Senate passes 3 bills, discusses special fees

Feb. 23, 2011, 2:02 a.m.

The ASSU Undergraduate Senate passed three bills Tuesday and discussed special fees.

One bill instated Neveen Mahmoud ‘11, the current service chair in the executive cabinet, as the next Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE) financial manager. Mahmoud described herself as a “big vision person” and stressed her familiarity with SSE’s objectives.

The other two bills, authored by Rebecca Sachs ’13, clarified the rule governing the announcement of official meetings 72 hours before their start time and granted senators up to two excused absences per quarter, in addition to the already-allotted two unexcused absences from Senate meetings.

If a senator has three unexcused absences, it may be grounds for expulsion. Previously, there was no guideline for excused absences. Under Sachs’ bill, the Senate will follow University staff policy.

Special fees updates

The Appropriations Committee’s update turned into a lengthy discussion of special fees, particularly the Stanford Flipside’s budget proposal, which included a Segway for distribution.

The senators questioned whether the proposal was serious and discussed its potential ramifications.

Some entertained the idea that the Flipside may be trying to make a statement about problems in the special fees policy, particularly whether or not students take the time to look at group budgets.

“I personally don’t believe that students take the time to look at budgets,” said Appropriations Committee Chair Rafael Vazquez ’12.

“Whether it’s a joke or not, if we pass it, they will have a Segway,” newly appointed Senate Chair Madeline Hawes ’13 said.

“If the Segway does pass, then I think there’s a flaw in our system,” added Stewart Macgregor-Dennis ’13.

In an interview with The Daily, Flipside president Jeremy Keeshin ’12 said the humor publication’s approach to special fees was the best chance “to really get people to start looking at special fees budgets.”

During his update, Elections Commissioner Stephen Trusheim ’13 briefed the Senate on special fees progress thus far. Student groups were required to submit special fees budget information this past Sunday. Trusheim reflected on the data in light of special fees reform legislation recently passed by the Senate and Graduate Student Council (GSC).

The total amount of funds requested increased 11.9 percent this year, Trusheim reported. If the student body approves all of the submitted budgets, he predicts that activities fees would be roughly $335 per year for undergraduates and $75 per year for graduate students, not including a buffer amount included to protect groups with high refund rates.

Of the 55 groups seeking special fees, 10 groups reduced their budgets from last year and 10 requested approximately the same amount, given inflation. Ten groups are petitioning the student body to appear on the ballot, with the approval of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Six groups are petitioning the student body without a seal of approval from the Appropriations Committee.

“Every group has a right to be on the ballot if they are petitioning,” Trusheim said in response to senators debating the merits of adding advisory notices to the ballot.

Other business

The Senate also discussed a resolution expressing support for Stanford’s transgender community. Many senators expressed discomfort due to the lack of specific language in the bill and questioned whether it might be interpreted as a political statement concerning ROTC’s potential return to campus.

The Senate will revisit a bill defining the role of the ASSU Solicitors General next week. The bill has been a source of disagreement between the Constitutional Council and the ASSU Solicitors General.

With the encouragement of ASSU Executive Angelina Cardona ‘11, the Senate moved to delay the start of next Tuesday’s meeting to 8:30 p.m. to enable senators to attend the Judicial Affairs town hall meeting at 7 p.m.

All funding bills for the evening were passed.

In an earlier version of this article, The Stanford Daily reported that activities fees would be roughly $270 per year for undergraduates and $45 per year for graduate students. In fact, these figures only include the special fees portion of the activities fee. Election commissioner Stephen Trusheim ’13  estimated the total activities fee, which includes the general fee and special fees, to be $335 per year for undergraduates and $75 per year for graduate students.

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