Read our 2014–2015 rankings to find out which ten students have been most influential in shaping what has been a decidedly political year on campus.
This Spring, the Stanford Political Journal staff collectively decided on the top 10 most influential political figures on campus for the past academic year. Here are the students we chose.
As a non-partisan publication, SPJ does not endorse any particular agenda held by any of the Politicos.
1. Ilya Mouzykantskii
The Fountain Hopper
Ilya Mouzykantskii, a junior studying symbolic systems and political science, had contributed several articles on Russian politics to the New York Times before arriving at Stanford. He further gained influence and honed his knack for muckraking when he helped create the Confessions from Stanford blog as a freshman. As an ASSU Senator in 2013–2014, he successfully spearheaded efforts to reform class scheduling and authored a bill to make the ASSU more accountable to its constituents.
But it is Mouzykantskii’s role as the creator of The Fountain Hopper — a lively, tabloid-esque, campus newsletter — that earns him the number one spot on our list. In its first year in existence, The Fountain Hopper has broken major national news stories, including one about an economics professor who allegedly assaulted fraternity members after they refused to turn down their music, another about freshman swimmer who was charged with raping an unconscious woman after a fraternity party, and another (in collaboration with Vice) about a Stanford graduate student who was arrested for poisoning her labmates. But the FoHo’s biggest accomplishment of the year was its admissions records exposé: It alerted students to a provision of a federal law that allowed them to access their Stanford applications. Thousands of students requested their files, creating a massive headache for Stanford administrators, and setting off similar efforts at colleges across the country.
2. Tianay Pulphus
Tianay Pulphus, a senior from St. Louis, has been a vocal and effective leader of many communities during her time at Stanford. She has served as a staff member at the Black Community Services Center and currently sits on the University Nominations Commission. As the President of Stanford NAACP, she helped organize the Slow Down for Michael Brown protest and several others in December and January, including the protest on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge that culminated in the controversial arrest of the “Stanford 68.” Pulphus is also a leader of the Students of Color Coalition, Black and Queer at Stanford, and played an important role within Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine as it successfully championed the passage of divestment in the ASSU Senate. The Black Lives Matter protests and the divestment initiative have inspired more sustained, heated political debates among students than Stanford has seen in years.
3. Natasha Patel
Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine
Natasha Patel, a junior studying philosophy, is passionate about social justice causes, empowering others through education, and community organizing. As a former president of the Stanford Democrats, she established the first on-campus Democratic newsletter and led grassroots organizing training sessions. Her organizing evolved into activism, and she played a major role in the controversial “Black Lives Matter” protests and in Stanford Out of Occupied Palestine, the movement that gained international attention when it successfully lobbied the undergraduate Senate to divest from some companies that do business with Israel. Patel was a founding board member of the Stanford Pre-Education Society and has served as an ASSU Senator. Next year, she will be chief of staff for the Finley/Hill administration. One of her favorite political figures is Aung San Suu Kyi, a human rights activist and politician in Myanmar who Patel describes as “an all around badass.”
4. Elizabeth Woodson
Provost’s Task Force on Sexual Assault
From the “Stand with Leah” protests of 2014 to the disputed Joe Lonsdale rape allegations from this winter, sexual assault and the University’s response has been at the forefront of students’ political consciousness for the past several years. Perhaps more than any other student, Elizabeth Woodson, a senior studying Science, Technology, and Society, has influenced the reform of Stanford’s sexual assault adjudication process. As this year’s ASSU President, she co-chaired the Provost’s Task Force on Sexual Assault, which worked throughout the year to find out what Stanford needed to better prevent and address sexual misconduct. The Task Force’s proposals included a streamlined support system (the SARA Office), a revised adjudication process, and recommended expulsion for those found responsible for sexual assault. The reforms have been broadly well-received — not only do they seem to have temporarily satisfied the campus activists calling for more measures to address sexual assault, but they were even praised by some due process advocates who argue that existing measures are unfair to the accused.
5. Brandon Camhi
The Stanford Review
As editor-in-chief of The Stanford Review, the controversial right-leaning campus publication founded in 1987 by Peter Thiel, economics major Brandon Camhi has led the conservative opposition to left-wing activist campus movements. Under his leadership, the Review has argued forcefully against measures that could violate the due process rights of students accused of sexual assault and criticized some of the tactics employed by Black Lives Matter protesters. Camhi personally broke one of the most important stories of the year — the allegations of anti-Semitism levied against the Students of Color Coalition. These allegations made national news and helped further inflame the debate about Israel, the left, and anti-Semitism on college campuses, and opened up the Review to furious criticism from activists who objected to the Review’s coverage. Camhi says he looks forward to having more time on his hands when his term as Review editor expires at the end of the year. He plans on going into either politics or business. The political figure he most admires is Margaret Thatcher.
6. Lily Zheng
Kardinal Kink & The Stanford Daily
Lily Zheng, a sophomore studying psychology, has become one of the most prominent activist voices on campus over the past two years. Last year she brought national attention to the university’s refusal to officially recognize Kardinal Kink, a student group dedicated to “providing an anonymous safe space for students to talk freely about kink” and “advocate for education and research into these ‘taboo’ topics.” Zheng has also spent the past two years vigorously campaigning to bring awareness to discrimination and violence against trans* people. In her popular weekly column in The Stanford Daily, Zheng challenges the student body to reevaluate how they interact with issues of gender identity, sexual orientation and sex positivity. She has also been a prominent advocate for tougher measures to crack down on campus sexual assault.
7. Michael Peñuelas
Fossil Free Stanford
During the 2014–2015 school year, Fossil Free Stanford engaged in a passionate and sustained campaign for the university to divest from the fossil fuel industry, slapping “It’s Getting Hot In Here” stickers on Nalgenes and MacBooks, organizing rallies, and hosting town halls and informational meetings. The campaign has garnered massive support among students and faculty — last Spring, 75 percent of students voted “yes” on a fossil fuel divestment referendum, and in January, 375 faculty members wrote a letterto President Hennessy urging Stanford to divest from fossil fuel companies. Peñuelas is one of the key figures in the Fossil Free Stanford movement, having been quoted in national media outlets including NPR and Democracy Now! The Fossil Free Stanford team has played a critical role in a social movement that is gaining momentum at campuses across the country.
8. Stefan Norgaard
Stanford in Government
This year, Stefan Norgaard served as chair of Stanford in Government, one of the campus’ leading political organizations. On a campus dominated by STEM majors, SIG does more than perhaps any other group on campus to encourage student involvement with politics by organizing lunches, talks, and networking events with prominent political figures, and by awarding stipends for students to work in public policy of the summer. Norgaard, a senior studying public policy and urban studies, helped grow the organization’s membership from 40 to over 150. He is undecided about his future career path, but hopes to find work that “allows me to travel and constantly challenge my assumptions.” Some of his dream jobs include working at the International Criminal Court or working on affordable housing issues in Johannesburg, South Africa.
9. Nick Ahamed
The Stanford Daily
Nick Ahamed, a senior studying political science, was a Stanford team leader for Obama for America during the 2012 reelection campaign. He helped organize a rally in White Plaza the weekend before the election, and this experience got him elected as president of Stanford Democrats during his sophomore year. During the Autumn of his junior year, he started an influential political column in The Stanford Daily called Super Tuesday that features writers from both sides of the political spectrum. Ahamed served as the Managing Editor of Opinions for The Daily, and under his direction over 250 opinions pieces on topics like divestment, sexual assault and the Black Lives Matter movement were published. Along with Eric Mattson, Ahamed created “Activating Democracy,” an alternative Spring Break program that brings students through what it’s like to run a political campaign. In his free time, Nick likes to brew his own beer and name them after U.S. Presidents. The Thomas Jefferson and The James Madison are currently fermenting.
10. John-Lancaster Finley
This year’s newly elected ASSU Executive is one of the most recognizable political figures on campus. A junior studying political science and a three year veteran of student government, John-Lancaster Finley was president of his freshman class and spent two years in the ASSU Senate. In the Senate, Finley was a driver of student group funding reform and chairman of the Administration and Rules committee. More controversially, Finley was one of the ten senators who ensured the passage of the ASSU Senate resolution calling for divestment from certain companies that do business with Israel. This election cycle, after receiving the Students of Color Coalition’s endorsement for his executive slate, Finley was subject to anonymous attacks on Yik Yak and other social media sites. The vitriol only confirmed his influence, however, and Finley was elected ASSU President in a tight race. With his administration only just beginning, Finley’s influence is sure to rise as he enters his senior year at Stanford.
★ Matthew Cohen (ASSU Senate)
Look for Matthew Cohen to make a splash in campus political affairs in the coming years. Cohen, a freshman studying political science, was recently elected to the ASSU Senate with endorsements from both the Jewish Student Association and Fossil Free Stanford. He is also the financial manager of the Stanford Democrats and a biweekly columnist for The Stanford Daily, where he argues a (sometimes) liberal perspective in the newspaper’s Super Tuesday editorial series.
★ Justice Tention (ASSU Senate)
Justice Tention, a freshman, was the only candidate for ASSU Senate to receive the endorsements of both the Students of Color Coalition and the Jewish Student Association (the two organizations strongly disagree with one another on Israel divestment). His broad appeal is unquestioned: he received the most votes of any ASSU Senate candidate, besting the second-place finisher by a 200 vote margin. Tention is also co-president of his dorm and is involved in the freshman political scene. Look out for him as a strong candidate for executive in a few years.
★ Abby Fanlo (Stanford Conservative Society)
What does it take to motivate the apolitical Greek community to vote in ASSU elections? Abby Fanlo, a junior studying political science and history, proved that the answer is a combination of wit, perseverance, and ice cream. During the latest ASSU elections, Fanlo successfully secured a number of ASSU seats. She is also the head of the Stanford Conservative Society, president of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, and has publicly written in defense of the Greek system. Fanlo is writing a thesis on Iraqi security issues through the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) interdisciplinary honors program.
Profiles written, respectively, by Aaron Zelinger, Nicholas O’Farrell, Sarah Sadlier, Micaela Suminski, Jason Willick, Elizabeth Margolin, Suminski, Suminski, Truman Chen, Brett Parker, Joe Bourdage, Parker, and Zelinger.