Why the ASSU Senate Might Actually Be Bad for Students

Posted by at 4:12PM
The human candidates may be well-intentioned, but I will be voting for Senator Palpatine.

The human candidates may be well-intentioned, but I will be voting for Senator Palpatine.

If there’s a pervasive atmosphere on campus during the ASSU election period, it’s apathy—most people really could not care less except for the people who are running or the people who realize that their group needs special fees to survive. The reason there is so little interest in elections is because the ASSU, particularly the Senate, really has no power. This is problematic in particular because there are so many people running for this relatively useless position—if these students are actually interested in meaningful change at Stanford, their possible contributions will probably be minimized via this form of student government.

The Senate serves one very important role: determining fiscal appropriations for student groups, which is because most student groups try to achieve a lot with very little and need all the funding that they can get. The ASSU Senate is able to allot funding to groups from money paid by the entire student body, allowing for student groups to produce that which is otherwise too expensive, such as put on shows or make publications (I’ve gone through the ASSU for both things as a Financial Officer, and it’s been extremely helpful both for allowing students to create and for allowing other students to experience these creations, free of charge).

Beyond this, however, the ASSU Senate really can’t do anything. The administration of Stanford has made this very clear, and it’s in their best interest to not have any student body have too much power in regards to anything that involves significant University policy (see link above). This is unfortunate, since I strongly believe students should have more authority; but those who believe the ASSU Senate is this authority will have serious trouble finding supporting evidence for this claim. Despite this, though, candidates seem to genuinely believe that they can affect University policy, and want to join the ASSU for just that reason.

This is most evident in the fact that the candidates are campaigning on exactly the same platforms as candidates did last year, and the year before, etc. On top of this, candidates have approached former ASSU senators or others, including me (apparently I am knowledgeable on University policy) to ask what they should say to gather “endorsements” from random groups or to make it sound like they have a stance that most people would support. Students or endorsing groups might support specific ideas, but that is irrelevant to whether or not the ASSU will be able to have any effect on it.

Regardless, I believe students who want to be on the ASSU Senate do it because they want to make Stanford a better place. Unfortunately, I don’t think the ASSU will be able to accomplish this—shackled by the bureaucracy and inanity of working within any sort of student government, these students will not be able to spearhead this change within the ASSU. As such, the drive that inspires these students to want to be involved with the ASSU will be wasted; as a result, then, the overall push for change—through non-bureaucratic methods that, in my opinion, are far more likely to be effective—will suffer and the possibility of the meaningful change is diminished.

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