Senators compromise on SSD bill

March 10, 2010, 1:12 a.m.

Wellness Room is cut from budget ahead of fees vote

After five weeks of strenuous debate about the special fees budget for the Student Services Division (SSD), the ASSU Undergraduate Senate last night finally arrived at a satisfactory compromise between the bill’s author, ASSU Vice President Andy Parker ’11, and the rest of the group’s members.

The SSD budget has seen significant revision, including, most notably, the removal of Tutoring for Community from the SSD budget. The Green Store’s marketing budget was also slimmed, and discretionary funding for the management arm of the division was altogether slashed. Several salaries were halved, including those for the executive director of management and the director of the Wellness Room.

With the hopes of retaining space for the Wellness Room on the budget, Parker also cut funding for staffing and significantly reduced funding for equipment.

Since his most recent proposal last week, Parker dropped an additional $10,000 from the bill’s budget this week. Still, some senators were not satisfied with the budget’s modifications.

Alex Katz ’12, the chair of the Administration & Rules Committee and a critic of student group officer salaries, maintained that the Senate was making its fair share of exceptions and that SSD’s budget ought to undergo additional compromise.

“Some very significant exceptions are being made for SSD,” Katz said, pointing to the $3,500 in officer salaries that far exceeds the amount that the Senate would typically approve.

The Wellness Room: Space on the Special Fees Ballot?

In keeping with his previous objections to the joint venture, Katz suggested that the Wellness Room functions more like a voluntary student organization (VSO) and ought to apply for funding independently in the fall on the general fee.

“It does not mirror the service project as envisioned by the ASSU, as laid out by SSD,” he said, suggesting that the shuttle service and Green Store provided different functions that should not be lumped together with the Wellness Room, which could operate on its own.

After a straw poll to gauge support for the bill with and without the amendment to remove the Wellness Room from the SSD budget, Parker agreed to withdraw the Wellness Room from the bill’s proposal, subtracting $4,000 from the overall SSD special fees budget. Seven of the 12 senators present would have supported the bill with the Wellness Room, but one more senator’s support would have been needed to muster a two-thirds vote over Katz’s amendment.

Parker said in an interview with The Daily that the compromise means “a harder road for [the Wellness Room] in the future.”

“When it comes down to it having something on the special fees ballot for SSD, it is better than nothing,” Parker said.

Kelsei Wharton ’12, the deputy Senate chair, declined to support the bill with the amendment to remove the Wellness Room from the budget.

“I felt that the Wellness Room should still be a part of the bill,” he said, adding that many of the controversies that have surfaced surrounding the initiative represent “more of a criticism” of the way the Wellness Room is run than a fundamental opposition to its spirit.

“We’re still trying to evaluate the usefulness of it,” Wharton said. “Until we can do that we should fund it, but work even harder to make sure that it is being evaluated properly.”

Senate Salary Cuts Revisited

A second bill on deck for vote at the start of spring quarter is one that would tighten the reins on Senate salaries.

The bill supports stipends for the Senate chair, Appropriations chair and secretary, and proposes the payment of stipends at the end of the term after effective completion of respective roles and duties, as well as attendance at 90 percent of the Senate’s meetings.

Some senators rejected the disbursement of payment at the end of the term, suggesting that such a measure would make public service more unfeasible for some students. Accordingly, the bill was amended to disperse stipends in quarterly installments.

In addition to the amendment, a number of senators supported the addition of a $1,000 salary for the deputy chair, who is often asked to step in for the chair and must spend significant time at additional meetings.

Free Speech is ‘a Fight that Needs to be Fought,’ Senator Says

Senator Adam Creasman ‘11 announced the withdrawal of a free speech bill that he co-authored with Parker.

“Effectively, this bill is dead,” he said.

Creasman reported word from the University President’s office that President Hennessy felt the bill was “inappropriate” and that the ASSU was not authorized to legislate University policy. The GSC also objected to the bill, voicing concerns about its hurried approach, Creasman said.

“As long as students do not understand their rights, then we as student representatives cannot rest,” Creasman suggested, adding that he will be seeking the expertise of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other organizations about a way forward.

“This issue is not closed,” Creasman said.

On a more jovial note, Senator Zachary Warma ’11 made his exit address before his departure for spring quarter at Stanford in Washington, reading from a scroll of makeshift parchment to a captive audience of constituents and friends over celebratory drinks.

Appropriations Funding and the Special Fees Ballot

Recommending 41 percent of student groups’ funding requests in February, the Appropriations Committee increased the Senate’s spending approvals last month, but the body is still $24,000 under budget, said Anton Zietsman ’12, the Appropriations Committee chair.

The week’s funding bills and publications funding bills were unanimously passed. A graduate member of the Elections Commission was also approved at Tuesday’s meeting.

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