With elections on the horizon, Tuesday night’s Undergraduate Senate meeting began with ballot testing. Senators then introduced and discussed two pieces of legislation and passed one other bill. The meeting closed with the unanimous passing of a bill introduced the previous week which appoints former Senator Chapman Caddell ’20 to serve as a proxy for Senator Melissa Loupeda ’21 during her quarter abroad.
Senator Matthew Wigler ’19 introduced the “Resolution to Better Serve Veterans at Stanford.”
“This bill is meant to do exactly what its title says, better serve veterans at Stanford, of which we have 29 undergraduates enrolled,” Wigler began. “And veterans historically have been underrepresented and underserved … We as an Undergraduate Senate should take leadership in showing that we affirm the value of veterans and we want to make sure that various practices done by the University right now that diminish their value and access to the resources of this institution are rectified.”
Such practices are outlined in the resolution and include the fact that veterans were only added to the University’s official diversity demographics in 2017 and were included in the University’s December 2016 non-discrimination statement only after student-led activism.
Additionally, according to the resolution, “current Stanford financial aid policy reduces the amount of need-based institutional aid awarded to veterans who elect to use their GI Bill education benefits,” despite the fact that the most recent version of the GI Bill prevents benefits received through it from being a determining factor in financial aid decisions at colleges and universities.
To address these and other issues pertaining to veterans, the resolution states that the enrollment of veterans should be made a priority by Stanford admissions, that Veterans’ Day be made a University-acknowledged official holiday and that the Financial Aid Office review their policies that pertain to veterans and their families.
Additionally, the resolution states the Senate’s own affirmation of the student veteran population at Stanford at large, with a specific clause that focuses on transgender service members in direct to Trump’s ban on the service of transgender people in the U.S. military.
Adam Behrendt ’19 and Stephen McReynolds ’21, both veterans and leaders of the Stanford Undergraduate Veterans Association, were present at the Senate meeting and spoke about their experiences working with the administration to increase support to the student veteran community.
“The first thing I want to say is thank you,” Behrendt told the Senate. “I’ve been here for four years advocating individually … and this is the first time that I’ve seen students say we matter, and that’s impactful.”
Behrendt shared that when he asked the administration why the University does not acknowledge Veterans’ Day as a holiday, he was initially told that no holidays that fall on Monday are acknowledged by the University.
The answer Behrendt got once he pointed out that many Monday-falling holidays are celebrated by Stanford was, “We just don’t celebrate Veterans’ Day.”
“I thought that was very strange; no answer given. And so, frankly, it’s very neat to see students [saying], ‘You matter,’” Behrendt said.
“We’re basically here to hopefully educate you guys a little bit about what we’re going through so that our voices can be heard,” McReynolds added.
Senators then asked questions about the resolution. Senator Martin Altenburg ’21 wanted to be sure that everything included in the slightly lengthy resolution is actually enacted. Senator Gabe Rosen ’19 spoke to making an explicit partnership between the ASSU and the Stanford Undergraduate Veteran Association long-term.
The resolution will be reviewed and revised before it is voted on at next week’s Senate meeting.
A bill introduced by Senator Gabe Rosen ’19 would create a committee called the Associated Students of Stanford University Joint Legislative Committee on Course Enrollment Equity. The committee would be comprised of “two members of the Undergraduate Senate’s Academic Affairs Committee, two members of the Graduate Student Council and two representatives from the Executive Branch,” according to the bill itself.
“[The committee] would interface with any pre-existing University committee to address course fees and equity concerns regarding course enrollment and other forms of academic achievement on campus,” Rosen said.
The body of the bill includes statistics on the real issue that course fees serve for both the undergraduate and graduate student bodies. A survey conducted by the ASSU found that 57 percent of undergraduate students expressed that course enrollment fees “affect or very much affect their class schedule each quarter” and 20 percent of graduate students “avoid classes with fees that are outside their department.”
The language of the bill also mandates that the committee be filled by the end of this quarter, making it the responsibility of the next round of senators once they’re elected. Passing along institutional knowledge in this form is something that past Senates have struggled to do and one of the reasons current senators have run into trouble when trying to complete their projects.
“This would place a mandate on the immediately incoming Senate to make sure that this process is completed, and it’ll ensure also that the grads will be looped in as well,” Rosen said.
He closed, saying he’d like to “hit the ground running to address a systemic issue that has been a barrier to many students on this campus.”
The bill was passed unanimously.
Senate institutional knowledge
Senator Martin Altenburg ’21 also introduced a new bill that would require senators to annually report their progress on projects and helpful knowledge garnered through the process to the Senate’s communications committee. The penalty for not reporting such information would be the loss of their stipend.
“I realized looking at Daily articles and throughout this year a lot of concerns that us, members of the Undergraduate Senate, have had is that when we start a project we don’t really know who to contact or it’s difficult to access the administration or we are also working on a project that has already been taking on in another way,” Altenburg said.
Altenburg hopes that, if passed, the bill will provide increased institutional knowledge to Senators as well as more specific and direct information for the public.
Senators offered some grammatical suggestions and tweaked the wording during the discussion period. The bill will be revised and voted on at next week’s Senate meeting.
The meeting closed with a unanimous vote on a bill that instates Caddell as Loupeda’s proxy during her quarter abroad. Caddell served as a Senator in the 19th Undergraduate Senate.
Contact Zora Ilunga-Reed at zora814 ‘at’ stanford.edu