For the 2013-14 ASSU Executive, The Stanford Daily Editorial Committee unanimously endorses Dan Ashton ’14 and Billy Gallagher ’14, the slate that we feel will be best able to represent the student body and effectively utilize the ASSU to further student interests in the upcoming year. Throughout interviews with the two sincere candidate slates, Tuesday’s Executive slate debate and extensive internal deliberation, several things remained clear: while both slates have a true passion for the student body as a whole, both slates fall short — in different ways — of combining a well-rounded, detailed and ambitious platform with the leadership and judgement to realistically advance that platform within the ASSU’s limited framework. Nevertheless, we applaud Ashton-Gallagher’s undoubted ability to lead and manage the ASSU, and feel confident in their capacity and willingness to expand the scope and detail of their agenda to most effectively serve the student body.
This is a critical time for student government on this campus. From the ever-present stigma surrounding mental health and sexual assault issues to the recent spate of concerns over student autonomy on the Farm, the ASSU is in search of an Executive who can do more than quietly tinker — at best — with the periphery of those issues, or — neglecting them altogether — leave them to be taken up by someone else. The student body needs leaders who have experience representing, furthering and leading a genuinely diverse range of student organizations, and moreover conveying the interests of those students to administrators. As Ashton and Gallagher emphasized repeatedly, the ASSU has lost nearly all influence and credibility in the eyes of administrators and students alike. Their slate is the best choice to restore that credibility and influence by offering steady and astute guidance, and by building off existing lines of communication with the administration.
The Executive is also — and equally importantly — faced with a legislative body riddled with systemic shortcomings. Ashton and Gallagher have already shown the wherewithal, initiative and savvy to tackle the Senate’s structural woes head on, putting forward two constitutional amendments to resolve a lack of upperclassmen representation among Senators and the vast accumulation of unused special fees requests. Even as the latter amendment was withdrawn, their efforts demonstrate both purpose and ability. We encourage them to continue such efforts, albeit with a greater range of consultation, in restoring the ASSU’s ability to govern effectively, and we applaud their intent to do so in a practical and realistic manner.
However, the Ashton-Gallagher slate is not without shortcomings and ambiguities. While the candidates emphasize the importance of giving the student body a stronger and more relevant voice and bridging gaps with administrators, they failed to outline the details necessary. Furthermore, Ashton-Gallagher’s proposal to increase funding for short-term events such as Frost Revival and football tailgate viewing parties may not only be an inaccurate representation of the wishes of the general student body, but may also come in conflict with furthering long-term reform goals. The candidates themselves admit that the student body’s needs will constantly be changing; as such, they have disappointingly not provided a concrete way to measure their progress or offered finite objectives for which they are accountable should they win the election.
Gomez and Patiño’s strengths — and they are not insignificant — lie in areas of advocacy for students and student groups, in addition to a proven ability to organize students effectively towards advocacy goals. As such, we feel that the stagnancy and relative irrelevance of the ASSU recently may diminish their ability to effect change on this campus. Nevertheless, at a time when the ASSU is by all accounts a limited body, envisioning it as a focal point for student advocacy seems to retain little grounding in reality or student desires. Moreover, we lack confidence that Gomez and Patino could effectively balance and legislate an overly ambitious agenda, or approach issues such as divestment in a manner that best represents both the ASSU’s abilities and limitations and the interests of the student body in its entirety.
A key point in the Gomez-Patiño platform addresses the need to diversify the ranks of our faculty. We agree wholeheartedly with this goal. However, we disagree that the office of ASSU Executive is the best means of accomplishing this goal. We urge them to agitate for deans to pay more attention towards the demographics in their tenure tracks. Create a petition on the ASSU’s website. Speak to departments that are lagging in diversity. Mobilize the student body. All things that can be accomplished — and perhaps best accomplished — from outside the confines of the ASSU.
This endorsement remains a cautious one. Ashton-Gallagher offers the Stanford community the most effective and focused leadership among the options presented, with a minimal learning curve and the technical savvy to make realistic and effective changes to a broken ASSU. Their platform would benefit from the ambition of the Gomez-Patino slate, but we are fully confident that they will meet the current and future demands of the student body in conjunction with implementing the first steps on the path to a rehabilitated, reinvigorated and responsible student government.
The print edition of this article included the following note, which was omitted from the online edition. The Daily regrets the error. Gallagher is a former editor in chief of The Daily and Ashton is currently serving in the role of student at large on The Daily’s Board of Directors.
The Stanford Daily Editorial Committee is a subset of The Daily’s Editorial Board and is chaired by Miles Bennett-Smith ’13. He is joined by Alice Phillips ’15, Marshall Watkins ’15 and George Chen ’15.