Senate debates less flexibility with attendance

Oct. 24, 2012, 2:05 a.m.

The ASSU Undergraduate Senate unanimously approved a total of $19,116.03 in funding for 11 student organizations during their Oct. 23 meeting, including $5,257 from the traditions fund for Stanford’s annual Mausoleum party.

With the exception of Appropriations Chair Nancy Pham ’14, all senators were present at the meeting. ASSU President Robbie Zimbroff ’12 and Vice President William Wagstaff ’12 were also in attendance and spoke to senators about the Oct. 24 town hall meeting regarding the Alternative Review Process (ARP). Senators were slated to give a recommendation about the ARP to the Faculty Senate two weeks ago but chose to delay discussion until after town hall meetings conclude tomorrow.

“It is a great opportunity for you guys to hear what students are thinking and how they feel. The feedback, if it goes nowhere, doesn’t mean anything,” Zimbroff said.

The senate also discussed amending the bylaws to clarify attendance policy. According to the bylaws, senators who are absent for three or more meetings per quarter will automatically have a bill for expulsion drawn against them (Article 2, section 1, part D). Administration and Rules Committee Chair Lauren Miller ’15 suggested the addition of a clause specifying a maximum of two excused and one unexcused absence each quarter.

“It is still going to be three absences per quarter, these are just stricter guidelines,” Miller said. “We are basically trying to make it a little more strict to hold us more accountable.”

The Senate’s bylaws also state, “A salary shall not be paid out if an officer does not attend at least 90 percent of required meetings (as defined by these bylaws) in a timely fashion. Excused absences shall not count toward the requirement.”

According to this policy, a senator who has one unexcused absence should not receive his or her salary because the Senate will only have nine meetings this quarter.

Janhavi Vartak ’15 and Brandon Hightower ’15 have missed one meeting this year, and Nancy Pham ’14, Christos Haveles ’14 and Anna Brezhneva ’14 have been absent for two meetings.

None of these absences were announced as excused except for Pham’s absence from the Oct. 2. meeting. Bylaws state that members of the Senate shall individually determine what constitutes an excused absence.

Miller explained that senators would be granted an excused absence if they were out of town, sick, had a family emergency, had to take a midterm or had a “legitimate academic reason” for missing a meeting, such as a field trip. She stated that, if possible, senators should email the senate chair 24 hours before the meeting that they will miss in order to have their absence excused. The Senate has yet to retroactively determine whether past missed meetings are excused under this new agreement.

Senate Chair Branden Crouch ’14 said that he is determined to have better attendance at Senate meetings for the second half of the quarter.

“We’re going to meet with people who have missed meetings and try to work this out before it’s a consistent problem where people just don’t show up,” Crouch said.

Associate Dean and Director for Student Activities and Leadership Nanci Howe solicited the help of senators to fill empty spots on Faculty Senate committees, recruiting Jack Weller ’15 and Anna Brezhneva ’15 to serve on the Committee for the Review of Undergraduate Majors and Viraj Binda ’15 to serve on the Committee on Academic Computing and Information Systems. Howe said that a faculty member had written to her “in desperation” looking for undergraduate representatives for these committees and that she had been waiting since May to fill the positions.

Senator Shahab Fadavi ’15 also announced his decision to make need-blind financial aid for international students a “priority” of his committee. He said that he plans to discuss the issue with the Board of Trustees and the Office of Financial Affairs in order to determine the potential cost and brainstorm fundraising opportunities.

“If you look at our peer institutions, schools like Harvard and Yale have for many years had need-blind financial aid for international applicants,” Fadavi said, adding that Stanford is “lagging behind” these schools.

Senators received a bill of previous notice for the approval of four executive cabinet members to be voted on at the Oct. 30 meeting, though Zimbroff and Wagstaff left before the bill was discussed. Sharma said that she hopes the appointees will attend the meeting to answer questions from senators about the allocation of cabinet tasks but expects that the Senate will approve all four appointments.

A previous version of this article stated that Senator Viraj Bindra ’15 has missed one meeting this quarter. According to the official Senate minutes, Bindra was absent on the meeting of Oct. 9.  However, Bindra did attend the meeting. The Daily regrets the error.

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