate, Priyanka has dealt with the ASSU at the highest level and understands its serious institutional needs. From her vantage point, she also brings good ideas for reform. She argues for revamping the Nominations Commission to work more closely with and receiving guidance from elected members of the ASSU, re-requiring student representatives to submit reports, thereby creating an actual ASSU policy establishment. Priyanka and Jack would create a student advocacy advisory board of ASSU officials and other student leaders who would help any student or student group seeking to advocate on an issue or just solve a problem by connecting them to other students, telling them which administrators to work with, and helping them figure out how to reach their goals. They want to reduce student group costs, including labor and rental fees that are bloated and unnecessary. It isn’t glamorous, but it would help ALL student groups contribute to a more vibrant student life.
Jack balances the ticket with a compelling personal story. In his famous run for tree, he was disqualified under alleged pressure from the Administration after bloodying himself by running through glass. He suffered personally from an overly protective university administration that consistently values avoiding liability over student rights. He is a maverick who is full of energy and incredible determination and willpower. Though he does not have experience with the ASSU prior to this campaign, he has already familiarized himself with the ASSU’s major policy areas and shown himself to be a quick study. Finally, Jack has the ability to draw a different crowd of students in to the ASSU: athletes, partiers, jocks, apathetic freshmen. Too often, the ASSU serves the needs of well organized student groups and communities and neglects the needs of the ‘average student’. He can help remedy this problem.
Though Priyanka and Jack differentiate themselves in their ability to revolutionize the internal workings of the ASSU, they are also in touch with the needs of the average students. They have a clear set of deliverable promises that will only become easier to carry out with their reforms. Their platform includes advocating for need-blind admissions for international students, negotiating better textbook and course reader prices, bringing back the CoHo, and improving programming and fun at Old Union. We find Priyanka and Jack’s views on diversity particularly insightful and novel. For diversity, they wish to focus on the root problem: outreach and retention. They want to make sure that the university works rigorously to reach out to candidates of diverse ethnic, gender, socioeconomic, and political background, and then makes sure that the retention rate for women and minorities equals that of all faculty.
Though we are endorsing Priyanka and Jack, we would like to encourage them to take seriously their opponents ideas. We were impressed by Sagar Doshi and Phil Hon’s emphasis on institutional memory. Similarly, we were impressed by David Gobaud and Greg Goldgof’s many specific proposals, including letting alumni keep their @stanford.edu email addresses, livening up the Mausoleum party and Full Moon on the Quad, and building a new recreational pool.
Many voters will be impressed by Jonny Dorsey and Fagan Harris’ broad promises of transformational change. Their slate has painted an idealistic vision of just how good the ASSU could be. Still, Priyanka and Jack have shown that they have an actually transformative plan, one that will revamp how the ASSU works and does business. If they are elected, we think theirs will be the most approachable ASSU in years. Their plan is realistic, specific and detailed. Their platform may not be sexy, but it will make Stanford a better place to study at and live.