As Stanford’s ASSU election season begins, select student groups promote and endorse candidates for both Senate and Executive slates. Coalitions and student groups, typically after applications and interviews, will select candidates to publically support and serve as their representatives. The majority of endorsements are for potential Executives and Senators, with the exception of the Stanford Daily’s endorsement, which is only for Executive candidates.
Although seen as great publicity for candidates, the student organizations also benefit from endorsements. The Jewish Student Association’s (JSA) president, Natalie Goodis ’11 stated that endorsements were important because it ensured that “people with similar values [to the Jewish community] were represented on the Senate.”
John Haskell ’12 of Stanford Democrats added, “By endorsing a candidate, the group is saying that the candidate holds up their values and what they want to see emphasized in the coming year.”
The influence endorsements have on elections results often depend on the size of the endorsing student group. For example, the JSA allows its endorsed candidates to have access to the Kibbutz emailing list, a huge asset in reaching out to voters. Organizations such as Colleges Against Cancer, however, are much smaller in size and influence.
The effectiveness of endorsements also highly depends on the issues each student group focuses on throughout the endorsement process. Groups like Queer Straight Alliance (QSA), Women’s Coalition, Students of Color Coalition, Stanford Democrats, and Green Alliance for Initiative Action (GAIA) tend to focus on one dominant issue.
The QSA focuses on finding “voters [who] will work for Queer issues” and looks for candidates who can “demonstrate an understanding of Queer issues,” wrote Sam King, a member of QSA. The QSA’s endorsement application is entirely focused on Queer issues, leaving no room to judge competence on other issues.
The Women’s Coalition, “an umbrella group that serves as a funding body for women’s student groups”, looks for candidates “engaged and aware of issues facing women,” stated Sarah Lee ’10. The Women’s Coalition endorses candidates that address a large range of women’s issues, like sexual assault, body image, or the lack of women in science and technology majors.
The Students of Color Coalition addresses only issues relevant to “communities of color” throughout its application. Four out of six of its application questions address diversity and communities of color. The Colleges Against Cancer endorsement application follows a similar route with four out of five questions relating to health issues.
The Stanford Progressive specifically asks about national issues in its application. Its last question is “What, in your view, was the largest contributing factor to America’s economic crisis in 2008?”
Stanford Democrats do not focus on a single issue but rather on a certain demographic. “As the Stanford Democrats, we obviously look for candidates that are Democrats and potentially have worked with a candidate, voter registration, have been civically active in some way,” according to Haskell ’12. Their nomination works effectively for Democrats looking to vote within their own national political party, but does not necessarily account for qualified Republican or Independent candidates.
Lastly, GAIA addresses the topic of sustainability at Stanford and the impact the ASSU has in relation to environmental policy on campus. Noel Cristosomo ‘10, member of GAIA and Students for a Sustainable Stanford, stated that “experience in [sustainability] as well as a willingness to bring on [a sustainability chair] in their cabinet” along with “great environmental policy ideas” were all factors in determining the group’s endorsed candidates.
Organizations like The**Stanford Review, Jewish Student Association, and Stanford Conservative Society focus on a more holistic approach. “We’re open to any sort of candidate who wants to fight for whatever issue they are passionate about as long as we feel it is something that will benefit all students on campus” said Ruthie Arbeiter ‘12, Vice President of Public Relations for the JSA. Stanford Conservative Society President, Tommy Schultz ’11, echoed similarly that candidates should focus on enacting the best policies for all students.
While the JSA uses an application and interview to determine competence of a candidate, the Review’s Editorial Board used a rubric to numerically score applications. “This allows for an elimination of nepotism and bias,” stated Tim Ford ’10, Editor-in-Chief of The**Stanford Review. “What we are really looking for is competence, good governance, and senators who are going to focus on issues facing Stanford students.”
What exactly are these issues facing Stanford students? “Appropriations is the word,” articulated Natalie Goodis ’11 about the importance for student group funding. With outrage over special fees and the use of student funds, students groups want to ensure funding for next year. Goodis stated that, “appropriations and reform are needed, but we were excited to hear someone talk about a [different topic].”
Both Stanford Democrats, Stanford Conservative Society, and The**Stanford Review feel that free speech is a major issue on campus. “Free speech has always been a problem on Stanford campus that affects more than just our group,” stated Haskell ‘12. The**Stanford Review and the Stanford Conservative Society, although firm proponents of free speech, both hold that the ASSU should refrain from commenting on national and political issues.
No matter what issue a coalition or organization addresses, all groups interviewed agreed that holding candidates accountable to the organization after elections could be difficult. Many, like the JSA, “trust the endorsement process enough to insure that [candidates] will follow through with what they say,” explained Ruthie Arbetier ’12.
The GAIA asks specifically in its application if candidates are willing to establish a bi-monthly check in to ensure progress on environmental issues. Also, they hope to encourage endorsed candidates to “run a sustainable campaign.” Noel Cristosomo ‘11 hoped that candidates would restrict printing and reduce the use of new materials.
The**Stanford Review’s process for accountability slightly differs because it serves as a media outlet on campus. “We have a unique way of holding groups available because we add to the political discussion at Stanford,” stated Tim Ford ’10. Additionally, the Review prints candidates’ responses to its endorsement application in its elections issue.
Despite varying application processes and selection methods, student groups create ways to benefit candidates that support or represent similar values. Endorsements allow candidates to gain greater publicity, but also allow organization to gain support in the ASSU. Natalie Goodis ’11 said it best: “Politically, the more allies you can get, the better.”