Suppose we abolished the ASSU today? A thought experiment.

Posted by at 5:39PM

If we abolished the ASSU today, what would we miss? (“Nothing.”)

The most obvious, possibly the only, function that we’d actually miss would be its funding of student projects.

How could we do so more efficiently, with less annoyance? Here’s an idea.

Set a fixed overall budget for all student group funding equal to the amount the ASSU spent on all student groups in 10-11, to be taxed equally to all students. Each year, have an election of the entire student body to decide whether the overall budget should be increased by 5%, decreased by 5%, or maintained at the previous year’s level.

Require each student group that wants funding out of this overall budget to submit a proposal by September 1. Convene a jury of 21 randomly selected Stanford students to vote yes or no on each proposal in a single meeting, by a simple majority. (This, of course, will give student groups the incentive to make only moderate and well-justified requests, since they get no second chance.) Do not permit student groups to lobby the jury through anything except the written proposal (with a strict page limit). Keep the identities of the members of the jury secret. Pay each member of the jury $100 per day of actual work for their service.

Should the jury approve less than the total student groups budget, return the surplus to the students pro rata. Should it approve more than the total budget, require them to reconsider yes votes until they’re in the black. Require the jury to complete its business within one week from the proposal deadline; automatically deny any budget requests not approved within that week. Have one paid staff member to do the accounting and enforce the rules (with appeal to the university).

And, finally, abolish “special fees” — nothing any Stanford student group does is important enough that the student body should need to override a random sample of its members. We trust random juries of ordinary citizens enough to determine whether accused criminals live or die. We should trust the vastly more competent pool of Stanford students to achieve the vastly less important task of funding student groups.

Voila. A fair and efficient way to replace the ASSU’s main (only?) function.

(Part 3 of a continuing series. Part 1. Part 2.

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3 Responses to “Suppose we abolished the ASSU today? A thought experiment.”

  1. Brad says:

    “Convene a jury of 21 randomly selected Stanford students to vote yes or no on each proposal in a single meeting, by a simple majority.” how is that chosen….

    It’s possible that there can be better ways to get funding. But this format you propose… how is it any better than how it is now? There’s so many things wrong with the randomly selected individuals… there’s no way to properly do that.It’s why we vote for senators… we vote for our representatives…. your proposal is so flawed.

  2. Paul G says:

    What’s wrong with randomly selected individuals? The expected distribution of preferences in a random sample is the same as the distribution of preferences in the population at large…

  3. Keith Sutherland says:

    Great idea — more power to your elbow. And if it works at Stanford, then suggest extending it to political decision making at every level (including Congress). There is a serious body of literature on sortition (the application of random selection to political decision making), see, for example:

    http://equalitybylot.wordpress.com (where your post is currently being debated)

    and

    http://imprint.co.uk/pp

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