Undergraduate Senate delays ARP deliberations

Oct. 16, 2012, 11:35 p.m.

At the ASSU Undergraduate Senate’s sparsely attended Oct. 16 meeting, senators agreed to delay debate over Stanford’s Alternative Review Policy (ARP) regarding sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking, until late October, discussed the potential uses for the $1.2 million in the Senate’s reserves and buffer funds, and decided to set an informal attendance policy.

Although senators Lauren Miller ’15 and Kimberly Bacon ’15 noted at the Oct. 10 meeting that they hoped to begin discussions on the ARP this week, Senate Chair Branden Crouch ’14 said the Senate should wait until they hear student opinions at the Oct. 23 town hall meeting.

After attending town hall meetings and having their own discussions, the Senate plans to either approve or revise the ARP, which was extended indefinitely by University President John Hennessy last spring after a two-year pilot program.

“We want the student body to voice their concerns and get a chance to understand what is going on before we bring it into the Senate,” Crouch said. “We decided to push it back so everyone can have a chance to understand the issues.”

At the suggestion of Deputy Chair Garima Sharma ’15, the Senate discussed the creation of an attendance policy. Senators agreed to allow three absences per quarter, two excused and one unexcused, but argued about what constitutes an excused absence. The Undergraduate Senate typically meets eight times per quarter. Only 10 senators were present at this week’s meeting; the Senate now has 14 members after unanimously voting to expel Ashley Harris ’15 from the Senate this week after Harris announced her leave of absence.

The new unofficial policy would conflict with the Undergraduate Senate (US) bylaws, as Article 2 Section 1D states: “In the event that any member of the US misses three meetings in a quarter, a bill for expulsion must be presented to the US at the meeting(s) following the third absence.”

According to Sharma, this attendance policy would not be a binding policy but would provide a framework for discussion if a senator misses more than the permitted number of meetings. Senator Ish Menjivar ’15 said that it would be “ideal to have 100 percent attendance,” and questioned whether the new unofficial policy would help.

“I hope it will improve, but I’m not sure how much the policy change about it would improve it,” Menjivar said, noting that absences make it “hard to get things done.”

According to Kimberly Bacon ’15, seven senators attended an “ASSU Money 101” presentation on Oct. 15 by ASSU Financial Manager Neveen Mahmoud ’11 and Assistant Financial Manager Stephen Trusheim ’13. The presentation was referenced several times at the Oct. 16 Senate meeting.

Senators expressed interest in learning more about the Senate’s reserve and buffer funds. The senate controls reserves that are composed of student fees unspent by previous Senates or student groups.

The buffer fund, which has been used in the past to provide additional coverage in times of financial crisis and special fees mistakes, “exists to give the Senate an option in case unexpected things happen with the [ASSU] fee,” according to Trusheim. These may include a drop in student enrollment, which would affect the amount of money collected by the ASSU.

The Undergraduate Senate currently controls $697,052 in total fee reserves and $465,910 in the buffer fund. Trusheim wrote in an email to The Daily that the senators will have the opportunity in the future to determine the management of these funds, though he and Mahmoud will advise the senators on leaving enough money in the funds “to ensure that the ASSU can keep functioning properly.”

“We don’t have any specific uses planned out for the buffer fund, but we think it’s a good idea to have more specific guidelines for how to use the buffer fund and the money in the reserves, not just for us but for people next year,” Bacon said. “I think one of the reasons people never use this money is that they don’t know what it is for.”

Senators approved funding bills totaling $13,842.41 for various student groups. Latinos Unidos de Stanford received $3,619.41 and the Stanford Pre-Law Society received $5,582 for event food and supplies. Miller, a member of the pre-law society, excused herself from voting for the latter bill.

The Senate also heard a report by Mahmoud discussing Stanford Student Enterprises’ quarterly report and passed a bill written by ASSU Elections Commissioner Brianna Pang ’13 to set the date for the 2013 spring quarter general election for April 11.

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