Haiti Relief Czar spot debated

Jan. 28, 2010, 12:05 a.m.

Wednesday’s GSC meeting was focused on the discussion of the creation of a Haiti Relief Czar (HRC), a position generated to oversee and coordinate campus efforts to help Haiti and organize a national student coalition in long-term support of the country.

The meeting also included discussion of election regulation, the start of student campaigns, and policy and funding requests.

“So What If There’s an Earthquake Tomorrow in Tokyo?”

ASSU President David Gobaud, a coterminal student in computer science, discussed both a project for free weekly distribution of “affirmation bracelets,” encoded with motivational messages to boost self-esteem for students, as well as a puppy-kitten study break — a benefit fundraiser held in White Plaza for Pets In Need, a no-kill, community-based animal shelter/adoption agency.

After Gobaud concluded his projects updates, GSC members questioned him about his attempt to hire a “Haiti Relief Czar” for his cabinet. The main controversy lay in the fact that the Czar would receive a work compensation of $500.

“It’s a pretty bad-ass position even if it’s unpaid,” said fourth-year geophysics graduate student Justin Brown. However, Gobaud explained that there has only been one applicant.

Debate broke out as GSC members questioned Gobaud’s right as ASSU president to establish such a position.

“So what if there’s an earthquake tomorrow in Tokyo?” asked GSC member Noa Lincoln. “What protocol do we go through to trigger those positions?”

GSC member Aleksandra Korolova defended Gobaud’s effort.

“We received a large enough student voice to show that this is important to them,” Korolova said. “David is helping the student as a whole to contribute.”

In order to provide the $500 compensation, it was decided that the money would come out of Gobaud’s salary. The bill to decrease Gobaud’s salary to allocate cabinet funding for a Haiti relief chair was unanimously approved at last night’s meeting.

“We thought of directly donating the money to Haiti,” Gobaud said. “But I think if this person plans at least one successful event then we can generate much more.”

“The idea that we’re paying someone to do a charity position just doesn’t go well with me,” said doctoral candidate in computer science Adam Beberg.

According to Gobaud, there will be at least five events from now to the end of the year to be planned by the Haiti Relief Czar.

“Hiring this person and paying them will make them vested in the position and work hard,” Gobaud said.

Campaign Regulation and Reform

Elections commissioner Quinn Slack ’11 brought up the issue of campaign regulations, which were briefly mentioned in last week’s meeting.

According to Slack, there are two main changes in the revised elections guide. The first change will allow candidates to campaign during the voting period, and the second change will remove the flyer-limit regulation.

Regarding the first change, Slack addressed GSC members’ concerns by explaining that the joint by-laws already contain language on voter fraud.

“I’m going to tell candidates that if they interfere with someone’s voting then that’s voter fraud,” Slack said. “Since voter fraud is dealt with by legislatures, I will report it to you.”

“I will be very vigilant,” he added. “It’s the elections committee’s role to deal with these violations.”

Gobaud pointed out that voters would have a hard time saying no to candidates who may be campaigning in front of their faces during voting.

To quell this concern, Slack said that voters are able to change their ballot at any time and can report the incident to the elections commission. He added that such situations exist even with the regulations in place.

“We’re focusing on rules that we can enforce and not working on rules that we can’t enforce,” Slack said.

Beberg was in favor of keeping the regulations.

“The current policy of getting people to back off and focus on figuring out what to vote for may be important,” Beberg said. “And seeing by yesterday’s Daily’s headlines, special fees groups will probably be rabid.”

Slack suggested that there was no way to stop this behavior, even with current regulations. As for the second change, he said that green student groups would be enforcing the limit.

“They [sustainable student groups] want to make this their issue,” he said. “They want to seize the mantle of the issue. They do the enforcement and publicity. They can be much more enthusiastic than we are. We have a lot of other things to do during campaign week.”

“Whether or not we enforce a limit, [violators] going to have to cross a psychological barrier to not be sustainable,” he added.

Secretary and graduate student in management science and engineering Crystal Yin agreed in part with Slack’s idea.

“I think it’s a good idea to have the green student groups to enforce the law,” Yin said. “But I don’t see the need of removing the law.”

Vice president Andy Parker ’11 brought up the possibility of allowing candidates to start campaigning even as early as now if the regulations are removed.

“My understanding is that there is no fair campaign at all,” Parker said. “There will be no campaign week, so candidates can basically campaign now.”

Slack said candidates technically are allowed to campaign starting Jan. 2.

“As for campaigning starting now I don’t think it would be a problem,” Slack said.

GSC members unanimously approved the first change in election regulation and approved the second change with a vote of six to three.

Funding Requests

The GSC approved money for two student groups, including $2,010 for the Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at Stanford and $5,500 for an upcoming Chinese New Year party hosted by the Hong Kong Students Association, the Chinese Women Collective at Stanford and the Undergraduate Chinese American Association.

Social chair Hariharan Vijay requested funding for a graduate students’ spring break trip to Las Vegas to either subsidize the trip or provide two trip coordinators. After short discussion, GSC members shot down the idea of subsidizing the trip.

“We changed our policy so that we don’t fund conferences,” said graduate student in electrical engineering Robert Hennessy. “And I see this as a fun conference.”

However, the vote to fund two trip coordinators was tied with five approved, five opposed and two abstaining. Parker broke the tie in favor of providing $300 compensation for two coordinators.

The GSC went on to unanimously approve $1,500 for an annual Valentine’s Day Party to be held this year on Feb. 12.

Toward the end of the meeting, the GSC also approved $300 for the Graduate Student Programming Board, $300 for a Diverse Action Committee (DAC) town hall meeting and $200 for a DAC happy hour.

***CORRECTION: The article originally referred to a move to “allow campaigns to start today.” Under election guidelines, no such move would be necessary. This change is reflected throughout the article.***

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