Op-Ed: Vote Abstain: What It Means and Why It Makes Sense

Opinion by and
April 6, 2011, 12:25 a.m.

To vote abstain is to have a nuanced opinion, to have an understanding of the implications of the vote this Thursday and Friday and to know that this vote has the greatest effect on not one, but two marginalized communities who deserve greater voice than they are being afforded. It is not a stance on ROTC and in fact brings together both sides.

As ASSU Chief of Staff, I am leading the Vote Abstain campaign because I believe it is important that as a Stanford community, we can do a better job, create a better forum and allow for a better outlet for those most affected by the ensuing decision to be made by those administrators charged with listening to student input. Let us stand together in voting abstain so that we do not trivialize the small groups of people, whether they be pro or anti ROTC, into one singular vote but rather afford them an equally powerful voice within the appropriate forums. Let us as a student body not be wrapped up in a statistic or reduced to a number in a poll, but bring the diverse complex opinions we have to the Faculty Senate and give that legitimate voice.

The ROTC situation is complicated because there are two very small and equally marginalized subsets on campus that are a part of this vote. I will be the first person to admit that the intricacies of whether it should be back on campus are numerous and at times, both sides very convincing. I try to put myself in other people’s shoes as much as possible before making a judgment, and in this, it is no different.

I am from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and I wonder what I would think if ROTC did not permit people from my city from participating. What if I as well as my Philly peers were so explicitly affected by this program and then we as a student body voted on whether it should come back? I think it is safe to assume that I am going to lose that vote and my voice is not going to have the magnitude that it deserves because I am so explicitly affected by the measure.

My voice and my Philadelphian peers are such a small minority on campus, and yet we are very much part of the diversity that makes up Stanford. Ultimately, it is my hope that people would understand that I deserve to be heard in the forum of the Faculty Senate and not referred to as part of a statistic.

By abstaining, I personally believe it is about making sure that each person has an equally powerful voice with those making the decision. This poll is the measure of the climate of the student body. They will point to this poll, if given legitimacy, as the barometer of what Stanford students think, trivializing and ultimately, stripping us of the power to explain our opinions.

The minority voice should be able to sit on equal ground as the majority opinion, whether it is those often marginalized in the ROTC or those discriminated against in the transgender community. That way, you can go to the faculty senate and have a big voice as opposed to one vote where minorities who are most affected by the decision have disproportionate impact.

Discriminating on either side of the issue is not fair to those communities that are affected and marginalized. I am abstaining because I want to see those specific individuals not be reduced to a singular vote when proportionally they are by far the most effected subset of the population. I am not voting on ROTC; I am voting abstain because I fully understand what it means to use my voice effectively and fully understand what this ballot measure means.

I implore that you, as a Stanford voter, protect the diversity of opinions we as a student body encapsulate. Vote abstain this Thursday and Friday.


John Haskell ‘12

ASSU Chief of Staff

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