Undergraduate Senate condemns anti-Asian racism, debates expanding Senate seats to include frosh

March 2, 2021, 12:33 a.m.

ASSU Undergraduate Senators sparred over the proposed Freshman Senators Act, which aims to amend the ASSU Constitution to allow frosh to serve as senators. The Senate also unanimously passed a resolution condemning anti-Asian bigotry, violence and xenophobia. 

Frosh Council members and authors of the act Jack Scala ’24 and Amira Dehmani ’24, attended Monday’s meeting to present their arguments for a Constitutional amendment which would expand the Senate from 15 to 20 seats. The ASSU Elections Commission would create a second election during week seven of fall quarter, following traditional elections held during spring quarter to accommodate the change. 

Though the first draft of the bill presented last week specifically allocated these five new Senate seats to frosh, the amended draft does not. Instead, all classes will have the ability to run for Senate in the second fall election, giving frosh an unprecedented chance to be represented on the Undergraduate Senate during their first year at Stanford.

Scala and Dehmani said that frosh, unlike other classes, are “taxed without representation,” since they pay activities fees — which they argued finance the Senate — but do not hold any Senate seats. Senator Tim Vrakas ’21 responded by saying that activities fees do not directly subsidize ASSU legislative bodies.

“Our system is the same as the grad students. If you enter as a first year grad student in the fall, you have to wait for the spring to run,” Vrakas said.

Other senators also voiced concerns. Senate Chair Micheal Brown ’22 argued that increased representation for the frosh may come at the expense of the other three classes and dubbed the bill a “false logical” plan due to its infeasibility. By implementing the act, other frosh classes from past years will have had inequitable access to the Senate, Brown said. Additionally, Senator Lenny DeFoe ’21 questioned whether incoming frosh would grasp their new environment well enough to build a successful campaign platform. 

Scala and Dehmani reiterated that the frosh deserve a voice in the Senate. They continued to lobby for an amendment, saying that changing the Constitution is the only way to increase frosh representation.

In addition to their discussion of the act, the Senate took a stand against anti-Asian racism by unanimously passing their “Resolution to Condemn Anti-Asian Bigotry, Violence and Xenophobia” in the wake of increased anti-Asian “rhetoric and violence on and off campus.” The resolution calls for increased mental health resources and accommodations for Asian faculty, students, administrators and staff; inclusion of Asian literature and knowledge in Stanford curriculum; and a concrete action plan to combat anti-Asian violence.

Jackie Henley is a writer in the News section. She is a sophomore from Glendora, California, and is studying political science. She enjoys riding horses as a member of Stanford's Equestrian team in her free time. Contact The Daily’s News section at news ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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