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Q&A: ASSU Execs talk Title IX, curriculum diversity and Plan B
The ASSU Executives discussed their goals for the rest of the year with The Daily. (Courtesy of Chris Sackes)

Q&A: ASSU Execs talk Title IX, curriculum diversity and Plan B

From diversity requirements within the major to a vending machine for emergency birth control pills, Jackson Beard ’17 and Amanda Edelman ’17 have advocated for a range of structural and practical change during their term as ASSU president and vice president. As they look ahead to the final few months of their term, which is due to end this spring quarter, The Daily talked to them about the promise and frustrations of student government, as well as the art of making Plan B work.

 

The Stanford Daily (TSD): What are the initiatives and work you’re most proud of doing up to this point?

Amanda Edelman (AE): So there are sort of two areas – and we can split them up – that we have jurisdiction over. The first is our cabinet, and recruiting our cabinet and what issues that our cabinet focuses on. The second is initiatives that we ourselves are directly working on… So our cabinet is fairly autonomous, even though its creation is directly up to us. We decided what issue areas we wanted to work on in the spring… The first is academic life; we also have disability community, mental health and wellness, sexual violence prevention and Title IX, environmental justice, as well as social safety and inclusion.

Jackson Beard (JB): We also have our own initiatives planned – agendas that we focus our attention most directly to – and these coincide with a lot of administrator meetings. So we spend a lot of our time meeting one-on-one with administrators of all types. And so when you think about just what the Exec is doing, it really is those two things. Those kind of ad-hoc projects and then administrator meetings and seeing where there’s overlap and partnership opportunities.

We are tackling a fun and exciting project inspired by work that’s happened at Pomona, which is to have a vending machine of Plan B that’s accessible 24/7, or at least more accessible than what you can find at [Vaden Health Center]. There’s definitely demand for it, we’ve gathered from the folks at Vaden, and we think it would be helpful to have it accessible at all times of day instead of restricted to Vaden’s hours and then Vaden’s pharmacy’s hours.

It’s not the most open and easy-to-get product, and so we’re working on that. We’re hopefully in the last phases of that, and we’ll be able to finish it before we leave office. We’re also partnering with a menstrual hygiene company to offer tampons and pads in bathrooms on campus. [We’re] working on the logistics of purchasing those products and finding placement and making sure that logistically it all sorts out with how the University restocks products.

Other projects that we are tackling: Some of them are in tandem with some of the leads. There’s been a lot of work with the notalone.stanford.edu website. Amanda’s done a lot of fantastic work in that regard, in collaboration with the Undergraduate Senate and also our sexual violence issue leads. And we’re hoping to have a new, revamped website that’s more user-attentive and less cluttered in words than what we have right now but that still meets the University’s compliance needs as determined by federal and state law.

TSD: And you were also working on alternatives to the current process of adjudicating Title IX cases.

JB: Right, so it’s still in a pilot process. And so it’s due for revisions this August. And every conversation that we have with administrators somehow dovetails into this area, and concerns that we have about the nature of the pilot process, the way that it’s structured to – what’s a good way to frame this – it’s structured in such a way that certain outcomes are more likely. And we want to make sure that those outcomes are fair – what is good for students and for the community at large.

TSD: So would that look like changing the process of the panel itself, of requiring that they have a unanimous vote, or the number of people on the panel? Are those the kinds of things that you’re looking at in reforming the process?

JB: The work that we’re doing and the work that our leads are doing, is more focused on, in some ways, micro points within the process. I think changing the structure of the panels – that would be a significant change, and I think, thinking about the limited amount of time we have in our roles, we want to do as much as possible and affect as many areas of the process as possible.

And so for us, a significant win would be allowing survivors to have more than one support person in the room when they tell their story to an investigator for the first time. It’s at that level that we’re more focused.

TSD: Has there been anything so far, any projects that haven’t been as successful as you want them to be? Or any unexpected obstacles that you’re working on overcoming?

AE: I think that a perennial issue in student government work is having more barriers appear than you originally thought. No matter how careful your planning is, that’s sort of inevitable, particularly at a place like Stanford where there’s just a lot of different stakeholders and – a lot of people, myself included, would say – bureaucracy.

I think a really good example of that is an initiative that we’re pushing called Diversity in the Field, adapted from the idea of Diversity in the Major. We’ve been working on this really since we got elected because we think it’s so incredibly important. And we did a lot of information-gathering, met with a lot of different people and devised a path forward… which included basically presenting to a body within [the] Faculty Senate. We had a clear path forward, but the body that we presented to didn’t pick up the idea, which really stymied our progress, and so we sort of had to reroute and figure out ways around this hurdle of having another body having to adopt our initiative.

TSD: And looking towards the future – the last half of the year, the end of your terms – what are you looking forward to pursuing the most? What are you most excited about implementing?

AE: I’ve got some things here. I think throughout this time, what has been illuminated has been to really focus on things within our control. So Diversity in the Field is a really good example of something that’s really out of our control. Because this is completely perpetuated by academic departments, developed by academic departments, we can’t do anything about it other than advocate for continued change.

But some of the things I’m really excited – we’re really excited – about pursuing are the first two things that Jackson mentioned: the Plan B vending machine and including menstrual hygiene products in a lot of restrooms around campus. Just because these things are directly impactful to student life and things that are often ignored by staff, administrators, faculty, whomever. And again, these are things directly within our control. I’d say that and the two other larger things [we’re working on are] are creating a path forward for… improving diversity education at Stanford and then also preventing sexual violence and improving the way it’s adjudicated, dealt with, handled, at Stanford as well.

JB: I am really proud of the work that we’ve done when it comes to advocating for certain issues. And so even in areas like sexual violence and Title IX process reform, that was never supposed to be something that we would fix or make perfect in a year, but, again, I’m proud of the work that we’ve done and proud of our advocacy. I’m proud of the fact that we’ve been true to representing students and what students need and want. And I’m hopeful that the next Exec will continue on that path. And, again, it won’t be finished. It’s not a project to be done, but I’m still excited about what we’ve accomplished.

 

Contact Sarah Wishingrad at swishing ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Sarah Wishingrad

Sarah Wishingrad '18 is a former Desk Editor for the University/Local beat. She is a History major from Los Angeles, California who loves politics, the waffles at Coupa, and all things Jane Austen. Ask her about her dog, Hamilton, at swishing 'at' stanford.edu.