The race for top student government spots was made personal on Friday when the Fountain Hopper publicized one slate’s attack against their opponent for formerly holding a leadership role in the Stanford College Republicans (SCR), moving ideas of accountability, transparency and identity to the forefront of the election.
The dispute — and subsequent dialogue between the two candidates running for president — raises questions about how candidates’ pasts should factor into student campaigns.
On Thursday, Micheal Brown ’22, current Undergraduate Senate chair and Stanford Gladiators presidential candidate, circulated a video to several group chats juxtaposing the opposing slate’s presidential candidate Christian Giadolor ’21 M.A. ’22 with Brown. The video shows Giadolor introducing two speakers at an SCR event, and Brown highlighting their commitment to advancing racial justice.
“Is this who you want for representing you as ASSU president?” the video (and Brown’s voiceover) questions.
Giadolor, who is the L.E.A.D. Stanford slate’s presidential candidate, served as SCR’s head of recruitment in 2018 and admitted to doing so in his ensuing group chat conversation with Brown, which was compiled by L.E.A.D. Stanford in a Google document. In 2018, he introduced the controversial conservative activists Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens at an SCR event sponsored by Turning Point USA.
But since then, Giadolor has disaffiliated from SCR and become the president of his Texas community’s Black Lives Matter chapter. The experience, he says, was a product of ignorance, but also served as a catalyst for his journey of self-reckoning and encouraged him to consider how he expresses his sexuality and Blackness with the world.
Both slates now disagree on how this information should affect the course of the race.
Brown described their decision to bring Giadolor’s past involvement with SCR to light in terms of the importance of accountability and transparency in elections.
“I believe it’s revealing, because there are obviously going to be questions about how much can someone change?” Brown said.
In a public statement that Brown shared with the Fountain Hopper, they describe their slate as “fighting the good fight” and “wearing the proverbial white hat,” while Giadolor, “in introducing Turning Point USA speakers Candace Owens and Charlie Kirk to our campus, was wearing the white supremacist hat.”
Brown, who described Giadolor as a friend, criticized Giadolor for not making his past involvement with SCR more clear, which they said raises questions about a “lack of integrity, lack of transparency [and] lack of honesty.”
Giadolor did not publicly discuss his previous involvement with SCR during his candidacy until Brown released the campaign video, though running mate Cricket Bidleman ’21 M.A. ’22 said that the slate was planning to do so.
Emily Nichols ’23, who is Brown’s running mate, declined to comment for this article.
In Brown’s view, the question is to what extent a person can change and rectify their past behavior — and whether, especially as a candidate, they are willing to take public responsibility for their past.
“I feel as though there is some intentional strategy behind excluding that behavior, because it doesn’t make sense for it to be a thing that someone who’s talking about Black Lives Matter does,” they said. “And that’s not to say that people can’t change, but it doesn’t fit in their narrative.”
Giadolor, for his part, said that he’s long since moved past his SCR days, and that he now “wholeheartedly condemns” the student group. He explained that his decision to leave SCR has allowed him to reorient his view of public service and ability to make an impact as a Black and gay man who grew up amid the deeply conservative backdrop of Rockwall, Texas.
”I was not really exposed to a framework in which Democrats could achieve power in my hometown,” Giadolor said. “And so part of the decision to join SCR was motivated by the idea that if I wanted to return to my hometown, I would need to be a Republican to do so.”
Giadolor explained that he joined SCR — and the Stanford Democrats — in his frosh year partly because he was “seeking to learn about political discourse.” He became SCR’s recruitment director in late May of that year.
By winter of 2019, Giadolor had disaffiliated from SCR, a decision prompted by group members’ efforts to bring the conservative author and activist Dinesh D’Souza to campus.
Giadolor, referencing D’Souza’s publicly outing members of Dartmouth’s Gay Student Alliance when he was editor in chief of The Dartmouth Review, said that more SCR members became aware of his sexuality when he voiced opposition to inviting D’Souza. He said in the Black at Stanford group chat that he was subsequently kicked out of SCR.
“It became abundantly clear that I would no longer have a future in the organization,” Giadolor said.
Since his disaffiliation from SCR, Giadolor has become the president of his community’s Black Lives Matter chapter and the diversity chair of the Rockwall Democratic Party. He described himself as now navigating spaces in Rockwall “as someone who’s unapologetically Black, as someone who’s unapologetically queer” — a reality which he never imagined for himself during his time in SCR — and said that he hopes that by sharing his journey, he can signify his growth and genuine commitment to equity, justice and Black liberation.
“I acknowledge that I came into Stanford ignorant and did not really truly understand the degree to which racism and inequity are deeply tied and deeply rooted in conservative values,” he said.
Though Brown raised concerns about transparency between the L.E.A.D. Stanford candidates regarding Giadolor’s history, Bidleman said that she knew about her running mate’s prior involvement in SCR before the campaign. “I would never run with someone who I consider to be a Republican,” she said, explaining that she views conservatism as “not particularly inclusive.”
In the eyes of L.E.A.D. Stanford, Stanford Gladiators’ method of resurfacing their opponent’s past behavior constitutes a smear campaign.
Rather than his previous activity with SCR, Giadolor said that he would prefer to discuss the policies he and Bidleman hope to establish with L.E.A.D Stanford to combat anti-Blackness.
“I’m extremely disappointed that in a situation like this election in which two of some of the most prominent Black leaders on campus are running to serve the student body, instead of uplifting and showcasing the talent and leadership that exists in the community, the Black community at Stanford right now is reeling,” he said, describing himself as heartbroken. “When you tear people down, then it brings everybody down and it’s a sad day at Stanford right now.”
But to Brown, unpacking a candidate’s past is what it means to hold them accountable. “When you put yourself in an election, you should recognize if you do not hold yourself to account, the people running against you are going to hold you to account,” they said.
They added that by addressing Giadolor’s past record, they are not intending to assassinate his character, but to ensure that voters have all the proper information before they cast their ballots.
“Let’s be honest and let’s see what the student body thinks,” they said.