A Letter to Incoming Students
Have a seat around the metaphorical fire as we talk about our latest Stanford-related topic. And what is that, you may ask? Why, it’s student government, of course! Like so many other things at Stanford, there are many ways to get involved in student government from a number of different angles. Most of them are under the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU), which is the umbrella organization for most things student government-related. Last year’s executives, Jackson Beard and Amanda Edelman, explained what ASSU is quite nicely: “If you are a Stanford student - graduate or undergraduate - you are part of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU). All in all, the ASSU contains 17,000 students.”
Within ASSU there are multiple branches that, to me, closely mirror those of the United States government. There’s the Executive, Legislative (comprised of two bodies, the Undergraduate Senate and the Graduate Student Council), and Judicial Branches, as well as a banking section of the government called Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE). On top of that there are also Class Presidents for the sophomore, junior, and senior classes. Each of these groups also has their own cabinet of students who hold a variety of positions. Closely tied to the Class Presidents is a group called Frosh Council, which is similar in its functions to the Class Presidents and their cabinets of the other grade levels. Finally, there’s a group called the Nominations Commission, which appoints students to various committees.
Yes, I know that’s a mouthful and can be a bit complicated. I’m going to focus the majority of this post on explaining the Legislative Branch, or the Undergraduate Senate, and Frosh Council, as these are the easiest ways for incoming students to get involved right off the bat. But first things first, let me do a brief explanation of each of the other areas of student government at Stanford.
1. Executive Branch:
The Executive Branch consists of the ASSU President and Vice President as well as their cabinet. They represent the entire student body, both graduate and undergraduate. After they’re elected each year, the President and VP get to set their agenda and create a cabinet to help reflect that, often turning to some of the most dedicated students on-campus for help. Last year, the Exec Cabinet focused on issues ranging from Sexual Violence and Title IX to Environmental Justice.
2. Judicial Branch:
The Judicial Branch is comprised of the Constitutional Council. This council is responsible for upholding the ASSU Constitution and mitigating any intra-ASSU disputes. They make sure that none of the branches are breaking the rules that have been established for ASSU to operate.
Since ASSU is a separate entity from Stanford University itself and receives no financial contributions from the University, SSE was founded to “ensure the long-term financial viability and independence of the Association.” SSE has five business enterprises which include the Stanford Student Store, a student-run Stanford apparel and accessory shop in Tresidder.
4. Class Presidents:
The Undergraduate Class Presidents are responsible for fostering class pride and community as well as planning social and academic events, not only for their class, but also for the entire school. They work hard to help plan some of Stanford’s favorite traditions and events, such as Full Moon on the Quad, Mausoleum, class formals, and senior graduation programs.
5. Nominations Commission:
The Nominations Commission (NomCom) is an often overlooked, but very important, part of student life at Stanford. NomCom is responsible for selecting students to serve on University committees that cover just about every topic related to Stanford that you can think of. Some of these include the Environmental Health and Safety Committee, the Alcohol Advisory Board, and the Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse Advisory Board. There’s a spot for just about everyone on NomCom, so if you’re interested, consider applying here: https://form.jotform.com/70108051072139.
Now, on to the options that have programs available specifically for incoming students. The Undergraduate Senate (UGS) is responsible for funding undergraduate student groups, addressing concerns raised by students, and working to improve student life. Essentially, this group aims to better the undergraduate experience at Stanford. The UGS has a program called the Senate Associates Program (SAP), which is aimed at allowing students to have a taste of what Senate is all about. It provides insight into the workings of ASSU and allows students to jump into student government. The cohort of “saplings” will learn how to enact change on campus by working on projects and interacting with current Senators. Applications will likely be due during the second week of school, so be on the lookout for the application in your email! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last but not least, there’s Frosh Council. Frosh Council is very similar to the Class Presidents in what it does, but its structure is different. The Council is composed of elected student representatives from each dorm that has first-year students. Each dorm is allowed to contribute one or two reps, depending on population. Frosh Council gets to plan and host some of the most fun events of the school year, including Frosh Formal and Frosh Fest. If you love rallying class spirit and helping to build a community within your class, definitely consider running for a spot on Frosh Council!
Long story short, there’s so many ways to get involved in student government at Stanford. ASSU provides the means to tackle issues that are important to you from a variety of angles. Stanford wouldn’t be the school it is today without the hard work of a lot of students focusing on making the Stanford experience better, not only for themselves, but also for those to come. If you’re interested in getting more information and/or want to talk to representatives from a lot of these groups, be sure to attend the ASSU Open House during New Student Orientation (Saturday, September 23, 2017, 1 – 2pm in Old Union Courtyard. Thanks for reading!
Remy Gordon ‘20
Deputy Chair | 19th Undergraduate Senate