Senate debates use of leftover funds

April 25, 2012, 2:05 a.m.

Senators held a marathon, two-and-a-half hour meeting that largely consisted of debates regarding the allocation of several thousand dollars in left-over funds from various Senate discretionary accounts.

With $5,700 remaining in Health and Wellness Committee Discretionary Funds, $600 in Traditions Fund, and $1130 in General Discretionary spending, the senators, who are hoping to have their last meeting before transition next week, debated how to allocate the money.

Chair of the Health and Wellness Committee, Taylor Winfield ’13 requested $6000 for three new initiatives designed to promote student’s happiness and wellbeing. Her proposal included the initiation of “undead” or “live” week preceding quarterly exams, which may incorporate movie night, star watching, dance and yoga classes, massage chairs, and bring-a-pet-to-class day; the development of a website that merges resources from all campus institutions addressing different aspects of student health and wellbeing; and the establishment of a fall-quarter course focused on positive wellbeing exercises and best practices.

Co-Directors of the Undergraduate Product Design Student Association also came in requesting $4500 from the ASSU discretionary fund to purchase materials for student artists to create original art for the Frost Revival Concert on May 19. They argued that the initiative would not only promote student art on campus, but would also establish precedent for displaying art at Frost Amphitheater events.

The senators also considered the possibility of an ASSU transition retreat, which Rafael Vasquez guess would cost, at most, $1000.

“We don’t want to set up the next Senate for failure,” appropriations chair Brianna Pang ’13 said, warning the senate against spending all of their discretionary accounts. The funds are designed to last through this fiscal year, which lasts until the end of July.

Laufer also expressed concern that giving a VSO discretionary funding might set a dangerous precedent.

“I’m a little concerned that we’re giving this group preference,” Laufer said, “I do think we should at least be mindful that we’re allowing a VSO to spend money out of the discretionary when there is a very clear other system for [receiving funding].” He argued that the Undergraduate Product Design Student Association should request all of their funding from the general fees account, which has about $40,000 in it for the next six weeks, according to Pang.

“I understand the principal thing, but is there really a problem with just giving them the money? We have it,” Nate Garcia ’14 said in response to Laufer’s comment, “This is just a very practical use.”

The senate decided to allocate all of their remaining Health and Wellness Committee Discretionary Funds to Winfield’s initiatives and, on a vote of 11-2, the $600 in Traditions Funding to the Product Design Association. They also approved the remaining $3900 of the VSO’s request from General Fees.

While all of the senators actively participated in discussion earlier in the night, both Ben Laufer ’12 and Chair Rafael Vasquez ’12 noted that many of the senators were absentminded and disengaged during the discussions of the new budget and the Alternative Review Process revisions.

Alon Elhanan ’14 called the first action item, a bill proposing to reestablish “uniforms” for ASSU senators on the days of their meetings, “a bad joke.” Author Brianna Pang ’13 withdrew the bill, which had garnered ridicule from Elections Commissioner Adam Adler ’12 over email on Tuesday afternoon.

Co-Director of the Publications Board Kate Abbott ’12, who waited for more than an hour before she could give her five minute report, expressed frustration over the meeting’s duration.

“It’s already been such a long meeting that we appreciate efficiency in letting you know what we’re doing,” Abbott said in response to a sarcastic comment from Elhanan, “If you have constructive and non-sarcastic comments on how to improve pub board and how to work together in the future, we’d be happy to hear them.”

The senators passed a bill modifying the non-discrimination statement in the ASSU Bylaws, an issue which the senators had debated at length in their April 10 meeting. The bill, which Senator Alon Elhanan ’14 said “actually doesn’t matter” and Ben Laufer ’12 called “mainly symbolic,” added “gender identity, national origin, religious beliefs (or lack thereof), socioeconomic status and/or veteran status” to the non-discrimination clause.

Previous Notice

The senators began discussing changes made to the budget for the upcoming Undergraduate Senate and continued debate over revisions in the Alternative Review Process (ARP), which must be approved after a two-year pilot program aimed at reducing barriers to reporting sexual assault.

The current budget’s proposal has eliminated the $3000 pay for the Senate Chair and the $1000 for Deputy Chair (among other stipends), instead choosing to grant $400 stipends for each senator. Vasquez, who authored several of the changes, had announced earlier in the meeting that he had decided to allocate the $500 remaining in his discretionary account as a grant for Treasurer Ian Chan ’14, whose work for this year’s senate of securing reimbursements and subsidies, he said, has gone above and beyond the responsibilities of a senator.

Although no one from the Board of Judicial Affairs and only one representative from the Graduate Student Council were present, the debate over the alternative review process(ARP) for sexual assault cases continued to be divisive.

“The law school professor [Dauber] really misled to the point where she even actually might have lied to us about what she said to us that civil cases do not need to be determined by unanimity,” Laufer said of the last week’s joint meeting, where members of the GSC, BJA, and senate discussed revisions of the ARP, “I’ve been at least told…that civil cases actually do need to be confirmed by unanimity; sexual offenses would be considered a civil offense.”

The senate plans to approve the new budget and conclude the debate about ARP at their meeting next week.

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