ASSU executive team, class presidents prepare for a year like no other

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The Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) strives to “represent the interests, needs and perspectives of Stanford students at every level of decision making within the University.” However, due to COVID-19, the ASSU and their responsibilities look slightly different.

ASSU President Vianna Vo ’21 said she has been much busier than in past summers. She and fellow ASSU members have been meeting biweekly over the summer to work on initiatives like fighting racial injustice and injustice against international students, as well as focusing on queer student issues and economic issues. 

“We’re trying to adjust and do as many events as we normally would do, but online,” Vo said, adding that she is also looking at state and county guidelines to see what the ASSU can do on campus while being safe.  

“You face challenges for meeting needs both on campus and off campus” with the hybrid model, she said.

To meet the needs of everyone, Vo and the ASSU have been sending out surveys to learn what quarters students are planning on attending and common questions they have about the grading system. Vo and the ASSU executive cabinet are also planning a survey focusing on community needs and priorities for fall quarter. 

The ASSU has also assembled a COVID-19 response team. Executive cabinet member Adonis Rubio ’21, who co-directs the team, said his responsibility is to work with committees, staff and organizations to move forward with the academic year while maintaining a Stanford community.

“The role is ever requiring so much attention to what is going on and so there’s a lot of focus on staying up to date with current events and policies,” Rubio said. “Prior to COVID, I was already very interested in pandemics and pandemic preparedness and kind of just thinking through how we can approach it from the research side of things.”

Rubio emphasized that he is very open to student feedback. He said he would like to hear from the student body and wants the student body to know that he is here to convey their feelings to Stanford’s staff to create change.

Junior Class President Nidhi Tara Mahale ’22 told The Daily that the junior class cabinet has had to rethink many of their plans for the upcoming year. According to Mahale, the junior cabinet had big plans for the spring quarter, including a formal on a yacht and upstander training for sorority and fraternity recruitments. 

“When COVID hit and we all had to go back home, it was kind of a rude shock to us when we realized that we couldn’t do any of the things that we had in mind,” Mahale said. “We realized that it didn’t mean that there wasn’t anything that we still couldn’t do, it was just the nature of it that was going to change.” 

To respond, the junior class presidents began sending out weekly newsletters, showcasing what their friends around the world are doing, such as baking and creating music. The presidents donated the funds that would usually be used for events were donated to COVID-19 relief. 

“There was a lot of stuff happening in the spring that wasn’t what we anticipated at all but it was still a great way to keep our community going,” Mahale said.

Mahale and her co-presidents have also been taking on more policy and activism work. Before winter break last year, the junior class presidents created committees within the cabinet to best address the needs of the community, which the presidents plan to continue this year.

Senior Class President David Amir Pantera ’21, who also serves as an undergraduate representative for Stanford’s Board of Trustees, said he doesn’t believe that his responsibilities have changed due to COVID-19. 

“What has changed however is the manner that we go about those responsibilities and their level of importance,” he said, adding that his responsibilities will be more difficult and important since a strong community is especially critical during this period.

Pantera said that planning for the year “honestly hasn’t changed a lot.” The senior class cabinet has still been working on creating an agenda and building a class cabinet of 15 students. As they would in a normal year, the class cabinet will begin meeting at the end of August to execute plans. 

However, the timeline and scope of their plans have changed. Focusing on fall, the senior class presidents have been meeting every week with each other and other ASSU committees. They are focusing on planning virtual events, including concerts, talent shows, game nights, virtual picnics with other universities and events showcasing the voices of their peers. Pantera said he feels even more motivated to plan a great year because people are struggling right now. 

“I feel really good now going into September. I’m feeling ready to hit the ground running,” he said. The senior class cabinet is “going to be working harder now than ever.”

Contact Bridget Stuebner at bridget.stuebner ‘at’ gmail.com.

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