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Senate discusses SASA, emergency buffer funds

KRISTEN STIPANOV/The Stanford Daily

KRISTEN STIPANOV/The Stanford Daily

The penultimate meeting of the 15th ASSU Undergraduate Senate focused principally on the continuation of last week’s discussion of a measure to provide the Stanford African Students Association (SASA) with emergency funding following the group’s failure to obtain special fees funding.

After making minor adjustments to the bill under discussion, Senator John-Lancaster Finley ’16 sought to clarify that the measure will not serve as a precedent for all future groups that fail to win joint special fees funding.

According to Elections Commissioner Hunter Kodama ’14, SASA’s request garnered the support of a majority of both undergraduate and graduate students but fell short of being voted on by 15 percent of the combined student populations.

However, a few senators emphasized the value of specifying which groups should be deemed valuable to students.

“It’s important we point out these three [cultural, religious and sexual] groups because they no doubt add cultural value to the school,” said Senator Hisham Al-Falih ’16. “Other groups should receive votes from the students to receive funding.”

Finley replied that the Senate needed to maintain the lack of specificity because of the potential for a future group that lies outside those groupings to add significant value.

“We need to give [a] future Senate the power to decide,” Finley said.

After further discussion, the bill passed the Senate. SASA will receive a $10,000 grant from the 16th Undergraduate Senate.

The Senate also discussed eight new bills that were on previous notice, all of which will be voted on in the last meeting of the 15th Undergraduate Senate.

The most important of the eight bills involved an “Emergency Buffer Fund Bailout of General Fees.” Authored by Senate Chair Ben Holston ’15, the bill effectively describes the current general fees situation as an “emergency” and allows the use of a buffer fund to financially support general fees groups through spring quarter.

ASSU Financial Manager and CEO of Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE) Neveen Mahmoud ’11 criticized the measure as detrimental to the future of ASSU.

“This is not an emergency situation,” Mahmoud said. “Spending 112 percent over what you were allocated to spend is not the solution to this problem.”

Mahmoud also noted the potentially detrimental precedent of using buffer funds to resolve excessive expenditures. The buffer fund, which is composed of money that is returned to the Senate every year, has no exact specifications as to how it is to be spent.

“This will perpetuate the mindset that [using buffer fund money to fund general fees] is ok and in five years all the money will be gone,” Mahmoud said. “You are saying that it is ok to do things that students did not give you permission to do.”

Mahmoud also clarified that groups aren’t automatically entitled to the $6,000 in funding allowed each general fees group.

“Not having money left in general fees fund is what it is, it’s not an emergency situation,” said Assistant ASSU Financial Manager Stephen Trusheim ’13 M.S. ’14. “We’ve done what we can do to support groups; continuing spending money is not how to stop overspending money.”

The Senate concluded by postponing this bill until next week.

Other bills discussed included a bill to confirm Justine Moore ’16 and Olivia Moore ’16 as ASSU Assistant Financial Managers, replacing Trusheim; a bill to approve the fiscal year 2015 ASSU Operating Budget and a bill to approve the collection, disbursement and refund schedule of undergraduate and graduate student fees for fiscal year 2014.

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

About Peter Samuel Moon

Peter is currently a deputy desk editor and a freshman majoring in economics (anticipated). He enjoys soccer, basketball, and fitness.
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