ASSU Executive Q&A: Marion Santo ’23 and Emily Schell

April 20, 2022, 5:06 p.m.

Marion Santo ’23 and Emily Schell, a fourth year Doctoral Candidate in Developmental and Psychological Sciences represent one of three executive slates on the ballot for president and vice president of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU). Santo currently serves as an undergraduate senator and the Faculty Representative of the Undergraduate Senate to the Faculty Senate. Schell is the Diversity and Advocacy Committee Co-Chair on the Graduate Student Council (GSC), Faculty Senate Co-Representative from the GSC, and student representative to the Student, Alumni and External Affairs Committee on the Stanford Board of Trustees. 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?

Marion Santo and Emily Schell [M&E]: One of our main priorities is creating an atmosphere of inclusivity and wellness at Stanford. As outlined further in our executive thesis (linked here), we have already pushed for a variety of changes to improve affordability (e.g., 100% Cardinal Care subsidies), mental wellness (e.g., the ASSU-CAPS survey), social justice (e.g., passage of the “Anti-Doxxing Act”), and student educational equity (e.g., current advocacy for the “Equitable Learning Act,” which calls for further hybrid accommodations to support our disabled student community). 

We will continue to build on these efforts through specific steps, including, but not limited to: (1) working with university leadership as well as specific schools and departments to define (and remain accountable to concrete timelines for addressing the concerns raised by the IDEAL survey; (2) continuing to advocate for more institutional investment in CAPS, OAE, and GLO; and (3) continuing to push for greater affordability for students, especially around housing, food insecurity and increasing stipends for doctoral students. 

Another priority, which we will elaborate further on below, is alignment in shared governance across all of the stakeholders representing important campus communities at Stanford: the Undergraduate Senate, Graduate Student Council, Faculty Senate, various staff departments (e.g., R&DE, ResEd, GLO), and University leadership. 

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?

M&E: As cliche as it sounds, the message that everyone needs to hear (ourselves included) is that “you matter.” Not just the “you” that shows up in the world as a computer science major, musician, student athlete, researcher (etc.), but the “you” as a whole and complex individual with hopes, dreams, struggle, family, and community. We are both acutely aware that Stanford has many opportunities that enable students to grow academically and professionally, but we also know that your academic self is not your full story. Furthermore, we believe that thriving can only manifest when people are supported in ways beyond just academically and professionally. As an instructor for multiple Stanford courses, Emily has always prioritized her students’ well-being and whole selves, both through smaller actions such as generous extension policies and individual check-ins, and larger actions, such as inviting students in as co-creators in the learning community. Yet, she hears from students (and knows, being a student herself), that this classroom community is not the norm – but it should be. Although this culture shift towards centering students (as well as faculty and staff) as whole people will take far longer than a year and involve changes both inside and outside of the classroom, we are committed as an executive team to working with students, faculty, and staff towards that goal. 

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

M&E: One of our main executive priorities is alignment in shared governance between University leadership, Faculty Senate, Undergraduate Senate, and the Graduate Student Council – a priority with which we have already had success in our current roles as Undergraduate Senator and Graduate Student Councilmember, respectively. One example of that success is through the successful passage of the Anti-Doxxing Act. After the Faculty Senate originally tabled the recommendations from the PPB Sub-committee on Campus Climate, both of us worked together to build coalition across the UGS and GSC communities to unanimously pass a bill that Marion spearheaded and we co-authored called “The Anti-Doxxing Recommendations Act,” which pushed the Faculty Senate to ultimately add doxxing to the interpretation of Fundamental Standard violations. This anti-doxxing policy represented an essential step towards protecting students, faculty, and staff from the emotional and physical harm that comes from doxxing, especially in light of the recent and troubling findings from the IDEAL survey. Furthermore, this resolution spurred a commitment from the Faculty Senate to engage in consistent conversations on campus climate, particularly for minority students, faculty, and staff.   

This process of engaging stakeholders across campus in creating and passing this act (among many other initiatives that we have spearheaded in the ASSU) speaks to our abilities to build coalition across Stanford students and administration to work collaboratively toward a better Stanford – a commitment upon which we hope to build as an executive team.

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

M&E: Stanford is quite decentralized, and it can be tricky to decipher  who on University leadership  needs to be engaged in change-making or making connections across different student stakeholders and university leadership. That can – and does – lead to frustration, when students feel as if their concerns are being tossed between different stakeholders and slows down the important process of making improvements on student concerns. Our combined years of experience in student government and advocacy makes us confident that, although we cannot fix the decentralization, we are well-versed in Stanford’s leadership and administrative structure. As a result, we will be adept at making sure that students are connected as quickly as possible to the right stakeholders and will be able to advocate effectively across very different campus stakeholders for changes that will create a better Stanford for everyone. 

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

M&E: As the only slate with graduate student representation on it (Emily as a GSE Ph.D. student), making sure that we serve the entire Stanford study body is an issue of immense importance to us. As of 2021, graduate students made up over 60% of the student body; yet, graduate student engagement in ASSU activities (from elections to ASSU events, such as town halls) is very low, especially relative to the undergraduate student population. We believe that graduate student concerns deserve an equal seat at the table, and will work to amplify those concerns through widespread outreach about opportunities for engagement with the ASSU (including about this upcoming election); going to our graduate students (as opposed to expecting them to come to the ASSU) via community conversations with different graduate schools, as well as stakeholders representing graduate students with families; and creating a specific ASSU Executive Fellow role for graduate students. 

Two other student constituencies that have been traditionally less brought into the fold with student government are student athletes and international students. We have already actively sought out input from the leaders of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) and international student population; we are committed to continuing and formalizing this collaboration with these two important student communities through creation of two more specific ASSU Executive Fellow roles for student athletes and international students, being a bridge between SAAC and University leadership, and building off of Emily’s doctoral research, which focuses on creating culturally sustaining University support systems (e.g., advising) for international students. 

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

Marion: If I had to choose a superpower, I would want to be able to be fully operational on extremely little sleep. Sleep is important, and we spend ⅓ of our lives doing so. However, if I could function on little sleep, it would free up so much time to do other things such as continuing to engage with some of the concerns students have raised, which will aid in catalyzing some of the slow moving change, which is often the case for advocacy within the ASSU.

Emily: This may not technically count as a superpower (or be a super glamorous one), but I wish I could make every meeting that should have just been an email an email automatically (for myself and others!). I think that would free up so much of my day (and other’s) to do things that bring us joy, such as meeting with students and doing advocacy work with the ASSU. 

TSD: Do you have anything else to add?

M&E: We love hearing from students and learning how we can best support you. Please reach out [email protected] or [email protected] if you have any questions for us (or just want to talk more), and we would be honored to receive your support.

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