The following post is from James Mwaura ’13, who recently withdrew from the ASSU Executive race with his running-mate, Charles Mbatia ’13.
It is with great disappointment that Charles and I are announcing the end of our campaign. It seems we attempted to climb a mountain too high, faced a tweeter/video blogger too relentless, challenged a political schematic too masterfully designed to maintain the status quo. We attempted to play Ralph Nader in a Bush-Kerry election, assuming Bush was of less-than-wholesome mental stability and Kerry backed by a not just the Democratic party, but an organization deemed so righteous that challenging it would be abandoning all political sanctity. We entered this election with a goofy grin on our faces and a catchy campaign slogan, and leave with a piece of useful knowledge which I am eager to share with all you:
The ASSU will remain exactly the same forever, unless something really, really radical happens. By exactly the same, I mean a SOCC-endorsed, GAIA-endorsed group of a few dozen students whose interests are more closely aligned with a mock government high school group than the members of a “democracy” managing a budget of several million dollars and a constituency of more than 14,000 individuals. (While this does little to appease offended parties, I only put “democracy” in quotations because the University has the ability to nullify almost everything ASSU does.)
I’ll begin with a story. When winning this campaign still seemed feasible, I was told that I needed to attend an ASSU meeting to lobby for public finance money, as my petition had fallen short of the necessary number of valid signatures. The meeting ended up being one of the most enlightening and most disheartening moments of the campaign. For over 45 minutes, ASSU senators debated with the executives on wildly miniscule features of Michael Cruz’s brainchild, the new ASSU Constitution. The arguments included the removal of double negatives, the wording of various sections, and other mundane issues. It was easily one of the least productive assemblies of people I had ever witnessed. The meeting concluded with my meekly bringing up my finance conundrum, which was fortunately unanimously approved. (This was later retracted, as it turned out that the graduate and undergraduate sides of the ASSU Senate had failed to pass the same version of the original public finance bill.)
In short, I am deeply disturbed with the current state of the ASSU. During this meeting, the effort put into making eloquent, well-thought statements was astounding, while the desire to make actual progress was almost totally absent. If this document passes, all of you can rest assured that more work was put into how it sounds than how it can help you. I urge everyone to go take a look at the document, and marvel at the sharpness of its preamble.
It would seem that Charles and I have the ammunition to attack the incumbents, but unfortunately our opponents, another team of “outsiders” are themselves ensconced in a political safety web that I have no business running against. I speak of the mighty SOCC, GAIA, and other Stanford political parties. To preface, I am a biracial Earth Systems major, making me both a student of color and a champion of sustainability. However, I believe these two groups especially represent everything that is wrong with the current election system. They take positions on issues which no one is against, (is Stewart MacGregor-Dennis anti-diversity? Of course not) and advertise their candidates relentlessly, no matter the integrity of the rest of their platforms.
Please look at the flyers that SOCC-endorsed candidates spread around campus and search for substantive ideas instead of the usual election-season buzzwords. Some, especially the one mimicking the Pirates of the Caribbean, are so utterly worthless that it is shocking. However, SOCC will plaster campus with their flyer, these candidates will receive facetime, and they will most likely be elected. Essentially, needs of a select few students (those student groups involved with SOCC) determine the political climate of this campus, and their agendas are sure to be pushed through the ASSU due to the ASSU being composed of their allies. This is not to say that SOCC’s goals are not noble (as this would personally be racially contradictory); I instead wish that many more student groups and demographics were able to so dramatically tip the scales either way and ensure their interest are catered for.
Charles’ and my slate had a very simple purpose: better represent the student body. We wanted to do so by seeking discounts for students wherever possible, solving problems that actually existed, supporting Chi Theta Chi in its hour of need, when ASSU failed to do so, and figuring out how to end the vicious student group lobby cycle. It brings me great sadness to say that we have to abandon these issues. I hereby would like to apologize to XOX specifically, who we promised to support and raise awareness to their cause, as well as other students we spoke with over the last few weeks. You guys deserve a voice, and I genuinely hope the ASSU shifts its focus back to you.
In conclusion, this election was unwinnable. On one side we faced a failed incumbent, to whom losing this election is not an option. On the other, we faced a political machine who we could not dare to challenge, despite it representing quite comprehensively who Charles and I were, both culturally and intellectually. While I officially endorse the Zimbroff-Wagstaff slate, I cannot say that I know who will win this election, and I cannot honestly say that it matters. SOCC will live on, SMD will remain ridiculous, and the ASSU will remain inefficient and poorly represented.
I vote we fill Lake Lag. I want to drink a beer and catch a fish.