Undergraduate senators pass bill to lower special fees budget increase

At its Feb. 12 meeting, the ASSU Undergraduate Senate approved a bill to lower the percent increase in funding that special fees groups can request without having to petition the student body.

Before the bill was passed, special fees groups that received funding the previous year could request a 10 percent budget increase—in addition to inflation—without having to petition. This year, special fees groups will only be allowed to request a 7.1 percent increase in the absence of any petition.

Appropriations Committee member Daniela Olivos ’15 said that the committee created the bill after reexamining funding data from previous years. Historically, special fees groups have almost never pulled more than ten percent of their budget from reserves in any given year. This led the committee to decide on a lower allowed budget increase of five percent plus 2.1 percent inflation, according to Olivos.

“When we were reevaluating the 10 percent increase, we thought that it was a substantial amount,” Olivos said. “We were also thinking that since 10 percent is such a big number, groups should petition if they want to have another event or have something larger.”

Appropriations Committee Chair Nancy Pham ’14 said that financial officers were informed of the change at a mandatory workshop for special fees groups, but that some groups may have been confused by the fact that the online documents had not been updated and still reflect last year’s allowed budget increase.

However, Pham downplayed the probability of any special fees groups having difficulty with the new policy, saying that the committee will work with groups who would like to cut down their budget to the 7.1 percent increase but were not able to do so.

“We haven’t received any emails about it,” said Olivos, adding that financial officers were first told about the change at a meeting on Feb. 4. “There has been time for financial officers to submit their budget and ask questions.”

The Senate voted unanimously to pass the bill.

ASSU Assistant Financial Manager Stephen Trusheim ’13 M.S. ’14 announced that Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE) will be launching a low-risk loans program for ticketed events within the next few weeks.

Trusheim said that the program would give senators the option to loan money to groups who need funding for ticketed events upfront, with the expectation that these groups will pay back the Senate after collecting money for tickets. Historically, the Senate has subsidized these events from general fees funds and allowed groups to keep the ticket money.

Trusheim worked with Senator Lauren Miller ’15 and Olivos to upload the ASSU’s governing documents onto a Wiki form. In the past, senators have discussed the difficulty of finding and updating the governing documents.

“It’s going to be an easily accessible version of the documents and also provide a way for the Senate to go in and amend them when a bill gets passed,” Miller said about the Wiki. “It’s locked so that only certain people can edit the documents, but it’s an easy way for anyone to go on and see things.”

Senators also passed two Publications Board bills, allocating $6,000 to the Stanford Undergraduate Research Journal and $3,333 to the Stanford Journal of International Relations, though Publications Board chair Kathleen Chaykowski ’13 did not attend the meeting to present the bills. Chaykowski is a Daily staffer.

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  • Student group FO

    Did the Appropriations Committee not receive any emails on this change because student groups are fine with their possible budget increase shifting from 10 to 5 % or was it because the Senate and Appropriations Committee did nothing to talk to FOs or any students about this shift? Definitely the second. Where was the effort to create dialogue on this? Who was advocating for student groups while this change was shoved through the legislative process? Maybe FOs didn’t raise the issue because the shift was presented as fact at the mandatory Special Fees info sessions, not as pending legislation. The deadline to submit Special Fees budgets was 5 p.m. on 2/12 and the Senate voted for this change at its meeting that evening. That timing is incredibly embarrassing, akin to the IRS saying “trust us, guys, Congress is gonna vote to change the tax code on April 16 and it’s going to affect this year’s returns.” That would make NO sense. Senators, would you have been comfortable with this timing if the change were an increase to 15%? Or a decrease to 0%+inflation? I’m fine with 5% (it seems reasonable, especially compared to past years ricocheting between 0 and 10) but this is embarrassing if it’s how our student government operates. The power structure here is troubling, too: the Senate/ Approps Committee clearly expect FOs to come to them, but FOs have every incentive not to challenge the system that awards them money and they are busy people. If you’re in a leadership position like this, it’s on you to talk to your ‘constituents,’ not wait for emails. Senators not on the Approps committee, why did you sell or guarantee your vote and let the Elections Commission/ Approps Committee run with the new policy in advance of the actual vote? It really screams that you know you don’t have any power (Approps is all that mattes in the Senate) and that previous notice for bills is a joke.