This article has been edited. You can read the originally published version here.
The Students of Color Coalition (SOCC), heavily influenced by radical liberal activists and operating behind the guise of “color” and “campus unity,” are supporting an under-qualified Gomez-Patiño, turning what should be an easy victory for Ashton-Gallagher into a close race riddled with misleading promises designed only to benefit SOCC’s special interests.
At the beginning of every spring quarter, Stanford students find themselves forced to endure an endless barrage of emails and inane flyers. Other than filling White Plaza with an unappealing mixture of duct tape, paper, and chalk, these advertisements add little to the overall campus experience. However, for the first time in my four years at Stanford, the results of an ASSU Election will have a significant effect on student life on campus.
Following last year’s mockery of an election, in which the student body rejected a controversial candidate with narcissistic tendencies, there are currently two slates locked in a close battle for the ASSU Executive. One slate has garnered the valuable Students of Color Coalition (SOCC) endorsement. The other consists of the most qualified ASSU candidates this university has seen in my time here.
Put simply, the SOCC endorsement of one slate has turned a laugher into an otherwise close race.
How did this happen?
Let us begin our analysis of SOCC by looking to the group’s full name, Students of Color Coalition, as we try to decipher what exactly this group is. Consisting of the Black Student Union (BSU), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Muslim Student Awareness Network (MSAN), Stanford American Indian Organization (SAIO), Asian American Student Association (AASA), and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA), the Students of Color Coalition has assumed the role of spokesperson for an extremely large segment of the Stanford student body. Most alarming is the language that the group uses, asserting all of its members are “Students of Color.” The rationale for such antiquated language is beyond this writer, and should be beneath an organization that claims to promote pluralism on this campus. Classifying some students as “those of color” does little to enhance overall campus unity and the university experience. Evident to any discerning thinker is the fact that the true unifying force behind this coalition is not skin tone.
It’s funding for events, community centers, and programming that serves an isolated segment of the student body. They have made a mockery of the ASSU, using the student government’s coffers as a private bank account. On its website, SOCC openly lists “Supporting Ethnic Community Centers, their Staff and Academic Programs” and “The Reduction of VSO Costs for all student organizations” as two of their primary concerns. For the student unfamiliar with ASSU processes, it helps to clarify that these self-proclaimed “issues of importance” amount to little more than funding for group events. Most Stanford students made the mistake of attending some of these gatherings at one point in their career. They are filled with artificial rhetoric and free pizza, and are often led by the same students seeking attention for their cause-of-the-week. If the organizers are really on their game, a handful of professors who are still protesting the arrest of Angela Davis may attend and grant the event a false aura of academic legitimacy. Quarter after quarter, SOCC lauds these events as helpful in allowing Stanford students to embrace their personal identity when all they do is stifle free expression and further a hostile political agenda. Nonetheless, SOCC-affected students continue to vote for SOCC blindly because they have been pampered and gobbled up the rhetoric of baseless self-importance. The dollars that SOCC candidates, once elected to ASSU positions, secure for the coalition are spent on events that cement group identity, creating a cycle in which affected students continue to vote as a bloc to fund their own isolation.
Seeking funding from the ASSU is not inherently wrong in any sense. What is despicable is the manner in which SOCC has actively attempted to mislead our student body and outsiders that their alliance cares for the greater good of the Stanford student body. The members of SOCC have sought to obfuscate their true intentions by asserting that the “Fostering Faculty and Graduate Student Diversity” and “Identifying Acts of Intolerance on Campus” are among their concerns. These declarations have been taken straight from the SOCC website. Consider them for a moment: What role do student groups play in the hiring of faculty? What role do students groups play in graduate student admissions? None. And they shouldn’t have one. Stanford’s faculty, administrators, and trustees have stewarded this university to new heights—implying their inability to make hiring and admission decisions without regard for race is, frankly, insulting.
And what about “Identifying Acts of Intolerance on Campus?” Where was SOCC when students cheered, “Long live the Intifada” in White Plaza, indicting all Jews, Americans, and Israelis as complicit in the plight of the Palestinian people? Where was this coalition when students asserted that the “United States is built on white supremacy” on the Stanford Static blog, a website that lists five of the six SOCC constituent groups on its list of activists? What acts of intolerance has SOCC identified on campus? What does it do once it identifies one? The resounding quiet that leaves us seeking an answer for these questions is damning.
SOCC is not about color or campus unity. SOCC is about the funding and furthering of a radical political agenda.
None of this is to say that there aren’t members of SOCC groups that truly care about the greater Stanford community. I’m sure some do exist. The danger is that SOCC has been unduly influenced by radical liberal activists who have turned the alliance into a political action committee. When this takeover began is not entirely clear. In my time at Stanford, however, the radicals have reared their ugly heads with more and more frequency. Upperclassmen and women will recall the entirely ludicrous ROTC debate that captivated Stanford students two years ago and resulted in a ballot initiative on the issue. Younger students are offered this year’s divestment battle, to say nothing of the continued protests that greet any visiting speaker who has worked in government or led a major corporation. These activists have turned political discourse on this campus into an open war, in which moderate students find themselves increasingly isolated. These activists live in a, literally, black and white world in which there can be no room for compromise. And because of their increasing influence over SOCC and continued bribery of select student group, they control a large voting bloc.
How does this apply to this year’s ASSU Executive race? On paper, this election ought to have been over before campaigning began, but the SOCC endorsement of the slate consisting of Najla Gomez and Elizabeth Patiño has breathed life into otherwise bland and unqualified candidates.
Gomez-Patiño offer little leadership experience, familiarity with student government, or representation of the diverse student body. Although their website proclaims that they “have been and are currently involved in various communities at Stanford,” the discerning voter will note the consistent overlap in the groups they represent. In addition to their shared membership in the Sigma Theta Psi Multicultural Sorority, the two collectively have worked on the Centro Chicano staff, MEChA the Latino Sib Program, Latinos Unidos, and La Familia. As a voter, one cannot help but be put off by the lack of diversity in the biographical backgrounds of the Gomez-Patiño slate. Do they have any experience creating and balancing a budget? Have they ever interfaced with Stanford administrators? What exactly did they do as members of these groups? That neither can offer examples of specific leadership roles they held or initiatives that they have successfully led exposes the Gomez-Patiño as unable to effectively steward the ASSU.
In direct contrast, the slate of Billy Gallagher and Dan Ashton offers students an option that has both accomplished much on campus and represents the varied viewpoints that make our school unique. The Gallagher-Ashton team brings together the former Editor-in-Chief of the Stanford Daily with last year’s Chair of the ASSU Senate, respectively. Despite the attempts of rabid left-wing political activists, Billy Gallagher worked tirelessly and effectively to ensure that the Stanford Daily made strides towards elevating the level of discourse on student issues and reclaiming the lost respect that students once held for our flagship newspaper and refocusing attention on issues affecting the daily lives of Stanford students. In his capacity as a senator, Dan Ashton ensured that the ASSU remained a unifying force for students of all backgrounds, spearheading the effort to fund Frost Revival and implementing a Leadership Development program that brought together students, the Provost’s Office, and notable professors, including former Secretary of State George Shultz. Put simply, Ashton and Gallagher have made tangible things happen for Stanford students.
That Ashton, a member of Sigma Nu, and Gallagher, the current president of Kappa Sigma, come from two extremely different fraternities on campus further cements their slate as the only one that can claim a perspective molded out of diverse experiences that best represents that of all Stanford students. Alongside Ashton’s leadership as President of the 2010-11 Frosh Council and work as a member of the Board of Trustees Committee on Finance, the weak resumes of Gomez-Patiño are exposed as empty. Of the two serious slates for ASSU Executive, only Ashton-Gallagher offers Stanford students any support for their promises to leave a lasting impact on campus life that brings us together.
While Ashton-Gallagher have all but guaranteed that their ASSU will not delve into questionable political issues outside of the scope of student government, Gomez-Patiño have already assured their radical supporters that they welcome transforming the role of the ASSU. Speaking in the annual Executive debate, Gomez-Patiño embraced the divestment debate as a legitimate one, providing further evidence of the effectiveness with which radical leftists have come to dominate SOCC.
With the election of another SOCC-endorsed slate, there comes only the guarantee that our campus remains an intensely and unnecessarily divided one. A vote for Ashton-Gallagher is a vote for competency and the opportunity to rebuild the ASSU into a more effective advocate for the entire student body. As a senior who finds himself often reflecting on the past four years of my Stanford experience, I only hope that we as a student body will be able to undo the damage that has been done to our student government, and greater student body, by SOCC and move forward into a new era of campus politics.