At its Tuesday night meeting, the 13th Undergraduate Senate discussed how to allocate its efforts in the remaining weeks of the Senators’ terms, with Senators debating the possibility of transitioning to the new Senate earlier, in week three or four of spring quarter rather than week five as has traditionally occurred.
When asked her motivation for proposing a shortened term, Senator Samar Alqatari ’14 said, “because I want to.”
“I think two weeks should be enough time to prepare them for Senate,” she added. “Campaigning takes two weeks. Why should the transition take longer?”
“Also, there is more time to train,” said Appropriations Chair Brianna Pang ’13 said in support of Alqatari’s suggestion. “While everyone is still on campus in spring quarter, they can get a head start on their Senate term. Last year was very rushed in our transition; starting the transition earlier might be beneficial.”
Senator Ben Laufer ’12 suggested using the remainder of the body’s term to initiate a referendum to amend the “Rights of the Accused” section in the current ASSU Constitution. As noted by ASSU President Michael Cruz ’12, the clause violates the Dear Colleague Letter of the Office for Civil Rights by requiring a higher standard of proof in sexual assault cases than is mandated by Title IX.
However, in a straw poll vote to gauge interest in pursuing the initiative, only two Senators indicated that they would be willing to pursue a referendum in the following weeks. Several said that they voted negatively because of concern that a referendum would not be approved in the Senate because of under-voting.
Senate Chair Rafa Vazquez ’12 then suggested that the Senate require that the new Senators, who will be elected at the end of week two, attend the last couple of weekly Senate meetings as a transition, and that the current Senate return to the question of abbreviating its term next week.
Criticism of the Elections Commission
Although Elections Commissioner Adam Adler ’12 was not present at the meeting, Senator Alon Elhanan ’14 voiced criticism of the Elections Commission, claiming that it has disseminated inaccurate information regarding the existence of a cap on campaign spending.
“I’ve been disappointed with the Elections Commission in general with a lot of things in this cycle,” Elhanan said. “At this point, from the emails that have been disseminated to [the GSC and Senate candidates], there is still a cap. Which there isn’t.
“There have been emails…toward the Elections Commissioner telling him that that is false, and he has not sent out an email [to the candidates],” he added.
When asked for comment on Elhanan’s comments, Adler said that he notified the candidates of the campaign cap after Parliamentarian Alex Kindel ’14 forwarded him a bill which he interpreted as requiring such regulation. When Elhanan told him that the Senate had interpreted it otherwise, Adler replied by informing Elhanan that he would defer to the judgment of Kindel, as ASSU parliamentarian.
“They are completely unprofessional,” Adler said of the Senate. “They don’t have any sense of what has or hasn’t happened in the past.”
“I just think there needs to be greater accountability of the Elections Commission,” Elhanan said, although he acknowledged that Kindel may have been partly to blame for not clearly passing along the bill and its interpretation. Elhanan proposed having an assistant elections commissioner solely responsible for campaign financing in the future.
The Senators also granted campaign funding to seven Senate candidates who had been refused by the Elections Commission because they missed the deadline for application.
Reconsidering SSE leadership
After passing a bill urging the University to support the Axe Committee’s efforts to reestablish broadcast lights on Hoover Tower for special events, the Senators debated an executive bill to renew the employment of ASSU Financial Manager and Student Service Enterprises (SSE) CEO Naveen Mahmoud ’11.
Having been initially appointed for a one-year-term, Mahmoud’s contract must be reapproved by the Senate for a second term. The Board of SSE, including Cruz, Vazquez and others, considered and approved Mahmoud’s continued employment after a thorough investigation, but without considering other candidates.
Cruz highlighted some of the impressive financial advances made by Mahmoud this year, including the successful initiation of the campus mobile store and the Ground Up cafe.
“I agree that Naveen has done a good job with several of her initiatives,” Laufer said, “but I think that, going forward, communication should be better.”
Laufer specifically referred to Mahmoud’s advice to the Senate about the use of the ASSU buffer fund, which he claimed was misleading.
A couple other Senators also expressed concern about problems in SSE that may have been related to Mahmoud’s leadership. After hearing Cruz’s overwhelmingly positive reflection centered on success, Elhanan asked, “Was there any discussion of the time it takes to get receipts and the problems within SSE?…Were there discussions of the hurdles as well?”
“She’s doing great work on initiatives that are outside of her core responsibilities,” said Senator Dan DeLong ’13. “[But] one priority that we may want to really urge the new financial manager to prioritize is the nuts and bolts of their position… Stanford students are negatively affected as a result of the SSE’s financial manager failing to do the job that they’ve been charged to do.”
The Senators decided to postpone the bill until next week’s meeting, with Mahmoud in attendance.