ASSU Senate calls for new campus climate survey

Jan. 20, 2016, 12:28 a.m.
The ASSU Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling for a new campus climate survey and also discussed changes in the funding system. (TARA BALAKRISHNANA / The Stanford Daily)

In its third meeting this quarter, the 17th Undergraduate Senate passed a resolution calling for a new campus climate survey. In addition, the Senate passed a motion to allow knowledgeable representatives to take the place of financial officers at one of two mandatory information sessions on annual grants or special fee requests. It also approved funding bills and confirmed Luka Fatuesi ’17 and Sean Means ’18 as ASSU assistant financial managers.

Calling for a new campus climate survey

At last week’s meeting, the Senate heard a proposal for a resolution in support of a new campus climate survey. This week they unanimously passed the resolution.

Last spring, the University conducted a climate survey to assess the prevalence of sexual assault and misconduct on campus. The results of the survey were released last fall and sparked controversy in the community about the accuracy of certain statistics, particularly the report that 1.9 percent of Stanford students have been victims of sexual assault.

426 people signed a petition in support of the resolution, and Administration and Rules Committee Chair Matthew Cohen ’18 published an open letter to Provost John Etchemendy in The Daily. Cohen has been working with the Faculty Senate to include this resolution on their agenda as well.

“I could tell that something was not right when I heard that Stanford’s sexual assault rate was extremely small compared to the sexual assault rates reported at peer institutions,” Cohen wrote in an email to The Daily. “I finally realized I should do something when Stanford Law School professor Michele Dauber came and spoke to the Senate at the end of fall quarter to discuss the survey’s findings. After listening to her, I decided that I couldn’t remain silent and wrote this resolution.”

The preamble of the resolution highlights the various concerns that Cohen had about the previously conducted survey, including Stanford’s narrow definition of sexual assault and the different survey methodologies used by Stanford’s peer schools. He also cited op-eds in The Daily, Buzzfeed and other media organizations that disputed the findings of the survey.

“It was an extremely transparent attempt on the Stanford administration’s part to mask the real statistics,” said Senator Hattie Gawande ’18. “They owe it to the victims of sexual assault and misconduct, but also to the people trying to solve this problem, to give them the real statistics.”

According to Cohen, the tone of the new survey will be different because only social scientists will work on it — unlike last year’s survey, which involved Stanford public relations.

“This is not a public relations issue,” Cohen said. “This is something that genuinely affects people’s lives.”

The Senate has also been corresponding with the Graduate Student Council to jointly pass an identical resolution. Gawande said that pressure on the administration from the undergraduate and graduate communities as well as the Faculty Senate would send a “powerful message.”

“It will seem like the entire campus has a united voice,” she said.

The next step in the process will be to reach out to the Faculty Senate for review.

“The ASSU can be sure that the Faculty Senate will review and consider [the resolution],” said physics professor Kathryn Moler Ph.D. ’95, Chair of the Faculty Senate.

Allowing knowledgeable replacements for financial officers

Elections Commissioner Eric Wilson ’16 will be holding two mandatory information sessions for student groups placing annual grant or special fee requests. The first will be held on Jan. 20 at 8:30 p.m. in Nitery 209, and the second will be held on Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. in Old Union 200.

Although student groups’ financial officers had previously been required to be present at these sessions, the Senate passed a motion to allow knowledgeable replacements to attend one of the two mandatory meetings in place of financial officers. This can be done without proof of alternative commitments.

Appropriations Committee Chair Chair Justice Tention ’18 explained that this amendment was included to allow clubs with financial officers unable to attend both sessions to still gain access to funding.

“Given that there are only two available slots, we should allow another representative in the place of the financial officer,” Tention said. “It is unfair of us to make funding inaccessible to students.”

Funding requests

During the meeting the Senate also approved $2500 in funding for uniforms for the hip hop dance group XTRM. Though funding can usually be only applied to uniforms once every three years, an exception was made because the club has expanded from 15 to 50 people.

The Chinese Undergraduate Student Union (CUSU) requested funding for a retreat to celebrate Chinese New Year, and although the Appropriations Committee does not typically recommend funding trips, the Senate approved the request given the concert and community service aspect of the retreat.

“This retreat is not a party; it is for celebrating Chinese New Year,” said a CUSU representative. “Because we don’t have a break during that time and we are thousands of miles away from home, we just wanted have a chance to catch up and celebrate our New Year in the way we celebrate it back home.”

“There is also a Chinese New Year’s concert in Tahoe that we would like to attend,” he added. “Also, we will be doing community service within the local Chinese community.”

The Senate approved a budget of $500 to fund a conference by the Student and Labor Alliance.

Next week, the Senate will discuss a bill to abolish all committees except the Appropriations Committee.


Arnav Mariwala contributed to this report.

Contact Pallavi Krishnarao at pallavik ‘at’ or Sarah Ortlip-Sommers at sortlip ‘at’

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