Senate debates special fees refunds, janitors

The ASSU Undergraduate Senate opened Tuesday night’s meeting with a discussion featuring Jeanette Smith-Laws, director of operations and student unions. After talking about how to better utilize spaces in Old Union and Tresidder, funding bills for various student groups were all passed unanimously, with only a few abstentions due to conflicts of interest with senators.

The first bill discussed among the senators dealt with the special fees refund process — specifically, how the identities of students who request refunds are distributed to various groups.

Sebastain Gould ’12, an Iraq War veteran, spoke to the Undergraduate Senate about the bill and strongly opposed the idea of releasing student names to groups, calling such a move a violation of privacy.

“I don’t think student groups should have a list of students who are poor or morally opposed [to a group],” Gould said.

Senators Dan DeLong ‘13 and Ben Laufer ‘12 said Gould’s point was valid. However, other senators noted that the ASSU Constitution specifically allows for student groups to deny services to those students who request refunds.

Senator Dan Ashton ‘14 responded to concerns about group leaders abusing these lists and said people should trust student leaders to handle the lists.

“We need to have faith in students,” Ashton said.

“The very reason you’re passing this bill is because you don’t trust students,” Gould said in response.

A motion was passed to end the debate after 30 minutes, but the conversation continued outside of the meeting between ASSU President Michael Cruz ‘12, bill sponsor Brianna Pang ‘13 and Gould.

Further discussion about the issue occurred near the end of the meeting. Following an initial 5-5 split vote, the bill kept its original form and the senators approved the release of both names and SUID numbers.

The bill passed 11-1, with only Laufer in opposition. Laufer expressed lingering concerns over giving student groups the names of people who asked for special fees refunds. He added that if groups use the list, it would make for long lines and a huge hassle for events.

“I wanted to defend as many privacy issues as possible,” Laufer said, while acknowledging that groups should have the ability to enforce regulations.

The next bill under discussion involved the controversy regarding the impending layoffs of janitors at Stanford. Representatives from the Stanford Labor Action Coalition (SLAC) encouraged the ASSU to pass a resolution of support in an attempt pressure the University to keep these janitors employed.

Several senators expressed hesitation in encouraging the University to engage in actions where it may not have a legal basis. Jeff Wachtel, senior assistant to University President John Hennessy, has previously said that the University “will not interfere in the agreement and has no right to do so.”

“I don’t think this is the responsibility of the Undergraduate Senate,” Laufer said. “I don’t think we necessarily have enough information to make a decision yet. I don’t know if what we do will have any impact on the University either.”

Senator Tara Trujillo ‘14 argued that this was an opportunity to show that the student body cares about the issue and to give the University a larger reason to act.

The bill was later amended to encourage the University based on its moral — rather than legal — obligation to act. Language that implied the termination of the janitors would be ‘unfair’ was removed; the bill simply states that the janitors’ jobs are being terminated. The bill was passed unanimously after these amendments.

The meeting concluded with Cruz giving his executive report to the Senate, which included details on a meeting with Vice Provost Greg Boardman about the role of the ASSU. Cruz and the Senate discussed plans to establish a committee to help work with community centers on campus.

About Brendan O'Byrne

Brendan is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily. Previously he was the executive editor, the deputy editor, a news desk editor and a writer for the news section. He's a history major originally from New Orleans.
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