Senate discusses SAFE Reform proposal

KRISTEN STIPANOV/The Stanford Daily

KRISTEN STIPANOV/The Stanford Daily

The 15th ASSU Undergraduate Senate voted to approve the Student Activities Fee (SAFE) Reform proposal at its meeting Tuesday evening.

Authored by various members of the ASSU, including co-president Dan Ashton ’14 and financial analysts Justine Moore ’16 and Olivia Moore ’16, the SAFE proposal aims to lower the student activities fee, recycle unused money currently trapped in the system and make it easier for student organizations to apply for funding.

Its passage as an amendment will require two-thirds approval from the Senate, two-thirds approval from the Graduate Student Council and a majority of yes votes from at least 15 percent of the undergraduate student population in the spring election. If approved, the reform will be fully implemented in the 2015-16 academic year.

Before turning to writing the actual amendment, the Senate had spent several meetings debating the inefficiencies in the allocation of funding to student organizations.

“The SAFE Reform Bill will simplify the complex special fees process,” said Angela Zhang ’16, appropriations committee chair. “It is definitely an improvement from the current system.”

Justine Moore and Olivia Moore explained that Major, Minor and Quick Grants will replace the pre-existing system of special and general fees.

“Like Special Fees, Major Grants will be the major source of funding for big student organizations,” Justine Moore said. “Prior to putting the grants on ballot, they have to be approved by the Funding Board and Senate.”

Replacing the Appropriations Committee, the Funding Board will be responsible for the allocation of student fees. It will be composed of four senators and three non-Senate members appointed by the outgoing Funding Board.

Under the proposed reform, all organizations will have the opportunity to apply for Minor Grants, which are available once a month and will effectively replace the current system of general fees funding. Quick Grants will also be made available to organizations that need big one-time expenses or last-minute funding for activities they couldn’t have requested in advance.

Under the proposal’s stipulations, special fees groups will also have their reserves frozen on June 30 this year. The groups will subsequently be able to spend the reserves but not add to them.

Finally, SAFE Reform also proposes limiting increases in student activities fees. Student fee may be subject to increase by inflation and the Senate will be able to vote annually to increase the fee, but this will be limited to no more than 5.5 percent over inflation.

The Senate ended the meeting with Zhang’s update on the recommended budget for the Robotics Club, which was reduced by approximately $90,000 from the proposed estimate of $150,000 in response to the late submission of the group’s special fees application.

 

Contact Peter Moon at pmoon ‘at’ stanford ‘dot’ edu.

A previous version of this article said that for approval of the SAFE Reform 15 percent of the voters would be required, however the correction was made that this was actually 15 percent of voters that would need to vote with a majority approving. Additionally, the previous version had reported that only smaller organizations would be able to apply for Minor Grants when in truth, all organizations are able to apply for the Minor Grants. The Daily regrets these errors. 

About Peter Samuel Moon

  • bittergradguy

    While there are several positives in combining the general and special fees, adding in flexibility, and reducing the student fee, this proposal remains intellectually dishonest and we need to evaluate it more carefully.

    These reforms assume that the unused money has not been put to good use and that the reserves should be combined. Reserve data doesn’t include information from pre 2008 which I remind you included a massive economic crash and required drastic rebudgeting for the 2009 year.

    The proposal claims that the reduction of the fee from $143 to $120 would save money and allow it to go to Financial aid, healthcare costs, and mental health resources. That’s a straight out lie. That money is going to go directly back to the student. This is a “tax refund” not a redistribution of resources. Furthermore, the money that goes towards the ASSU doesn’t remotely go close to the mentioned purposes. This is dishonest.

    It’s not clear if this clarifies funding. From what it seems none of the FOs seem to know anything about funding. That is independent of special fees and general fees. It just means that FOs are poorly trained and the MyGroups system doesn’t allow for outsiders to make edits.

    The proposals potentially no longer allow students to waive fees. In the past, students could waive fees under the assumption that they don’t take advantage of special fee groups. However, now they will fall under the general blanket. What will their waive?

  • SAFE Reform Team

    Hello,

    Thank you for your feedback. The Student Activities Fee is funded in part by General Funds, since the fee for some students is paid by Financial Aid. The SAFE Reform bill includes a letter to President Hennessy and Provost Etchemendy asking them to re-budget the General Funds that are saved from the reduction in the fee to services that directly benefit undergraduates, which could include healthcare costs and mental health resources.

    As part of the SAFE Reform team’s research, we surveyed 129 financial officers last spring and spoke to many others this fall and winter. We also send out a quarterly survey to all students who waive their Student Activities Fee. One of the most common concerns we have heard is that the distinction between General Fees and Special Fees groups is extremely confusing, particularly because the two types of groups basically have two different funding systems. Under SAFE Reform, all groups will be united under one system and will operate under the same funding rules and policies, and any group can apply to receive any type of grant.

    Students will still be able to waive their Student Activities Fee. Currently, students can waive the entire fee or choose specific Special Fees to waive. In the new system, students will go through the same process but can choose specific Major Grants to waive.

    If you have any other questions or concerns about SAFE Reform, please feel free to email us at safe@assu.stanford.edu.

    Thank you,

    Olivia Moore ’16 & Justine Moore ’16
    on behalf of the SAFE Reform team