Senate debates ASSU budget bill

Oct. 5, 2011, 2:30 a.m.

The 13th Undergraduate Senate discussed at length the particulars of the ASSU budget, especially issues regarding executive cabinet compensation, at the Senate’s marathon, three-hour meeting Tuesday night.

Much of the meeting was spent discussing the five-page budget, which includes several significant increases from last year in certain areas of spending, as well as cuts to others.

Several senators questioned a 31-percent increase in the ASSU presidential discretionary spending, which ASSU President Michael Cruz ’12 defended. Cruz noted that the $4,000 increase – to an approximate $17,000 for general presidential discretionary funds – included $1,500 that had been folded in from a line item called “campus traditions,” which was completely cut from this year’s presidential discretionary spending.

Senators also raised questions about executive compensation, especially for cabinet members. Though Cruz and Macgregor-Dennis’ salaries – which are $8,750 and $8,500 respectively, in addition to the $2,750 total summer stipend for both of them – weren’t questioned, Senator Janani Ramachandran ’14 seriously questioned the $16,000 dollars specified for cabinet members’ salaries.

Cruz noted that cabinet members were hired with the understanding that they would be paid.

“It’s understood to be a rule, and these stipends are smaller than those paid to senate leadership positions,” Cruz said.

The Senate Chair is currently paid $3,000, the Deputy Chair is paid $1,000 and the Senate Secretary is paid $800.

Ramachandran, who is not currently paid a stipend as a senator, argued that while she wasn’t complaining about not getting paid, it bothered her that the amount of money set aside for personal compensation stipends for the ASSU Executive – $36,000 – is more than half of the total ASSU Executive budget – $64,532 – which is more than all other spending programs combined.

While discussing the new executive cabinet, which has 42 members, Senator Nate Garcia ’13 also expressed frustration with the size of the new executive cabinet, saying he felt like senators were getting caught in a “big web.”

When it came down to the vote however, only Ramachandran abstained. After the meeting Ramachandran declined to comment on her abstention.

In addition to the budget discussions, much of the discussion focused on the newly established Department of Internal Review (DIR), which was created this year as a way to evaluate the processes and committees of the ASSU. A bill concerning DIR parameters was eventually tabled for further discussion at a later date, failing to pass a vote after Senators Ben Laufer and Alon Elhanan raised concerns over DIR’s organization and reporting procedures.

Further discussion will focus on maintaining the department’s independence from ASSU pressure while also making sure the DIR has enough access to internal records and procedures.

One bill, which occupied an hour of discussion, was whether or not the Senate should authorize Cruz to write a letter on behalf of the ASSU to support holistic admission processes in the state of California. This letter would be in response to SB 185, a bill passed by the California legislature which would allow California schools to make admission decisions based on, among other criteria, race, ethnicity, gender and national origin. The bill is currently awaiting a decision from Brown.

The Senate decided to change the language of the bill to not directly support SB 185 since student opinion on the bill is varied. Instead, the Senate authorized Cruz to write a letter to Governor Jerry Brown supporting Stanford’s own holistic admissions processes and encouraging admissions offices to use them in California public schools.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Senate passed a solution supporting the California DREAM Act, which seeks to provide in-state tuition and access to financial aid at public universities for students, regardless of the status of their documentation. The measure passed unanimously.

Brendan is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily. Previously he was the executive editor, the deputy editor, a news desk editor and a writer for the news section. He's a history major originally from New Orleans.

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