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GSC debates approval process for discretionary funds

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The Graduate Student Council (GSC) at its Wednesday meeting passed a resolution to support Asian and Pacific Islander (API) students during the COVID-19 pandemic and discussed a bill to codify guidelines for approving discretionary purchases.  

The resolution, which passed unanimously, supports API members of the Stanford community and condemns racism during COVID-19. It encourages individuals to participate in online bystander intervention training for responding to anti-Asian racism and participate in conversations around the Asian American experience. 

Later in the meeting, councilors discussed a bill that would require full council approval for discretionary purchases over $250 and mandate that approved charges cannot be reversed. When introducing the bill, GSC Social Chair and second-year computer science master’s student Adam Keppler, who authored the bill, noted that discretionary funds are funds used for subcommittees of the GSC, such as for its diversity and advocacy committee (DAC) or social committee. 

Upon its introduction, Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE) accounting manager Susan Benton said the bill’s clause stating that approved charges cannot be reversed directly conflicts with the GSC’s internal control system. 

“You can have a discretionary account of course, but you can never approve your own expense regardless of what the dollar value is,” Benton said. “It needs to have a secondary approval and go through all the steps.” 

Keppler countered that if passed, discretionary purchases would still have to go through all councilors, including the financial officer and chair, thereby satisfying the requirement of “secondary approval.” 

“If the whole GSC has voted on the proposal and approved it, then the council should not be able to reverse it,” Keppler siad. 

Other councilors said that rather than trying to rewrite or pass the bill, SSE and the financial officer and chair of the GSC should work together to write guidelines regarding discretionary purchases. 

“A better format might be a set of guidelines that says, ‘This is how we expect our funding to be used in discretionary,’ and then if there are questions that aren’t resolved in the guidelines, that’s when we should go to the financial officer or the co-chairs,” said second-year earth systems science Ph.D. candidate Amina Ly. “For these people, it’s their job to understand the context of where the money is coming from, and asking the entire GSC to vote on every expenditure is a heavy lift that will take a lot of time.” 

Other councilors agreed with Ly, and the GSC voted to table the bill and discuss the matter further at the next meeting.  

In an update from Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE), representative Justin Akers said that the results of the graduate student housing lottery would be announced on June 29. 

Contact Sarina Deb at sdeb7 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Sarina Deb '23 is a Desk Editor for News. She grew up in the Bay Area and is majoring in political science. Contact her at sdeb7 'at' stanford.edu