ASSU Executive, cabinet launch new initiatives

Sept. 12, 2013, 1:57 p.m.

After appointing their executive cabinet towards the end of spring quarter, ASSU Executives Billy Gallagher ’14 and Dan Ashton ’14 have outlined several projects – from reinvigorating the humanities to addressing alleged flaws in the University’s judicial process – that they plan to address over the rest of their term.

Gallagher emphasized the progress made by cabinet members in following up on a spring quarter brainstorming session and subsequently advancing their initiatives.

“I think students don’t necessarily need a very visible ASSU during the summer just because people are off doing their own thing,” Gallagher said. “But I think that the work we are doing now to lay the groundwork will allow us to be a very visible and actively invested ASSU in the fall.”

Gallagher and Ashton will focus on the judicial affairs process and mental health at Stanford, respectively. The remaining cabinet members will address other campus issues such as increasing student involvement in campus public service, creating a new ASSU Executive website, reforming the ASSU’s financial operations, improving pre-med support on campus, rebranding the ASSU and reinvigorating the humanities at Stanford.


ASSU financial reform

Prospective financial reform of the ASSU was first raised as a prospective constitutional amendment earlier this year. The measure, which was put forward by Gallagher and Ashton prior to their election and which was ultimately withdrawn, suggested allocating unspent student fees money into a general ASSU discretionary fund rather than allowing it to accumulate in student group reserve accounts.

While Ashton and Gallagher had initially planned to reintroduce the amendment in the spring, a group of cabinet members — Viraj Bindra ’15, Najla Gomez ’14 and Hunter Kodama ’14 – have instead worked over the summer to discuss the ASSU’s current financial system with Stanford Student Enterprises staff and explore how peer institutions fund their student groups.

“What is most important about this project in particular is that we reach out to everyone who has a stake in the reform and really take the time to make sure that everyone’s point of view is taken into account,” Kodama said.

While the group plans to engage in further conversation with students and administrators over the coming weeks, Kodama said that they plan to deliver a bill by the start of winter quarter.


Judicial Affairs

Gallagher has focused predominantly on addressing alleged flaws in the University’s judicial process, as raised by a case study written by acquitted students and their alumni representatives.  He noted, however, the challenges of addressing criticisms of a potentially dated study amidst a changing judicial process.

“This is a complex issue and one that we don’t want to move too quickly on,” Gallagher said. “There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of issues that are confidential, and a lot of ‘students said, administrator said.’”

In addition to working with administrators and students on the issue, Gallagher said that he will attend training sessions for judicial panelists in the fall and – with a student’s permission – may attend a hearing as well.

“We are getting a lot closer to figuring out what the major issues are and what issues can be addressed,” Gallagher said. “If we can get something tangibly done by mid-fall we will be able to address the issue a lot better than if we had to rush things during the spring or summer.”

Gallagher emphasized the value of addressing an issue that may not affect many students but that remains critical for those involved.

“There are some projects where if you don’t need those services or if you never wind up in a situation where you are charged with something…that’s not going to affect you very much,” Gallagher said. “But for the students that are [charged] that will have a very, very deep impact on their life at Stanford. On the other hand, we don’t just want to affect some small subset of students, so there are other more broad things we can work on that affect students that are not a smaller way.”


Reinvigorating the humanities

Cabinet member Henock Dory ’14, a political science and classics major, has focused on the reinvigoration of the humanities at Stanford. He argued that Stanford has become less appealing for prospective humanities majors, with the number of humanities majors having fallen significantly over the past few decades.

“The school is looking like not really a good option for newcomers to focus on the humanities — besides for having some of the top departments in the nation,” Dory said.

While the Office of Undergraduate Admission recently formed a group to tackle the issue, Dory expressed frustration at the lack of student input solicited to date.

“To me that seems kind of ridiculous,” Dory said. “If you are having a problem in the humanities departments I think that yes, you want to talk to faculty, but at the same time the students are a huge component of that as well and they should be involved in that dialogue.”


Heightening social impact

Elizabeth Woodson ’15, the cabinet’s self-titled Social Impact Manager, spent her summer exploring different channels to make service learning at Stanford more easily accessible and impactful. One such outlet may be the new Directors of Community Engaged Learning (D-CEL) pilot program, which aims to combine academics with public service.

“As we go into fall quarter, I’m hoping to act on what we come up with in this learning stage and see what would make the most sense,” Woodson, who has met throughout the summer with Haas Center Executive Director Tom Schnaubelt to discuss a partnership, said. “Hopefully we can see some impact early-mid next quarter as far as starting these programs.”

Woodson also noted the tentative potential for promoting public service through collaboration with student groups and Greek societies, bringing in outside speakers and working with the Career Development Center.

“I want to ensure that there are opportunities for many different types of students and…that we can reach others who would previously not be as engaged in service,” Woodson said.


Other projects

Efforts to address mental health issues will take two approaches, with Ashton working to benchmark Stanford’s mental health services against those of peer institutions — in terms of outreach, costs and results – and raise awareness of existing University resources while cabinet members Nina Church ’16 and Ellora Israni ’14 work to tackle “duck syndrome and mental health on campus.

Gallagher emphasized the potential for collaboration between various facets of the ASSU to produce a more efficient and effective student government.

“What we have seen is the different branches of the ASSU not working together as well as they could,” Gallagher said. “For students, the ASSU is a lot of one big body. They don’t really care which parts work on it as long as it gets done, and so we think we could have a lot more integration between different parts of the ASSU.”

“Overall, we want to have a more positive image of the ASSU and make it more impactful on students lives both day to day and in a special way,” he added.

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