ASSU elections season is usually marked by a flurry of campaign events, designed to help candidates for all elected offices meet and connect with students across campus. However, a new website, StanfordHub.com, is helping Executive and Class President slates do that online. Students log into the website to put questions to individual slates using their Facebook accounts, and candidates respond directly to their concerns.
Each Executive and Class President slate has its own page on the website and has administrative control over that page. However, the site does not allow Undergraduate Senate or Graduate Student Council candidates to set up their own pages or respond to questions, and visitors to the page cannot ask questions of those candidates. The site has no official ties to the ASSU, the Elections Commission or its Voter Guide.
Four students came together to build and moderate the website — Dan Thompson ’13, Alex Lin ’14, Bharad Raghavan ’14 and Grant Mathews ’13. In an interview with The Daily, Thompson, Lin and Raghavan discussed how they got the idea for the site and how it evolved.
Thompson explained how the team had come together during the Alternative Spring Break trip “Social Entrepreneurship in the Bay Area,” during which one of the requirements was to come up with a business project.
“The one we came up with was connecting students with events, which is still our primary project — connecting students with interesting events on campus so that they can be connected with the buzz,” he said.
“We needed to have a strong social component, and we needed to have everything in place for it to work,” Lin added. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we just throw up a campus-wide wall?’”
After deciding early last week to build a website around ASSU elections, the group quickly put together its initial implementation, with Mathews as the lead coder. Since then, it has continued to evolve as issues cropped up. For example, the slates running for Sophomore Class President expressed reservations about a “leader board” that tracked which slates were getting the most clicks.
“They didn’t want that competitive vibe,” Thompson said. “We basically took everybody’s feedback in and tried to make it work for everyone.”
Thompson addressed potential issues with the website’s neutrality, since he has actively campaigned for the Cruz & Macgregor-Dennis Executive slate.
“The site is pretty transparent in the way it works,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any inherent advantage given to any person.”
Lin also explained that the site’s homepage, which lists all the Executive and Class President slates on the right side of the window, randomizes the order in which slates are displayed for each visit.
A second concern was that allies of different slates might “plant” questions for Executive candidates to answer. However, Thompson said he was not concerned by that possibility.
“I don’t think [planted questions] would really help a campaign because they tend to be pretty obviously easy to answer,” he said. “The interesting challenges — the ones that people would want to read — are the tougher questions.”
As for the future of StanfordHub, the group has no immediate plans for it after the elections are completed, beyond taking it down soon after the end of voting Friday night. However, all three said that it was likely to reappear, serving their original goal of connecting students to events.
“At the end of the week, depending on how this goes and the impact it has on the elections, we’ll decide what the future of the website will be,” Raghavan said.