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ASSU Senate plans to spend part of its $1.2 million reserves

At its Nov. 27 meeting, the Undergraduate Senate discussed a bill that would allocate $40,000 from its general fees funds to student group events in winter quarter.

The bill, which will be voted on at next week’s meeting, proposes the creation of a pilot program called “Redefining Winter: The 40K Challenge,” which would allow the Senate to allocate up to $40,000 from its more than $1.2 million in reserve funds to groups hosting on-campus events.

The program would allow general fees groups that could use more funding than the $6,000 maximum to apply for grants. The “40K Challenge” bill was proposed after the Appropriations Committee discussed ways to reduce the size of the reserve and buffer funds with Assistant Financial Manager Stephen Trusheim ’13.

“We wanted to find a way to use it that would help benefit student life on campus,” said Appropriations Committee Chair Nancy Pham ’14.

Appropriations Committee members are currently in the process of determining a set of guidelines to decide whether or not a group’s application should be approved.

Pham said that while the committee has not yet decided how large the grants will be, they are considering creating an $8,000 grant and several grants ranging from $2,000 to $3,000.

Senators debated whether or not the grants should be given only to groups that run established events or to groups that want to create new events.

Nanci Howe, associate dean and director of Student Activities and Leadership, said that because of the pilot program’s winter quarter launch, the Senate should consider allocating funding only to groups with established events. She said it would be “impossible” for a group to plan and execute a new event in such a short period of time.

Howe also advised senators to allocate the funds to larger events that require more money.

“Fund two or three events with that $40,000 and have a new impact,” Howe said. “One thousand dollars or $2,000 will have no impact, in my opinion.”

Senator Viraj Bindra ’15 asked about the possibility of individuals receiving funding to launch events. According to Howe, this is prohibited by University policy, as individuals would need a group sponsor to take on the responsibility and liability for the event. Deputy Chair Garima Sharma ’15 said that money from the general fees reserves could only go to general fees groups, whose unspent money makes up the reserves, and not to individuals.

While some senators were wary about voting on the bill due to the current lack of guidelines, Sharma said that the proposal will be refined by next week, when the Senate will vote on it. When Senator Brandon Hightower ’15 asked if they could wait to vote on the bill until winter quarter, Sharma expressed concern about the bill being postponed indefinitely if it is not voted on next week.

“This is something that is going to get rid of the money that we should have ideally gotten rid of,” said Sharma. “Right now, this is what we should do.”

According to Sharma, if the Senate votes to institute the grant program and the program is successful, guidelines will be added to the Senate bylaws so that the program continues in the future.

The Senate also received an update from Bindra on the progress of its Alternative Review Process (ARP) subcommittee. Bindra said that the Senate ARP committee will be meeting with the Graduate Student Council ARP committee at least three times in the next two weeks to discuss the ARP.

Bindra said it was too soon to tell if the committees were going to recommend any modifications to the ARP, but predicted that they would submit any proposed changes to the Board of Judicial Affairs by the end of the quarter.

Senators also voted to allocate $4,284.21 to publications recommended by the ASSU Publications Board and $10,584.42 to other general fees groups. The Senate will have its last meeting of fall quarter next week and will vote on several funding bills as well as the grant program bill.