Letter to the community: ASSU senate view on constitutional ammendments

April 12, 2017, 12:04 a.m.

Dear fellow members of the undergraduate student body,

This year, there will be three separate constitutional amendments to vote on as part of the ASSU election. All three amendments affect different areas of the funding system to make sure that money collected as part of the Undergraduate Student Fee is spent responsibly. If the amendments are passed, they will become part of the ASSU constitution and cannot be changed without another amendment.

The first amendment is to ensure that student groups are not allowed to ask the student body for things that violate university policy or state or federal law, like alcohol or drugs.

This amendment will make it clear that any current or future policy must be followed, which is currently not explicitly stated.

The second amendment would prohibit the student fee from being used to pay officers of student groups. Annual Grants and Standard Grants, which are funded through student money, are meant to create programming and events that benefit the entire student body. We recognize the hard work that students put in and that some VSOs leadership roles take up huge amounts of time. However, there is little that the Undergraduate Senate can do to verify and compare two officers’ roles and decide whether or not one’s work warrants an officer salary or if one officer deserves a salary more than the other. This year, the Undergraduate Senate has worked with student groups that requested officer salaries to seek alternative sources of funding, and we believe student groups should seek other avenues for officer salaries if they believe them to be necessary for the group’s mission.

The third amendment would affect Annual Grants, which are used by groups that have large budgets with predictable expenses. To request an Annual Grant, a group must first provide the Senate with a budget for the next year, their budget for the current year, and documentation of all expenses. The Senate uses this information to recommend funding for the group — and broadly keep the student fee from rising uncontrollably. If a group disagrees with the Senate’s recommendation, they are allowed to petition the student body directly for more money. This amendment aims to prohibit student groups from adding expenses to petitions that were not included in their original request. In the past, some groups have added new expenditures to their budget when they had to petition, causing the student fee to increase. New expenditures make it hard for the Senate to negotiate Annual Grants packages keeping in mind the total effect on the student fee. If these expenditures are as necessary and regular as they must be to qualify as an Annual Grant, there should be no need to add additional expenses after the deadline to submit the budget to the Senate. Student groups have a responsibility to document and list all expenditures at the beginning of the process. In addition, if new expenses do come up over the course of the year, groups are welcome to ask Senate for the necessary funding through a Standard Grant.

The student fee at Stanford is already the highest among its peer schools, and it is the Undergraduate Senate’s responsibility to keep the fee from rising uncontrollably. We believe that these amendments will give the Senate more tools to keep the student fee from rising without taking away any vital power from VSOs to receive funding to function and create meaningful events to serve the student body. We strongly encourage you to vote yes for these three amendments on the ASSU election, which will take place on April 13 and 14. The ballot will be sent via email.

-The 18th Undergraduate Senate

Contact the ASSU Undergraduate Senate at chair ‘at’ assu.stanford.edu.

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