Author Archive - Paul G

About Paul G:

Suppose we abolished the ASSU today? A thought experiment.

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

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.

A much more coherent modest proposal for testing the hypothesis that ASSU time is wasted.

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

My last post suggested that those who run for the ASSU, or participate in fights about it, are wasting their time, because a) the ASSU has little-to-no power, except to inefficiently disburse funds, and b) time spent involved in the ASSU could, for those who genuinely care about the issues on which they campaign, be much more productively spent.

As a good little social scientist, I like to make testable propositions. And so, here’s a test.

Suppose we could find a wealthy Stanford alumna/s (Larry, Sergey, are you reading?) to donate an amount of money equal to the ASSU salaries, to employ a shadow ASSU. Each paid position on the ASSU would be represented, at the same rate, in the shadow ASSU. Members of the shadow ASSU would be selected by election by their fellow students (though campaigning would be strictly regulated), and would be expected to put in the same amount of work as paid ASSU members.

But members of the shadow ASSU would not be given an organization, or a budget, or tasks like allocating student funds. Instead, they would be expected to spend their time working to achieve whatever social or campus good they promised, in their campaign, in the best way they know how. This could be founding their own organizations, social entrepreneurship, community organizing and political activism, or just volunteer work for an important cause.

At the end of the year, we could see who has achieved more of what they hoped to achieve, the real ASSU or the shadow ASSU. Any bets on the answer?

A semi-coherent tirade about the uselessness of the ASSU and everyone associated with it.

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

I don’t wear a bike helmet. I have lots of undergrad friends. I have social skills. But I’m still a real Stanford grad student, and the evidence is that I just don’t understand why you crazy undergrads give a flying fuck about the ASSU.


I’m stunned that nobody has posted this yet.

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
No doctor, it's true!  The buses are LAUGHING at me!

Stanford: the Champagne Room of the Soul.

Most everyone on campus has seen this photo by now, I’m sure.

It’s been passed around samizdat-style since the day of the shuttle shuffle.

But just in case you hadn’t seen it.


Now you have.

Don’t you feel richer?

I can’t help but think that someone at PT&S is making fun of us.

Also, anyone know where this sign actually is?

(Secret hope: it’s somewhere in EV.)

Pinkeye for thee but not for me (oh the tree, it is crazee)

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

As part of my continuing series on the absurdities perpetrated by or perpetrated on the Stanford University powers-that-be, I bring you the following selection from my friend Adam’s facebook status:

I asked the lifeguard at the Stanford pool if I could look in lost & found for some goggles I left there last week.

He said they don’t give goggles back to people because there is a “pinkeye threat.”

Then he said, “We usually just give them to Goodwill.”

I assume you see the problem here?

Stanford's nefarious plans revealed.

Actually, this is susceptible to at least two interpretations. The first is the Paternalistic Interpretation. On the Paternalistic Interpretation, Goodwill cleans goggles donated to it. But Stanford doesn’t trust its high-achieving high-iq high-functioning students to do so themselves, even if it were to kindly offer the suggestion. The Paternalistic Interpretation jibes nicely with most of Stanford’s other policies, like the bike tickets, the coercing many undergrads into buying terrible food at outrageous prices (antitrust division, are you listening?), the party policies, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum.

But I, as well as Adam, prefer the second, which we can call the Ebenezer Scrooge/Machiavelli Interpretation, viz.,

“Apparently those suckers who shop at Goodwill deserve pinkeye?”

On the Ebenezer Scrooge/Machiavelli Interpretation, Stanford is finally striking a mighty blow in the perennial town-vs-gown conflict by infecting Palo Alto thrift store hipsters (or just anyone without a Google Engineer-sized clothes budget) with a dread disease. Somewhere in Hennessy’s office, there’s a Leninist, who thinks that if Palo Alto is made to appear to sufficiently oppress the hipsters, the contradictions in the suburban yuppie system will be revealed, the proletariat will arise and seize the means of latte production, the City Arborist will be sent to the guillotine, and the Stanford University Police Department will finally get to do the job that it’s been training for all these years under the guise of harassing students with parking and bike tickets: move in while the city is in chaos, establish martial law, commandeer a fleet of priuses and invade the county seat (wherever it is) to overturn the land use plan and then use slave labor from Facebook to erect a gigantic pink smoke-belching eyesore on top of the dish just to express its dominance, Caligula-style. I, for one, welcome our new… oh, buggerit.

Danger: Stanford police using undercover cars to harass bikers.

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

We all know how the po-pos around campus love to give tickets to bikers for having headphones in, or for not stopping at stop signs, or basically for breathing.* Well, they’ve stepped up their game. Now they’re using unmarked cars. The photo above was taken at about 1:15 today. Watch out for the car in the photo above. It’s a greyish/silverish/brownish sort of Ford sedan, with license plate 5XJC360, and it’s the man. I don’t know if they have any other unmarked cars, but if I see any more, I’ll publish photos of them too, because, well, I really don’t like cops.

* A friend of mine who is a serious biker once got a ticket in Woodside for stopping, but not putting his foot all the way down. This is what happens when horrible suburban communities have too much money on their hands.

Respect Santa Clara County’s Authoritah!

Friday, August 27th, 2010

I took the photo above about an hour ago, while passing through Roble. Apparently, Eric Cartman Gary Flagg, Santa Clara County building inspector, noticed, a month ago, that Stanford is turning Roble Gym into a theatre.* Gary wants to put a stop to it. Naughty, naughty Stanford!

Too bad that Roble has been a theatre for years, huh? And too bad that Gary is evidently on crack. Maybe he proposes to make Stanford turn it back into a gym?

People, particularly people who have never had to deal with bureaucracies for a living or been constantly harassed by idiot cops, sometimes wonder why I have a problem with authority. And my answer is this: authority is composed of a bunch of driveling mouth-breathers to whom some fool has given power. Sometimes they even have guns. (It’s a miracle more of the idiots don’t shoot themselves in the foot.)

Although… maybe this is a good thing. This may be the way to get rid of businesses that piss you off. Like, that one yuppie bike store on University Avenue was really snotty to me when I went in looking for a rain-proof bike light. (Apparently, a waterproof headlight costs $200. If, that is, you’re a gullible .commer with too much money to burn.) Perhaps I should give Gary a call and report them for existing, then he’ll come in and order them to stop.

* And a theatre with a stage, no less!

Suddenly, I’m feeling very unwell.

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

An e-mail just landed in my in-box with an advertisement for a “Student Wellness Fair” that, among other things, features “A safe-sex obstacle course. You’re the sperm! Race to fertilize the egg, but WATCH OUT for the contraceptives…


Bollywood yoga.



I think this is a prank. I hope this is a prank. Please, someone tell me this is a prank? Someone? Anyone? Quickly?

Check out the website here. Or, if I’m right that it’s a cute prank, when the powers that be take away the vanity URL you’ll probably want to go here.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have eggs to fertilize.

Does this mean the drought is over?

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Someone please, please, please tell me there’s a perfectly rational explanation for this picture, taken by me at 1:15 outside of Encina Hall. By “perfectly rational explanation,” I mean one that does not include words to the effect of “Stanford feels the need to send guys out to water a lawn even as it gets flooded by a massive rainstorm.”