By: Libby Scholz, ’17
At the beginning of this academic year, SIG’s board inaugurated a new role for the Public Policy Forum (PPF). As SIG Chair Meredith Wheeler, ’14, explained, the Public Policy Forum “provides an informal space for members of the SIG and the Stanford communities to discuss contemporary policy issues in a peer-to-peer setting.” Its members, who Wheeler said are “a dozen of the most promising freshman and sophomore SIG applicants,” have taken ownership of the new project. Their mission is to design regular opportunities for fruitful, open conversations while building a community of interested students.
Committee member Luke Babich,’16, said that SIG’s traditional faculty lunches place pressure on students to make a good impression with professors. This dissuades students from interacting with their peers, so PPF is experimenting with ways to make discussions more accessible—by offering food, having students facilitate (not dictate) the conversation, and billing events as “meals where it’s acceptable to talk politics.”
The first PPF event took place on November 5, 2013, with a discussion on the Affordable Care Act. After a brief presentation by Hoover Research Fellow Daniel Heil, students of all years and majors talked about the rollout of the website, requirements of insurance plans and remaining problems with the healthcare system. Heil presented on the structure of the law and what it’s changing for Americans, both uninsured and insured. The success of the talk during Big Game week suggested the previously unthinkable: Stanford students, with a reputation for political apathy, actually care about politics as much as beating Cal.
The second fall quarter discussion, on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, drew another wide cross-section of SIG members and other interested students. Moderator Yassamin Ansari,’14, explained the changing culture of Iranian-American relations. The conversation ranged from the effect of Israel on negotiations, to the American political climate surrounding talks and whether this represents a departure from Iran’s previous policies.
True to SIG’s mission, PPF is planning events such as roundtables on NSA surveillance and gun control, and is also hoping to broaden its reach with “Politics and Poker” and news digests. By next year, SIG’s board anticipates a core PPF membership of 25-30 students.
The 2013-14 Public Policy Forum Committee Members