A way to effect change at Stanford: University committees

Feb. 25, 2015, 8:29 p.m.

Protesting a crisis is easy. It’s easy, frankly, to wait until something’s already broken beyond immediate recourse, pick sides and then engage in mutual recriminations while the situation deteriorates further. Easy, certainly, but not constructive.

Campus activism, at least in recent years and as it pertains to campus issues, is no different. Class scheduling or Chi Theta Chi or Suites Dining  – or really any other issue that has contributed to the increasingly acrimonious relationship between students and administrators  – are certainly memorable as flashpoints in which students forcefully spoke out for their interests, albeit with mixed success. That such crises emerge every year without fail, however, is symptomatic of a deeper issue.

As students, that’s partially on us. Every year, close to 200 students serve on University committees, from the Board on Judicial Affairs to the Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing and everything in between. Student representatives on the former help shape, among other issues, how Stanford handles sexual assault cases; those sitting on the latter might advise on whether Stanford’s investments in fossil fuels are ethical and appropriate; those elsewhere help shape University policy on almost everything else, from tuition hikes to managing Thinking Matters. Student representatives play an integral role in pretty much every decision that has a substantial impact on the campus community, and they’re often the only students to have that privilege. The responsibilities given to student representatives are immense, ultimately, no matter which committee they serve on.

By and large, those student representatives do a phenomenal job of working with faculty and administrators to ensure that University policies best serve the campus community in its entirety. It may be largely behind the scenes, but the ramifications of actions  – or inaction  – are substantial. When we as a student body don’t step up, however  – when we don’t take it upon ourselves to ensure that administrators fully consider the full range of interests at stake  – everyone loses. That kind of breakdown doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it matters.

As students, we need to make sure that that privilege counts. We need to expect more of our future student representatives and to drive that change ourselves. We should expect students passionate about working within the system to solve problems before they emerge. We should call on students who bring new perspectives and communities to the table. We should expect, quite frankly, the best and the brightest.

Serving as a student representative on a University committee is perhaps the most critical role in our campus community that Stanford has to offer. Nowhere else can you make decisions not only on behalf of students but also  – in conjunction with administrators and faculty  – on behalf of the University community as a whole. Nowhere else are you able to take the initiative and preempt the crises that have come to define student-administration relations. Nowhere else can you make that kind of a difference.

We can and should do better. Let your legacy start here.

Daniela Olivos ’15 and Marshall Watkins ’15

Co-Chairs, Nominations Commission

Contact Daniela Olivos at dolivos ‘at’ stanford.edu and Marshall Watkins at mtwatkins ‘at’ stanford.edu

Applications to serve as a student representative on a University committee for the 2015-16 academic year close on Sunday. For more information, please visit nomcom.stanford.edu.

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