Senate extends elections declaration deadline, discusses divestment

Feb. 26, 2013, 10:30 a.m.

At the Feb. 26 meeting of the ASSU Undergraduate Senate, senators passed a bill to extend the ASSU elections declaration deadline from March 1 to March 8.

Senator Lauren Miller ’15, one of the authors of the bill, said that she was concerned that so few students had declared to run for several positions, with a particularly notable shortage of class president slates. Miller also expressed concern that several special fees groups missed the Feb. 18 deadline to submit budgets because of difficulty contacting financial managers.

“It came to our attention that there isn’t really that representative of a pool for elections right now, and this takes care of special fees too,” Miller said. “We feel like there was a miscommunication all across the board.”

While several members of the Senate agreed with Miller, representatives from Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE) noted that extending the deadline for special fees would create administrative hassles and potentially raise student fees.

“Extending the deadline so more people can make it just results in higher student fees,” said SSE CEO Neveen Mahmoud ’11. “The statistics show that a group getting voted down on the ballot is highly unlikely.”

Senator Garima Sharma ’15 argued that it was not the Senate’s job to reprimand students for missing the special fees deadline, a statement contested by Mahmoud.

“You’re not anyone’s mother, but you are a governing body—you were voted here by the student population,” Mahmoud said. “I generally don’t think it’s a responsible move to say that it’s not your responsibility to regulate. That’s what you were elected to do.”

Elections Commissioner Brianna Pang ’13 took issue with extending the deadline for Undergraduate Senate candidates, referencing the fact that 23 candidates have declared for 15 Senate positions.

“By definition, it is already a competitive race for Undergraduate Senate,” she said. “On behalf of the candidates who have been on their game and petitioning, I don’t think that deadline extension is necessarily fair.”

Several senators argued to the contrary, including Viraj Bindra ’15, who emphasized the benefits of a more competitive Senate field with more candidates from which voters can choose. Sharma agreed, adding that extending some deadlines and not others would cause confusion.

The Senate ultimately approved the bill to extend the election declaration of intent and petition-gathering deadline to March 8, with an amendment to push back the special fees budget submission deadline to March 1. The Graduate Student Council will vote on the bill at their meeting tonight.


NomCom, Suites and divestment

In other business, senators approved a bill to appoint seven members to next year’s Nominations Committee (NomCom). Miller said that this year’s NomCom is “really representative” of the student body, as it contains undergraduates, graduate students and a Ph.D. student.

The Senate also put a bill on previous notice authored by Daily columnist Miles Unterreiner ’12 M.A. ’13 and sponsored by Bindra. If approved at next week’s meeting, the bill will express the Senate’s opposition to Residential Education’s (ResEd) decision to end the student-run Governor Corner Dining Societies and pledge the Senate’s support of Suites Dining’s chefs.

At the meeting, Unterreiner addressed questions from senators and visitors about his four-part article and the response he has received from ResEd.

“There is massive student support for this,” Unterreiner said. “Pretty uncontroversially, this would be a good bill for the Senate to support.”

The Senate also heard a presentation from Alon Elhanan ’14 in opposition to the selective divestment presentation made last week by Omar Shakir ’07 J.D. ’13, founder and co-president of Stanford Students for Palestinian Equal Rights (SPER).

Shakir’s presentation urged senators to pass a bill encouraging the Board of Trustees to reconsider investments in companies that Shakir said violated human rights and international laws. While Shakir argued that divestment was a humanitarian issue, Elhanan disagreed.

“A lot of people argue that it’s the only neutral option. In my opinion, it’s not neutral, it’s inherently political,” he said. “It’s impossible to separate selective divestment from what is going on in Israel and Palestine.”

Representatives from a variety of student groups, including the Muslim Student Awareness Network, Stanford Students for Queer Liberation, the Black Student Union and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) attended the meeting in support of the bill.

“We are not trying to blame anyone or ostracize anyone, but there is a system in place here that we are participating in, and that system is depriving Palestinians of their health,” said Elizabeth Goodman, a Ph.D. candidate in mathematics representing Stanford Students for Queer Liberation.

Other groups, including the Jewish Student Organization, Chabad at Stanford, the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science and J Street U Stanford had representatives speak against the bill.

Doria Charlson ’13, president of the Jewish Student Association, spoke in opposition to the bill, arguing that it would “irrevocably change the Stanford community” for the worse.

“It’s been increasingly uncomfortable to identify as a Jew on this campus,” Charlson said. “We don’t know how divestment will affect the Middle East, but we do know how it will affect what is going on here with us in this room. We’ve seen the harm divestment can and has caused on this campus.”

At the end of the meeting, senators voted to table the bill until next week and offered attendees the chance to speak with senators individually outside of the meeting.

“Hopefully we’re going to have a decision by next week. I know there’s some talk of senators feeling like they’d like to ask questions,” Miller said. “We’re really going to try to limit it to making a decision next week or having questions from senators, but discussion is definitely done in our meetings.”


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