As the 14th ASSU Undergraduate Senate leaves office, many of the body’s accomplishments are some that a majority of students may already take for granted.
The Senate finally completed their website, which had been under construction for more than a year, started live-tweeting during meetings and approved every funding request save one, rejecting an application from FLiCKS, a student group that shows movies at University auditoriums, because of a $9,900 request for officer salaries.
However, FLiCKS successfully petitioned the student body and received special fees while the ASSU Legal Counseling Office, which has been funded by special fees for the last 20 years, fell 17 votes short of receiving money. In a final flurry of activity at their last meeting, senators decided to fund the Legal Counseling Office out of general fees reserves regardless.
“Special fees…is definitely a really complex process,” said Christos Haveles ’15, who became chair of the Appropriations Committee after former chair Nancy Pham ’14 left to study abroad in Beijing this quarter.
The by-laws of the ASSU Undergraduate Senate explicitly bar senators from studying abroad while in office, saying that senators “shall remain on campus for the duration of their term.” Senators that are not on campus are to be “automatically expelled.”
Small projects, lasting changes
Small projects undertaken by this year’s Senate include the opening of a music practice room in Stern Dining and the appropriation of more than $100,000 to student groups as part of a concerted effort to spend some of the $1.2 million of student money that the ASSU has accrued from unspent student group funds.
The 14th Senate’s most enduring legacy may, however, be the eventual passage of the Alternative Review Process (ARP), a revised judicial procedure for cases involving sexual assault. ASSU action on the ARP had been delayed since 2010, when the policy was originally developed, unilaterally revised and subsequently implemented by the Office of the President.
Senator Lauren Miller ’15, co-chair of the ARP committee, claimed that the urgency behind the ARP allowed the passage of a final bill. Miller’s joint committee sought to address student body concerns about the revised policy, though the final language would include controversial provisions like the establishment of the burden of proof as “preponderance of evidence” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Though Miller argued that the final document was successful, she noted that the committee would have appreciated additional input from the community.
“Ultimately, we would have liked more student voices but the fact is that we reached out multiple times and we got the responses that we did,” she said. “There is always room for improvement, but I think it was a fantastic document that the [Board of Judicial Affairs], Faculty Senate, the [Graduate Student Council] and the Senate were really happy with.”
Some senators were less effusive in their praise.
“It was a solid document that was more fair to all parties involved in such cases than its predecessor,” said ARP committee member Viraj Bindra ’15. “There’s still more room for the dialogue to continue.”
No senators sought reelection this year, a trend carried over from the previous Senate. That lack of upperclassmen representation prompted the passage of a constitutional amendment backed by incoming ASSU Executives Dan Ashton ’14 and Billy Gallagher ’14 that would reserve a certain number of Senate seats for upperclassmen.
“I think one of our biggest goals is re-legitimizing the ASSU,” Ashton said, referencing efforts to motivate upperclassmen to join an organization dominated by rising sophomores. “[Outgoing ASSU Executives] Robbie [Zimbroff '12 M.A. '13] and Will [Wagstaff '12 M.A. '13] have done a great job of turning around a ship that probably wasn’t in the right direction, and I think we can build off of that.”
Even though Bindra expressed some disillusionment with the Senate as an institution, he voiced commitment to its broader goals.
“I think the thing that I’ve realized most [this] year is that the Senate is not the vehicle of massive or institutional change that I expected it to be when I was a [freshman],” he said. “Despite the frustrations that arise…there’s a purposeful method to the madness.”
Molly Vorwerck and Lucy Svoboda contributed to this report.