Stanford’s ASSU Senators: The Contagion of Tardiness

Why did you elect your ASSU Undergrad Senator? Was it his charming good looks? His punny word play? What about a promise to attend Senate meetings?

Well, it’s weird because you’d think that running on the promise of attending meetings would be stupid. However, I think I’ve discovered that this is *the *way to win a Senate campaign this year. Promise that you’ll actually attend meetings, be on time, and at least be physically present (here at Stanford, mental presence seems optional).

It should be a given, yet the Senate’s own records show that a few of our Senators seem to suffer from tardiness if not outright absenteeism.  Presumably, it’s a contagious disease because I simply can’t figure out why it’d be so chronic and so pervasive among the Senators.  It’s seems to be so debilitating that it would preclude one Senator from making opening roll call 10 of 20 times and didn’t make the meeting at all 1 of 20 times.  So it looks like that “10 of 20 times late” Senator, Kelsei Wharton, just isn’t getting the picture.  And Adam Creasman and Zachary Johnson kinda don’t get it (8 of 20 times late, 3 of 20 times absent; and 7 of 20 times late, 2 of 20 times absent, respectively).

But the story doesn’t hold true for every Senator.  The following have the very best attendance records: Dean Young (never late, never absent), Shelley Gao (never late, never absent, Skyped into meetings while in Washington), Alex Katz (1 of 20 times late, never absent), Zachary Warma (1 of 20 times late, never absent), Lee Jackson (never late, 1 of 20 times absent), and Varun Sivaram (1 of 20 times late, 1 of 20 times absent).

And to be completely fair, the records do not show whether the tardy and absent marks are officially excused, so there be valid (or “valid”) reas0ns why our Senators can’t seem to get to meetings on time.  But the thing is, the tardiness level for the entire Senate has been increasing as the year has progressed.  No one was late or absent for the first meeting.  And while there is a gap in the data for some of the early meetings (4-6), the fact remains that the average number of people late to each meeting is 2.74 by the existing data.  And by the same data, 78% of the above-average tardies occured in the second half of the year. The peak tardiness occurred during Meeting 18 (6 tardies, or 40% of the Senate).

This makes me wonder how much the Senators actually care about being on time. And are the meetings even starting on time? In my time here at Stanford, I’ve found that I make less of an effort to arrive on time when I know the meeting will not begin on time.  And as all terrible cycles go, the habit becomes worse: the meeting leaders begin meetings late because people are late.  The people are later because the meeting begin later. The cycle reinforces itself and the result is lots of tardiness.  I can’t confirm that this is the case here, but my guess is that Senate Roll Call is probably starting a little later each week, and that Senators are becoming conditioned to tardiness. The meetings probably begin late and the Senators stroll in even later. Either that, or the meetings always begin promptly and the Senators just don’t care.

Edit by the Author (3/26/10): A reference to Daniel Limon’s record has been removed from this post. Due to a Senate dispute regarding his official status as a Senator during his leave of absence and upon his return to campus, his “absences” and subsequent “presents” were kept on record. His official record is far quite misleading and I now believe it does not accurately represent his true attendance.

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