At their last meeting before the ASSU’s spring elections, the ASSU Undergraduate Senate debated the possibility of altering the body’s bylaws to allow future senators to study abroad during their term.
According to Senator Viraj Bindra ’15, the debate first arose in the new subcommittee focused on facilitating the transition to next year’s Senate. Bindra said that the committee’s purpose is to generate recommendations for policy objectives for future senators, as well as to enable a smooth transition after the elections.
At a straw poll at the end of the meeting, senators Daniela Olivos ’15, Branden Crouch ’14, Brandon Hightower ’15 and Bindra said that they were open to the idea of letting senators study abroad during spring quarter.
However, other senators had reservations, bringing up logistical issues such as determining which senators could study abroad and whether senators abroad would be excluded from the Senate or offered the opportunity to remotely participate in meetings.
While Senator Anna Brezhneva ’15 said she believed the proposal would encourage more candidates to run for Senate, she believed it would have a negative impact on the Senate as a whole.
“At the end of the day, I think it is a bad idea because you can never predict the people who are going to leave or take a leave of absence,” she said. “I think it is important when you are running for Senate that you are committing to the full year, like we all did.”
ASSU Assistant Financial Manager Stephen Trusheim ’13 M.S. ’14 also expressed concerns about the proposal, citing the importance of having senators in attendance during the transition period in the spring.
Trusheim said that a proposed constitutional amendment reserving Senate seats for upperclassmen might help solve the historic underrepresentation of juniors and seniors, and suggested that if the amendment passes, the Senate “try that out” before making other changes.
Senator Shahab Fadavi ’15 agreed, arguing that while allowing some members of class president slates to study abroad works because their workload is more “seasonal,” senators need to be on campus at all times.
“We have a constant level of work, regardless of whether it is fall or winter or spring quarter,” he said. “I would say maybe even more so in spring quarter, because we have to help the next class of senators transition.”
The Senate did not come to a consensus on the issue, and agreed to continue discussion in future meetings.
Earlier in the meeting, Trusheim informed senators that fee waivers are currently above 10 percent for most special fees student groups, with between 700 and 800 undergraduate students waiving fees for all or most special fees groups.
According to Trusheim, this waiver rate is the “highest it’s been during a normal, average quarter” in his time at Stanford, though he said that the additional waivers will not affect the active budgets of groups unless they have no reserve funds.
“We’re not talking about tremendous amounts of money,” Trusheim said. “It’s probably not a big deal for most groups, but I don’t know if groups have budgeted down to every penny.”
Graduate Student Council (GSC) member Sjoerd De Ridder Ph.D.’13 also appeared at the meeting to present a bill to the Senate that, if approved, would allow the GSC to withdraw $5,000 from the Graduate Buffer Fund to advertise a concert at Frost Ampitheater in May.
Because only eight of the 13 remaining senators were present at the meeting, senators were confused about whether or not they had quorum to vote on the bill, and decided to put the bill on previous notice for a vote next week.
After a two-minute recess, senators decided that enough members were present to vote on funding bills, and approved $45,588.63 in general fees allocations and special fees modifications for 15 student groups.