The 15th Undergraduate Senate recently announced the launch of its new Senate Innovation Fund that will allocate $3,000 to each senator who will then decide how he or she wishes to spend it throughout the year.
The budget for this fund is $52,000, said the bill’s author, Ilya Mouzykantskii ‘16.
Mouzykantskii explained that in the past, senators have felt a need for monetary funds to follow through on promises or plans that they made during their campaigns.
“Once you get to the Senate you realize there are a lot of checks and balances and processes in place that restrict access to cash,” he said. “We feel as a Senate, we can afford to allocate a really small amount of the funds that we have sitting in reserves to allow senators to effect change in the way that they personally feel is appropriate.”
Stephen Trusheim ‘13 M.S. ‘14, assistant financial manager for the ASSU, shared similar thoughts.
“Sometimes in a collective body, an individual’s idea or passion can get lost and this program is one way of changing that,” said Trusheim, who originally proposed the idea in early October.
Mouzykantskii—along with senators Nikos Liodakis ‘16 and Ryan Matsumoto ’16—sits on the ad-hoc Senate Innovation Fund committee, which will monitor reimbursements by a senator requesting money from the fund.
Of the $52,000 fund, Mouzykantskii said he expects half to be spent this year.
“I don’t expect each senator to take advantage of the allocation,” Mouzykantskii said.
But, for those that do take advantage of the fund, there are some limits on how they can spend their allocation.
“We want the money to be spent in a way that creates a meaningful difference to the undergraduate community,” Mouzykantskii said. “Giving it to yourself is not a meaningful difference to the community.”
Students are also encouraged to approach the Senate with ideas they may have for using a senator’s allocation, Mouzykantskii said.
“Send an email to us, pitch an idea at us and I bet you one of the 14 senators will pick it up and run with it,” he said. “We really want to encourage innovation and creativity on campus.”
Mouzykantskii said this could be in the form of web services that would help student life, new publications or events that students want to host.
Some students have already expressed ideas for which they would like to use the funding. Julia Quintero ‘15, president of the Stanford Pre-Education Society (SPREES), said she was hoping her student group could utilize the funds to create a resource center for students interested in education or to bring in speakers.
“I think it will be really effective,” she said. “We can trust [the senators’] judgments to identify projects that will be highly effective and influential for Stanford undergrads.”
Natasha Patel ‘16, sponsor for the bill, said that this year the new fund would be a trial run.
“We don’t have plans to make this something that happens every year,” she said. “The idea is that if this is a success…the senators next year should consider forging a path similar to what we’ve done.”
Contact Brittany Torrez at btorrez ‘at’ stanford.edu.