The Stanford Review‘s exclusive interview with Katherine Heflin and Daniel Leifer.
**Why are your slate running for ASSU Executive? What are your slate’s goals at this point?
KH: We thought this year’s election for ASSU executive might turn out to be a joke. None of the three other slates have stated the issues they stand on, and we don’t know yet which candidates will qualify to be on the ballot. One slate is from the Chappie, and one consists of two grad students (neither of whom were Stanford undergrads). We are running because we feel that students deserve several good options for ASSU Executive. Until Dan and I are convinced that students have that choice, we will be campaigning full force.
DL: We have three overarching goals. First, we hope to make this election more inclusive. We are challenging our opponents to a town-hall-style debate during the first week of spring quarter so that students who want to be heard can.
Second, we hope to improve future elections. If an unpretentious, lighthearted campaign can get on the ballot and garner a respectable number of votes, that would show current and future ASSU candidates that the current process is not resonating with students. We have no conflicts of interest, we aren’t taking a dime of public financing for our campaign, and we care deeply about some specific issues. If students like our campaign, we hope future campaigns will notice.
And lastly, we’d like to make people laugh.
KH: Rain is annoying, and innuendos about “wetness” abound.
**Which issues affecting the Stanford University do you believe will be at the forefront of voters’ minds as they evaluate your slate? **
KH: Our fun campaign should not diminish the serious issues at hand. For one, it’s outrageous that we have to rely on the overpriced Stanford Bookstore for our textbooks. We shouldn’t have to go through Amazon and do back-ally drug trades (in the rain, no less!) to find reasonable prices for school books. We have suggestions. First, we should mandate professors to post their textbooks choices, with ISBNs, alongside their course description on Axess and StanfordCourses. There’s no reason why the bookstore should have a monopoly on this sort of information, and it will defuse the mad rush the day before class. And it’s predatory that they will pay student A $4 for a book that it sells to student B for $20. Stanford Student Enterprises could operate a much-better used book exchange. Students need a more efficient system that works for them and not for profits.
DL: I’ll give you a sampling of what I care about. I underwent major surgery last month and found it very difficult to go to class and get around campus. Many buildings shut off their elevators after 5 PM and most classroom doors lack the power equipment that makes them wheelchair-accessible; the DisGo golf cart system that ferries students around is hobbled by its small budget and offers only limited hours. I’m already working with administrators to try to resolve these problems, but the ASSU executive would have much more weight on such matters.
I would also like Stanford to bring back the Overseas Seminars program. My experience at Oxford was one of the highlights of my time at Stanford, and it disappoints me that so many students are losing this opportunity. Not everyone can fit a quarter abroad into their academic schedule, but everyone can do a three-week seminar. I also want to give Stanford green groups more leverage with the administration. For example, many light fixtures on campus are so poorly designed that they shine much of their light into the sky. With the light pollution on campus, we can barely see the stars at night and we waste energy. Katherine has had an instrumental role in installing the campus’s first outdoor LED lights on Mayfield, and we need more efforts like it.
KH: Students have great ideas and extraordinary enthusiasm about the environment and other issues. But to get more done, students just need a liaison that will help get their ideas more agency with the large Stanford bureaucracy. Finally, along with much of the student body, we love getting the newspapers in the dining hall.
DL: They help me save on blankets and toilet paper so I can pay for my books!
KH: The Stanford News Readership Program does great work, and we would like it to expand to include weekends. That’s when students have the most time to kick back and read a good article about the world beyond the Stanford bubble.
**What do you think it is going to take to win over voters this election season given the current coverage questioning the credibility of the ASSU? **
DL: It will take more than an election season for the ASSU to restore its credibility. I mean, the executive two years ago embezzled $13,000 and got away with it! You can’t steal that much money unnoticed without some major systemic problems. I personally won’t be won over until the appropriations system is overhauled. It also bothers me that some senators and candidates have positions on campus newspapers that let them write about the ASSU and endorse other candidates. So long as the people making policy are the ones writing about that policy, I can’t see why students would trust the system.
KH: We hate to see such a well-intentioned group as the ASSU weakened by such horrendous scandals. We think our pragmatic view of Stanford as it is and Stanford as it should be could help turn things around.
**Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Review’s readers? **
DL: I have been delighted with the Gobaud administration. Just that they made our Stanford e-mail
addresses available for life is a tremendous achievement. But they’ve done even more, like installing
projectors in Old Union, that deserves praise. I hope whoever becomes executive follows their example.
KH: I agree–kudos to Gobaud and his cabinet of hard workers. But I think I’d like to leave the Review readers with this: Rain is insane, sun is fun. And Lake Lag should be a grassy field for Frisbee-playing people, not a lagoon for weird diseases and dead endangered salamanders.