Senators debate SSD stipends for officers

Feb. 17, 2010, 1:02 a.m.
Senators debate SSD stipends for officers
The ASSU argues over the Student Services Division (SSD) budget and questions the legitimacy of director’s salaries for VSOs, citing compensation for a “substantial” workload at yesterday’s meeting. (CHRIS HOLVE/The Stanford Daily)

With special fees petitioning season on its way, the ASSU Undergraduate Senate last night considered the projected Student Services Division (SSD) budget, which will move SSD to special fees for the first time this year. A number of senators expressed clear opposition to the allotted stipends, suggesting that SSD officers ought not be paid through the special fee at all.

SSD envelopes the ASSU Shuttle Service, the Green Store, the Wellness Room, the Tutoring for Community program and Technology Consulting Services.

According to ASSU Vice President Andy Parker ’11, who presented the budget, last year’s Senate approved stipends for nearly “twice as much” for SSD officers.

However, as this year’s Senate tightens its financial belt, many remain skeptical — if not firmly opposed — to the proposed SSD budget.

Slow Move Toward Elimination of Stipends?

“We don’t just hand out money for director stipends,” said Alex Katz ’12, the chair of the Administration and Rules committee. The Senate typically does not support officer stipends for special fees groups, he added. Katz was particularly opposed to the more than $10,000 spent on director’s salaries, which represents nearly 30 percent of the budget right now.

Many senators agreed with Katz’s call toward “eliminating, not trimming,” officer salaries.

“That’s why they’re called voluntary student organizations,” added Anton Zietsman ’12, chair of the Appropriations committee, saying that in the budget’s current form, he would not support its approval. “[The stipends are] not reasonable and not justified,” he added.

While Parker suggested that the “substantial” workload for these positions was reason enough to pay officers, Katz remained unconvinced.

“I believe small stipends are appropriate,” Parker said in an interview with The Daily. He noted two other organizations — FLiCKS and the Speakers Bureau — which are both on special fees and also provided officer stipends in their budget last year. “[SSD’s budget] would actually be keeping with that trend,” he said.

According to Parker, the original vision for SSD was to cover it with the reserve funding for up to a year and then move it to special fees for funding this year. However, in its current form, this goal may be easier said than done.

“This is going to be a very contentious issue among special fees FOs [financial officers], and as a special fees FO, I’d be pretty pissed,” Katz said.

Parker suggested that SSD will not follow the most common route to funding by first seeking Senate approval and then garnering an additional 10 percent approval vote from students. Instead, SSD’s petition will directly solicit 15 percent approval from the student body for the budget increase.

Brian Wanyoike ’12, chair of the Advocacy committee, warned that it would be “absolutely ridiculous” for SSD to seek 15 percent student approval without soliciting Senate support at all.

“It’s like there’s no good faith — [SSD] should come to the Senate,” Zietsman added.

Parker defended the decision by acknowledging that the SSD budget sidesteps the funding policies put in place by Appropriations and, as a result, suggested that it would not make sense to seek Senate approval.

With an eruption of questions about SSD as a protectorate of a number of organizations that ought to be running independently, the budget discussion was tabled for further discussion until next week.

Previous Notice Bills Passed

Tuesday’s meeting saw the passing of all its funding bills, along with an assortment of other legislative bills, including several that dealt directly with alleviating special fees pressure for both students and VSOs and one that removed a clause from the joint by-laws which would allow VSOs access to SUNet ID numbers. The clause was deleted to align the body with student privacy concerns raised by the University.

Minh Dan Vuong ‘11, the financial officer for Alternative Spring Break, appeared on the Senate floor during open forum to encourage the Senate to think carefully about future measures to secure VSOs more control to grant or deny services for students who requested refunds from their group.

“My concern is they’re just striking it, but are they going to put in a new system?” Vuong said after the meeting.

The Senate has suggested that it will work to find an alternate system to ID numbers, perhaps drafting legislation that would allow access simply to SUNet IDs so that VSOs would have a list of compiled names of those who requested refunds from them in order to deny services if they so chose.

Elections commissioners Quinn Slack ’11 and Cotis Mitchell ’12 announced that polling stations are scheduled to be set up at major dining halls, including Wilbur, Stern and Lagunita, for the spring election. They will also consider the possibility of holding polling outside of Green Library and areas more frequently visited by upperclassmen.

Senator Zachary Johnson ’10 said he has begun drafting legislation to create a buffer fund to address future funding challenges for student events, such as the funding crunch faced by the junior class cabinet with Mausoleum Party earlier this year.

Tommy Tobin ’10 has been recommended by the Nominations Commission for the Board of Judicial Affairs for spring quarter.

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