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OPINIONS

unSAFE Reform

Incomplete: a term synonymous with the current SAFE Reform Initiative. While some have publicized the bill’s potential to “completely overhaul the current student activities funding system,” they have neglected the holes that exist. Although it is necessary to solve the increasing undergraduate student activities fee, SAFE Reform hastily attempts to do something, overlooking the potential side-effects of its conflicting language. We, the Students of Color Coalition (SOCC), have done our due diligence and identified a number of holes in the discourse surrounding the bill. As such, SOCC does not support SAFE Reform.

We applaud the tireless efforts of those working to rectify the current system’s failures. Najla Gomez ’14 and NAACP Presidents Melvin Boone ’14 and Tianay Pulphus ’13 have been meeting with the authors of the SAFE Reform bill, Justine’16 and Olivia Moore ’16, to create a funding solution since the Moore twins were first hired by Stephen Trusheim ’13 M.S. ’14 last year. However, the bill remains unable to answer fundamental concerns relating to student groups.

The main issues with the bill revolve around the funding board, its selection process and accountability for its decisions. While a number of bill advocates have stated that the funding board will be comprised of seven students, including three unelected members and four senators, the bill’s language leaves room for other possibilities.

Specifically, Article IV, entitled “Appointments,” states: “Four [members of the board] shall be elected representatives of the student body as members of the ASSU Undergraduate Senate, and three shall be appointed by the outgoing Funding Board.” However, Appendix II, Section 2, states: “The Funding Board shall be comprised of at least seven members, at least three of whom shall not hold elected office in the Association.” As such, the final composition of the board could be less representative than publicized, with a larger portion of the board than in previous years being appointed rather than elected members. The bill is unclear on how the board, which decides the allocation of undergraduate activity fees, will be chosen, increasing bureaucracy and reducing democracy in student group funding. This inconsistent language highlights the hasty manner in which this bill was composed, and the dangers of allowing such ambiguity to become part of the ASSU constitution.

We believe in our communities and our value on this campus. So often SOCC groups have to remind students and others that our cultural activities matter to the entire Stanford community. That somehow our events do not engage the greater Stanford community is a troubling misconception. With that in mind, it concerns us that this bill currently lacks any metrics on how events will be evaluated for approval. This extends beyond SOCC communities into all other student groups that rely on Stanford for funding. Specifically, the future distribution of the new quick and minor grants is unclear, as the bill does not provide any criteria that will allow the Funding Board to determine which events to fund. Without an explicit framework, the Funding Board’s decisions will depend on its composition and individual subjectivities. This further demonstrates how the SAFE Reform is not yet ready for implementation.

As student leaders, we cannot, in good conscience, advocate for a bill that leaves room for error. On several occasions, SOCC leadership reached out directly to the bill co-authors to express our concerns. We requested to postpone the vote on the bill to better educate the student body and resolve the bill’s remaining unpolished components. However, our request was rejected and we have been told that the bill’s current issues can be fixed after approval.

This course of action is not in the interest of student groups. As we have stated and will continue to state, we believe in submitting a complete bill to be voted upon by the student body, rather than a vague framework lacking specifics in crucial areas we have questions. SOCC believes in working on SAFE Reform further in order to provide a comprehensive bill for the Stanford student body.

Though the current funding system needs to be improved, a hasty fix is not the answer. While some may argue that SOCC’s “No” Campaign against SAFE Reform relies heavily on speculation, we cannot help but speculate about a bill that leaves its most important features to the whim of our successors. Nothing about that scenario seems SAFE at all.

 

The Students of Color Coalition,

 

Nujsaubnusi Vue,’14 and Kevin Sunga,’15

Asian American Students’ Association, Co-Chairs

 

Kaela Farrise ’14 and Wade Morgan’15

Black Student Union, Co-Presidents

 

Ireri Hernandez,’15 and Stephanie Navarro 15

Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, Co-Chairs

 

Hana Al-Henaid 14

Muslim Student Awareness Network President

 

Tianay Pulphus 14 and Melvin Boone’14

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Co-Presidents

 

Maxine Fonua 14, Maruskha Hirshon14 and MichaeLynn Kanichy 14

Stanford American Indian Organization, Co-Chairs

 

Contact the Students of Color Coalition at socc.app@gmail.com.

  • Josh

    This is ridiculous. I read SOCC’s email to everyone under the sun yesterday, and they completely changed their complaints for this piece. Are they just opposed to change that they can’t control? Are they afraid that small groups can become bigger and threaten their stranglehold on the ASSU? Are they afraid that cutting the student fee benefits students more than anything they’ve ever done?

    “Without an explicit framework, the Funding Board’s decisions will depend on its composition and individual subjectivities.”
    Well gee, that sounds a whole lot like the elected reps on the Senate (and even more, the whole student body) like it i today, only worse because community representatives CURRENTLY HAVE NO VOICE like they would with the Funding Board. They complain about MEChA’s funding, WHICH WAS CUT BECAUSE IT WENT TO STUDENT VOTE AND APPARENTLY THAT WAS BAD. You can’t have it both ways.

    “we cannot help but speculate about a bill that leaves its most important features to the whim of our successors”
    The most important part of SAFE Reform is saving me 20% while giving student groups hundreds of thousands of dollars more money. The rest — like the exact composition of the funding board and the exact metrics by which the funding will be doled out — are details that we can work out later, with our elected representatives in charge of proposing reform. I’m okay with that.

    I’m absolutely sick of scare tactics for absolutely no reason. I want the positive change that SAFE makes, even if it’s not 100% perfect yet, because we have a WHOLE YEAR to fix the tiny details.

  • Disgruntledbsumember

    Why is SOCC picking fights to stay relevant??? They are destroying their coalition by continuing to be illogical

  • Wingman

    I can’t even…I understand opposing the bill, but these reasons? And this hypocrisy and inconsistency?

    I’m a student of color. I think that the events put on by groups like the BSU, NAACP, etc are extremely valuable to the community. However, there are so many groups on campus, almost all of which provide value to the community. Look at the Special Fees request for the BSU and NAACP. Almost every other group decreased requests, many by massive amounts. Yet these two both requested for increases, on top of the already large reserves that they have. To me, this shows me that they don’t want change. If they made a sacrifice (ie…maybe just not building up reserves this year), AND opposed this reform, I could understand.

    Beyond that…the reasons here are not the same in the mass email they sent a couple of nights ago.

    And some of these reasons are just semantics. I understand that semantics can be important in legislation, but have faith. “Could be composed of seven”, I bet SOCC can put enough pressure (or even have their members volunteer…) to make there seven.

    Most infuriatingly, they haven’t proposed a countermeasure. If they got together and clearly wrote at least an outline of a bill they would support, they’d have much more credibility. Instead, they ask for more funds, continue to be part of the problem, and offer no solutions.

    The special fees system is broken. With more and more people opting out (I will be opting out of these groups and giving my funds to charity in protest), special fees will eventually fail. When this happens, we will ask “Why didn’t SOCC do anything about it?”

  • Anna

    Hey all! My name is Anna Breed, and I’m the current Deputy Chair on Senate. I would strongly encourage that if you feel passionate about ANY of the reasons brought forth on these comments, that you RALLY for SAFE reform and help get the word out to vote yes. Dealing with our current system has been a major pain for Senate and student groups alike, and we have literally been working on this for a year. Please send out emails, talk to your friends, tell your dorm, that SAFE reform should pass.
    Thank you, and if you have any questions, I am reachable at abreed@stanford.edu

  • unSAFE

    The current system has a balance of elected officials, student body vote, and reserves for funding events. Part of that is to have as much student body control as possible (1st two), but part of that is to have a back up option in case a year comes when everyone gets swayed by rhetoric (the 3rd). The new system shifts power away from these and towards the Funding Board. This is why there is so much concern about the make-up of the Funding Board. It is said that communities will be reached out to, but this could easily be an empty promise without more specific language.

    The comments made on the funds of NAACP and BSU below have no knowledge of their spending. They are literally spouting rhetoric about the use of reserves in minority communities that has been repeated for years and years.

    SOCC isn’t opposed to change at all, and has actually been collaborating with the co-authors to come up with a responsible funding reform solution. The solution as presented is incomplete.

    It is said that we have a WHOLE year to fix the details – essentially to complete writing the bill. But when looking at funding reform on the scale of years, and possibly decades to come, why should we pass a bill with the details not filled in instead of just filling in the details first? This is SOCC’s proposed solution – not a 100% new countermeasure, just simply asking the writers of the bill to finish what they started before asking us to sign off on it as a student body. I know it’s rush season and all, but do we really have to rush our funding reform too?

  • Wingman

    Thanks for your response, I appreciate hearing your points. I do want to push back on one, however, that we have “no knowledge” of your spending.

    I think there are two problems with this statement

    1) the budget for last year and proposed for next year are public, and some of us have read them line-by-line.
    2) that logic would say almost every student should abstain on almost every measure

    I really want to stress that we disagree on thoughts and principle, not knowledge, and I respect your opinion and our disagreement.

  • Numair

    I think there’s a really interesting dynamic here. One point of tension that I’d like to have clarified is views on how this reform will affect groups that don’t get funding. I’ve seen a lot of talking at each other on this point, but not a lot of talking to each other. The anti-SAFE side says that, without being able to build up funds, groups that don’t get funding will not be able to run. The pro-SAFE side has people who say that minor grants will be able to make up for this much better than reserves, and some that say that, if the university student body is opposed to a group, then their money shouldn’t be used for it. I’m more sympathetic to the pro-SAFE side on this issue, but I’m really interested in hearing your response.

  • Light

    The new system has a balance of elected officials, student body vote, and reserves:
    – The funding board sees most requests, and is the main place to decide funding, BUT
    – A group can petition the Senate directly if the Funding Board isn’t being fair AND
    – A group can petition the student body directly if both the Funding Board and the Senate aren’t being fair. That’s just like Special Fees today.

    As to “why pass this now?” — because it’s positive change now, not the potential for maybe positive change in the future… it’s taken a year of research and meetings with you, by your own count.

    It sounds like even you / SOCC think it’s good, there’s just one concern that you have. It sounds like the ASSU people think that concern can be worked out next year, and it sounds like they want to work with you. On top of that, SOCC is endorsing like eight of the Senators who will be making change. I don’t know if you think they’re lying or what, but it sounds to me like a good spot for you to be in.

    I really just don’t get it. With all respect, too — I want to hear your side.

  • stanfordtree

    I agree Light. It seems like SOCC et all is missing the forest (overall really good reform) for the trees (a few issues that aren’t exactly the way they would like them)

  • Experienced Student Leader

    I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “groups that don’t get funding,” because all registered groups technically have access to at least the 6,000 dollars of general fee funding. But I think this begins to address your questions (and let me know if it doesn’t!)

    The full text of SAFE Reform: https://docs.google.com/a/elections.stanford.edu/document/d/1Xy0v5uovcAMORiIS6JLGJLdq97HX66j5WQcnk7JNu0Y/edit

    I’ve read over the legislation quite a few times, and spoken to the group spearheading the efforts in person. I think if more people read the actual text of the amendment, this issue would be more clear. Here’s my take (and, of course, it’s my interpretation of a set of governing documents/changes to those documents, so feel free to point out flaws in my logic):

    The fact is that for large groups, the process of applying for funding is exactly the same as it is today, only with a different name (major grants vs. special fees) and three small changes:

    First, the groups will now NOT be barred from requesting minor grants (the equivalent of general fees in the current system), thus giving them MORE access to money.

    Second, reserves will be limited, but definitely not completely eliminated. VSOs currently holding reserves can keep those and continue to use them, but no future reserves can accumulate. And additionally, any group can petition to accumulate more reserves if they truly need them for a legitimate reason. (See page 26 of the Google doc above).

    Finally,the very first round of recommendations will come from the newly structured funding board (the equivalent of the current appropriations committee).

    In my own opinion, the reciprocal version to SOCC’s major argument is exactly why SAFE reform is important. Currently, many of the SOCC groups are “umbrella groups,” which apply for Special Fees in one lump sum for all of their subgroups. The larger groups control the vast majority of the money that goes to those groups. SAFE reform would make it harder for the umbrella groups to control their subgroups, but make it easier for any smaller groups (and this is not specific to small SOCC groups) to access money.

    tl;dr SAFE reform would have no effect on the ability of large groups to get money for their own purposes, but it would drastically improve access to money for smaller groups.

  • Experienced Student Leader

    First, I implore everyone to do their best to read the entire text (or as much as possible) of the proposed amendments before voting. There are a lot of false claims being circulated, and while I promise the post that follows does not intentionally mislead anyone, it is but my own opinion and interpretation of the documents I’ve read.

    Full text of the amendments: https://docs.google.com/a/elections.stanford.edu/document/d/1Xy0v5uovcAMORiIS6JLGJLdq97HX66j5WQcnk7JNu0Y/edit

    I think people are misinterpreting a VERY important fact about the funding board. Yes, it includes three unelected members. This was an intentional design choice, allowing for very experienced student leaders, who may not have the time or interest for being a full-time Senator, to provide valuable input in funding decisions. Imagine if we could have the former FO of Powwow (a SOCC event, by the way), the former Financial Manager of the the ASSU, and the former FO of Stanford in Government all providing their viewpoint on the year’s funding questions. That particular combination of three is purely theoretical – I made it up to provide an illustration. But under SAFE Reform, it is possible. These three members would bring vast amounts of knowledge and experiences – things as simple as knowing roughly how much it should cost to rent a stage from Event Services, to things as complex as what types (and timing) of events will result in the biggest crowd, etc.

    THE MISINTERPRETATION is that this will lead to a decrease in democracy, and a transfer of power away from our elected officials. A second deliberate design choice is that a) 4 MEMBERS OF THE BOARD (YES, THE MAJORITY) WILL BE SENATORS, and b) it is specifically required in the amendments that appear on the ballot that THE CHAIR OF THE FUNDING BOARD MUST BE ONE OF THE SENATORS, NOT ONE OF THE APPOINTED MEMBERS.

    Additionally, the fact is that the Funding Board would not have unilateral decision making power, ever. JUST like the Appropriations Committee exists today, the board will make RECOMMENDATIONS, which must then be approved by at least one other body. For Minor Grants and larger Quick Grants, that is the Senate (the elected senate, which SOCC so avidly supports); for Major Grants, that is any combination of the Senate, the GSC, and THE POPULAR VOTE OF THE STUDENT BODY, depending on a few specifics of each case (to be clear, this is PRECISELY the process for Special Fees currently). Democracy is not being limited.

    For full disclosure, and a fair representation of the argument, there is one exception to my above point. The only appropriations that would not require approval by another body other than the funding board would be Quick Grants less than $8,000. Quick Grants are, however, necessarily more difficult to get and are only allowed in “emergency” type funding. That is why the Funding Board would be able to make those determinations alone, in the name of cutting down processing time and red tape. Still, for the reasons above (the Funding Board being majority controlled by Senators), this does not, in my opinion, limit democracy in any way.

  • Numair

    Sorry, I wasn’t clear and my statement was inaccurate. I meant to say something more like “Groups that’s special fees requests are denied.” And thanks, those were the points I was tried to say but said much more clearly and articulately.

  • Mark T

    The vitriol that ultimately surrounded this amendment was disgusting. It’s one thing to disagree with the bill, it’s another thing to personally attack the people who spent a year working on it (and in some cases, personally attack people who merely supported it). I hope all the people who were blowing up the Diaspora et al with nastiness are prepared to spend the next year coming up with something better, and I sincerely hope that next year there can be a much more cordial discussion about it. do better stanford.