Over the summer, Stanford students received an email entitled “The world’s most effective and innovative student government.” Inside, Michael Cruz ’12 and Stewart Macgregor-Dennis ’13, the new President and Vice President of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU), presented hundreds of new initiatives that they hope will address students’ concerns and needs. The email, which welcomed input from the Stanford community, included 45 blueprints, each with their own outlines.
The initiatives stem from Cruz and Macgregor-Dennis’ policy platform, Stanford 2.0, envisioned during the ASSU campaign season last spring. As their website (www.stanford2.com) advertises, the idea behind it was to model “student government as social entrepreneurship.”
**Addressing Recent Criticism
Although their ideas are young, Stanford 2.0 has already come under criticism from some in the Stanford community. In enacting their policy plans, the executive has dramatically increased the size of the ASSU, creating several new positions that the executives rationalize as fostering student involvement.
In an interview with the Review, Macgregor-Dennis explained, “We are very conscious about what students want. What we did with the cabinet applications is that we said, ‘you can apply for anything you want, and if you can justify that it is something that should be represented in the ASSU Executive, we’re happy to implement it.’”
Kristi Bohl, a writer for the Unofficial Stanford Blog, claimed in a recent blog post that in trying to revolutionize the ASSU, the current executive body is losing touch with things that are most important to students on campus. She also expressed concern about the lack of practical action so far from the administration.
In response to these and other concerns, Cruz denied that his initiatives are meant to tackle invisible problems. “These aren’t problems we’re seeing, they are problems that people are bringing to us,” Cruz stated. “We want to make sure that we honor what they asked us to do. The ASSU can do it all, because the ASSU is comprised of all Stanford students.”
Humanities and social sciences students have also raised questions regarding the executive’s focus largely on the engineering and technical side of the university. When viewing the 17-item platform on Cruz and Macgregor Dennis’ website, the arts platform contains only two ideas, while its tech/engineering counterpart contains eight.
The arts platform ideas are to “create a web space for arts groups,” and to “facilitate communication between performance groups.” There is no other item geared towards the arts and humanities.
However, the executive body remains resolute in voicing its impartiality. When asked whether the drive for entrepreneurship slights those who are not in technical fields, Cruz responded, “as a history major who came to Stanford as a history major, making sure that the humanities are well-supported is very close to my heart. That’s the purpose of the Community Action Board and the Governing Documents.”
He continued, “I reject the premise that entrepreneurship only involves ‘Techies.’ There’s a way to include entrepreneurial thinking in everything we do.”
Regarding campaign promises in their platform, the executive body makes an important distinction between “ideas” and “action plans.” The ideas are broader accomplishments that inspire what the ASSU will do, but as far as promises go, Stanford 2.0 will work—and has already started working—on the action items. These are more achievable, smaller tasks that can ultimately lead to achieving said ideas.
For example, the executives framed making snacks available at dining halls 24 hours a day as an idea. The corresponding action item would be to run a Spring Quarter pilot program to see how well it would function.
Ultimately, Stanford 2.0 promises to change the university by bringing in accountability, innovation, and social entrepreneurship. Although the executives admit that realizing such a goal would require considerable collaboration from the student body, Vineet Singal, the Chair of Social Entrepreneurship, remains optimistic.
“I think that there will be a significant amount of interest for this endeavor,” Singal, the teaching assistant for Urban Studies 133 last year, stated. Because of the course, he explained, “I have met several of these students, and have seen through the creation of ventures that I believe could have strongly benefitted from this type of program.”
While students may still complain about Axess, Webmail, and course units, Cruz and Macgregor-Dennis chose to highlight social entrepreneurship and infusing Stanford with Silicon Valley ideals as the main focus of their platform. But they firmly believe that this is what Stanford needs. “There’s a set of methodology, and then there’s a set of end-objectives we want to achieve,” explained Macgregor-Dennis.
Division of Internal Review
Perhaps the answer to some of the criticism they have received, the ASSU executives are excited about the creation of the Division of Internal Review (DIR). The purpose of the DIR is to serve in an advisory role, and gauge results.
Cruz has likened this new organization to the Government Accountability Office of the United States. “Really, all it is about is transparency,” he said.
The DIR was suggested by Andrew Aguilar, who described it as such: “DIR is dedicated to the principle of outcome-based governance…DIR will collect data and look at financial metrics to determine the quality of outcome, and then propose recommendations based on what we find.”
The new ASSU division will expand beyond just the executive branch. “Additionally, DIR will be authoring an ASSU Strategic Plan with initiatives for all branches, Quarterly and Year-End Reports on ASSU Progress, and other research-based analyses,” Aguilar explained.
He is planning on a staff of 15-20 people who will be unpaid this year. “Other than assorted office expenses and lots of time, DIR will not have a budget” he stated.
Aguilar also mentioned that the executive director will be appointed upon a vote by the Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Council, but that all other appointments will be made internally.
“I’m pumped about DIR,” remarked MacGregor-Dennis, “mostly because it’s a realization of what Michael and I have been thinking about, in terms of having a more data-driven, student body conscious student government.”