Widespread confusion over the powers of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) Financial Manager and arguments over a group text message marked the 22nd meeting of the Undergraduate Senate on Tuesday night. While the Senate began its meeting with the easy passing of a resolution that formally condemns Dinesh D’Souza’s upcoming campus talk, debate ensued in the final third of the meeting when discussion of The Daily’s funding was brought to the table.
Following an impassioned deliberation over the specifics of The Daily’s funding request, the Senate voted to give The Daily half of its initial ask. The vote occurred with the understanding that Financial Manager LoMo Phillips ’17 will award the paper half of the already halved recommended amount — approximately $25,000 — as a penalty for filing for a grant after the deadline.
The discussion began after a brief recess to allow Phillips to arrive 50 minutes into the meeting.
“So there were some differences in the [Daily’s] documentation that was presented here versus what was presented at the GSC meeting,” Phillips said. “If y’all weren’t to get the funding, now people have to be fired, so holding salaries and full-time people getting fired at The Daily over our heads … I don’t feel is completely appropriate.”
As was explained at last week’s Senate meeting, The Daily employs non-students to fill full-time positions to ensure the paper’s regular publication. Distribution and layout managers, accounting staff and business team members are counted among these, Editor-in-Chief Claire Wang ’20 explained to the Senate.
“It’s our understanding that obviously there would be no more magazine,” Wang said. “That would probably be the first print product to go. For example our layout manager, Duran Alvarez, who has worked for us for 30-plus years… his salary would have to be cut.”
In terms of the discrepancies in funding documentation, The Daily’s Executive Editor, Anna-Sofia Lesiv ’20, explained that they arose from Phillips’ last-minute announcement at the previous Senate meeting that she would cut The Daily’s initial ask of around $100,000 in half as a penalty for missing filing deadlines in the annual grant process.
“We did not know that the Financial Manager has such a power and we actually questioned whether it is constitutionally appropriate to do something like this,” Lesiv said, referencing Article VII Section 2.A.2 of the ASSU Constitution, which states that Association [ASSU] legislation — meaning the Senate, rather than the Financial Manager — “shall retain the ultimate authority over all rules and regulations of the Fund.”
Phillips responded, “I can’t remember the exact section but there is authority for the [Financial Manager] to make certain decisions if it does put the organization in any sort of financial jeopardy or there’s any sort of legal jeopardy for the organization. So, I can find that for you.”
After the meeting, Phillips clarified that the authority in question comes from the joint bylaws of the ASSU, which state that ASSU approval of “any particular line item” of a student group funding request “does not commit the Financial Manager to approval of any particular expenditure at the time it is requested by the organization.”
“Upon reviewing the relevant clause in the joint bylaws … it appears to imply that the financial manager has the right to essentially sidestep any decision by made by the Undergraduate Senate or the Graduate Student Council, undermining final say stated elsewhere,” Rosen said in an interview with The Daily.
However, Rosen also noted that the clause seemed to be in conflict with the ASSU Constitution, which states that the Undergraduate Senate has “ultimate authority over the disbursement of money from an Undergraduate Student Activities Fee, subject only to the limitations imposed by this Constitution.”
In cases of conflict between the governing documents, an instance Rosen called a “cause for concern,” the constitution supersedes the joint bylaws.
Additionally, Rosen told The Daily that in his three terms on Senate, the financial manager had never invoked or threatened to invoke their “alleged power” to override the ASSU.
The decision to reopen the Daily’s funding for discussion came through a series of arguments about the results of the most recent appropriations meeting. Some were under the impression that Senators had voted on a clear conclusion at the appropriations meeting, but others disagreed.
Senator Jamie Seney ’21 explained that she had chosen to reopen the discussion after sending a message to a Senate group chat.
“I sent the message ‘if anyone feels uncomfortable or would like to revisit the vote that we had on Friday please like this message’ and then folks liked the message,” Seney said.
“Now I feel very comfortable with the appropriations committee meeting again,” Seney continued, uncharacteristically raising her voice.
At Rosen’s suggestion, five of the seven appropriations committee members conducted a quasi-open committee meeting that occurred within the larger Senate meeting. Although conducted under the auspices of a committee meeting, other Senators, Daily representatives and Phillips were allowed to weigh in.
After the committee meeting, the entire Senate voted to give The Daily half of its initial request.
Resolution to condemn D’Souza
The Senate also passed a resolution condemning the Stanford College Republicans’ (SCR) invitation of controversial conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza to speak on campus, asserting that D’Souza is “an inflammatory voice having a negative impact on political discourse in the United States and at Stanford.”
The resolution passed 9-0, with 2 abstentions from Senators Faa Diallo ’21 and Vrakas.
SCR will host D’Souza on Feb. 28.
Prior to its passing, Senate Deputy Chair Jianna So ’21, praised the resolution.
“I really appreciate this resolution because I know for a lot of students… the Senate guidelines can be really confusing and this clarifies that… because our funding guidelines are content-neutral we’re simply recognizing their right to speak on campus and not necessarily supporting the message of that speaker,” So said.
Senator Martin Altenburg ’21 echoed this sentiment, adding that student groups that feel targeted by D’Souza’s event on campus should view the Senate as a resource in planning events and responses.
The Senate’s resolution condemning his invitation follows months of heated back-and-forth between SCR and the Senate. The Senate twice rejected and then accepted SCR’s request for funding, prompting threats of legal action and a filed Constitutional Council case on the part of the College Republicans.
Resolution in response to anti-semitism
Charges of Holocaust denial against a speaker hosted by the Structured Liberal Education (SLE) program prompted the introduction of Senator Matt Wigler’s ’20 “Resolution to Recognize Anti-Semitism in Our Community.” Wigler described a culture of anti-semitism on Stanford’s campus to an audience that included Yaron Sternberg ’22, a current Senate candidate and author of an article in The Stanford Review on the SLE lecture, and Jacob Kaplan-Lipkin ’19, the head of the Jewish Student Association (JSA).
“Basically what this bill does is it attempts to say that what we’re seeing isn’t a set of isolated instances on campus, but rather a pattern,” Wigler said.
The resolution, which would potentially create a task force to further study anti-semitism on campus and institute an educational component on anti-semitism, was discussed and will be voted on at next week’s meeting.
“I really hope we all put action behind our words and we can all try to implement these ideas of diversity and inclusion in the future of Senate,” So said.
Contact Zora Ilunga-Reed at zora814 ‘at’ stanford.edu.
A previous version of this article stated that LoMo Phillips graduated from Stanford in 2018. In fact, Phillips graduated in 2017. The Daily regrets this error.