ASSU executive Q&A: Darryl Thompson ’23 and Christian Sanchez ’24

April 20, 2022, 5:00 p.m.

Darryl Thompson ’23 and Christian Sanchez ’24 represent one of three executive slates on the ballot for president and vice president of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU). Together, the candidates have served as Deputy Chair of the Undergraduate Senate, Executive Fellow for Transfer Advocacy, and have worked as members of the ASSU Board of Public Safety and Community Board on Public Safety. Their slate has been endorsed by the Stanford Student Athlete Advisory Committee. Candidates responded to questions via email. Portions of this interview have been lightly edited for clarity.

The Stanford Daily [TSD]: Which objectives will be at the top of your priority list if elected ASSU Executive President and Vice-President?

Darryl and Christian [D&C]: Our platform runs on three core pillars: Promoting overall student well-being, empowering communities to thrive, and enhancing cohesion, visibility and impact of the ASSU.

Promoting overall student well-being encompasses three broader topics that are dear to students’ hearts: mental and physical wellbeing, academic wellbeing, and social wellbeing. Our surveying of dining halls over the past week has revealed that students are deeply concerned about the lack of adequate mental health support, first and foremost. If elected, we plan on hosting regular meetings with CAPS staff  to relay feedback gathered, discuss the current state of resources, as well advocate for what the students would like to see: more frequent appointments, more diverse counselors, mental health support for queer students. Academic well-being will be another focus of our tenure. To us, this means advocating for better support systems for students on leave of absence, or those undergoing honor code violation procedures, as well as leveraging the Executive address of the Faculty Senate to advocate for hybrid options for students who are sick or in COVID isolation. 

To improve social well-being, we intend to support the on-going efforts to re-imagine campus culture post-pandemic. We hope to tap into the experience of graduating seniors, recent grads, as well as new students, to create more avenues for students to socialize, and to sustain salient campus traditions while making new ones. Many students we spoke to on our campaign trail have asked to bring back the compostable to-go containers for all students. We believe there is a middle ground we can find with R&DE which both eliminates food waste and tackles food insecurity. The way in which the SHARE office handles sexual assault and its means of intervention and support offered to survivors can be revisited and reconstructed with student input. 

We are convinced that by empowering communities to thrive, Stanford students will feel better supported. As a FLI-International student and first-year FLI-Transfer student, we know all too well that so much more can be done to center marginalized voices, and we are devoted to that cause. We hope to advocate for affordable summer and winter break housing for FLI students, expanded coverage for the Opportunity Fund and computer expense form, creating a professional clothes closet. We intend to establish a student business directory and create farmers markets for all student businesses to foster a micro-economy that bolsters student interaction. 

Darryl has been working with Bechtel Programs to fashion out a first-year mentorship program to increase the sense of community for international students. Christian is actively working with the Stanford Transfer Network (Transfer VSO) to help create community and develop a space on campus that is acknowledged on an institutional level and the language that surrounds various opportunities on campus to be more inclusive to transfers. We hope to continue working in the same spirit of collaboration with other community centers, and affinity groups. We want to work alongside the Stanford Disability Alliance to advocate for permanent implementation of the newly piloted Disability Community Space, as well as advocate for accessible parking among other things. We would like to work with the Graduate Students Council (GSC) on affordable health plans, food insecurities, and better compensation of TAs and research assistants on campus. 

Also, we intend to partner with the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) to change the student-athlete narrative on campus and help unite them with the larger student body and demystify the ideals that have been salient over the years. We will explore various opportunities for students to interact with student-athletes to build community. We pledge to work with the administration to establish a support system for student-athletes to navigate the Name-image and likeness (NIL) and Alston case policies. 

Similarly, we are looking to champion racial-equity efforts, advocate for better service conditions for campus workers, partner with stakeholders advocating for a more sustainable Stanford, via reviving Green Fund and ensuring student feedback with the new School of Sustainability. We want to be intentional about creating channels of feedback for ResEd regarding the neighborhood system and preliminarily update them on the student feedback. This will be geared towards reform to the neighborhood system such that it adequately supports community building. 

Enhancing cohesion, visibility, and impact of the ASSU encourages students to hold the ASSU leaders accountable for their leadership, or lack thereof. We would like to offer students a direct link to leaders by hosting quarterly State of the ASSU addresses, weekly Executive office hours, and other means of communication to hold student leaders accountable to their promises and to check-in with us to give us new insight on current and relevant issues. Secondly, we would like to extend an invitation to The Daily to foster a new relationship built on trust and accountability. Working with The Daily would also allow students to have an insight on how the ASSU operates and what initiatives we are working on throughout the year. We believe transparency is essential for student leaders to effectively lead students at Stanford.    

TSD: This has been an especially challenging past several months for students at Stanford. What message do you think the Stanford community needs to hear right now?

D&C: We’re all in this together. These are unprecedented times that we have lived through and we share a strong sense of sympathy and empathy for the unique student experiences in recent times. We are here to support all students. We can’t promise to fix it all but we are committed to working diligently and effectively to fight for what the students want. We have scoured the campus, talking to many students to find out what the real issues are and we plan on developing long-term sustainable solutions that will embody a true student narrative. We cannot do it all alone. So we ask that you partner with us – via feedback, engagement and support- to create a better Stanford for us all. We assure you that Darryl and Christian will deliver, and together, we shall prevail. 

TSD: What gaps do you see between Stanford students and administration, and how do you plan to work with leadership to bridge that divide?

D&C: The Stanford student experience is very nuanced and has many disconnects that need to be reestablished. One of such gaps is the lack of representative student feedback on boards and committees on campus. The Nominations Commission oversees the appointment of students to serve on such boards. It is unfortunate that these students have not been empowered with mechanisms of gathering student feedback outside of conversations they may have with friends. This results in new policies and programs which are unpopular with students. We intend to bridge the gap by partnering with Institutional Research and Decision Support (IR&DS) to create an accessible toolkit for student representatives to obtain feedback they can present to committees they serve on. We are also excited to explore the possibility of a student-led research team to survey students on the campus climate, which should inform our advocacy efforts. 

We have also identified ourselves as an avenue of opportunity to connect the broader student narrative with administration. Our work talking to students over the last two and a half weeks has revealed many disparities and issues that students would like to see addressed from a student perspective. The institution, to no fault of their own, may not take into account what their students feel on some particular issues and we hope to be the bridge to the gap between student and administrators by presenting students’ perspective as it is in our interactions with administrators.

TSD: What do you think is the biggest challenge of holding this position and how do you plan to deal with it?

D&C: The biggest challenge holding this position would be to ensure that all students feel seen, heard and adequately supported: essentially how to make every student happy with the work we are doing. We understand that not everyone will agree with some of the choices we make and we implore students to understand that we are doing our best to advocate on all fronts for everyone. The truth is, we are students too. We are navigating this space from unique perspectives that are not the dominant narrative here on campus. Our job is to work for all students and we are committed to delivering on that mandate, whether we agree or disagree with ideologies or perspectives. All students deserve to be advocated for and we have a responsibility to serve everyone. 

TSD: How do you plan to engage the Stanford community that’s less involved in the student government activities during your tenure?

D&C: First, we would like to tackle the narrative that the ASSU constitutes elected and appointed officials only. According to the Constitution, all registered students, both undergraduate and graduate students are members of the ASSU. We are committed to shifting the narrative to one of shared governance so that everyone feels a sense of collective ownership of the Association. 

We strongly believe that the lack of engagement with the student government stems from the lack of a strong presence of the ASSU. Many people do not know who the ASSU is, what we do, and how they can get actively involved. Upon deep thought, we realize that the ASSU is not effectively introduced to students during orientation programming. As a result, frosh, who are enthusiastic about student government, are unable to get involved, and over time, the interest in student government wanes. We plan to collaborate with the new student programs team to get the ASSU involved in NSO programming. 

For upperclass students and graduate students, the ASSU is not a visible presence in the everyday life of students. To resolve this, we plan to partner with Stanford’s Centers for Equity Community and Leadership, community based VSOs, and various affinity groups to co-create programming to not only support their members but also to increase the ASSU’s visibility and impact. We are confident that this partnership will increase student awareness of what we do, and how we can help them, resulting in increased student engagement. 

TSD: What superpower would you choose for yourself? How would you apply this superpower if elected to ASSU exec?

D&C: Teleportation would be our superpower. We would like to be everywhere all the time and sit in on meetings with community organizers, clubs, attend plays, concerts, rallys, protests, etc. It would give us the ability to know what is going on with all groups and organizations on campus and help us be effective leaders, who represent all their constituents. In the absence of that superpower, we will empower our executive cabinet and fellow leaders in the ASSU to be more present in community spaces, so that they are well versed in the problems students face and are knowledgeable in ways students want to be helped and advocated for. 

TSD: Do you have anything else to add?
D&C: Thank you for the opportunity that allows us to give you our perspective on these important questions. This is a working relationship with students that we are committed to seeing through from the beginning to the end. We appreciate all the time and effort you put into providing us feedback and giving us a true student perspective on real issues. If there is anything anyone would like to add or offer us, here is a link to our feedback form.

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