Op-Ed: Special Fees “Blunders”? More Like Misinformation and Sour Grapes

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I would like to respond to last Friday’s editorial (“Senate Blunders Special Fees Bill”), but moreover the entire process of special fees reform that the Senate has undertaken this term.  An unfortunate aspect of ASSU’s drive to preserve campus life and protect students’ wallets has been the extraordinary amount of misinformation that has been circulated.  I will be the first to admit the Special Fees system is extremely complex.  That, however, is not an excuse to replace facts with fabrications.

First, to the bill in question that was passed on January 12th; unlike the draconian cap that “permits student groups to ask only for an inflationary adjustment in their budget” that the Daily conjured in a Feb. 2 article, the bill simply stipulates that any student group that wants to ask for more money over its previous year’s budget must come to us, the students, to petition to get on the ballot.  That’s it.  When in previous years student groups were able to jack up their budgets 10% plus inflation by only asking Aprops, now if VSOs want more of your money, then they have to petition.

This bill is part of our larger package of reforms to address VSO budgetary responsibility and slash the refund rate.  And that is the thing- the bill is just a part of the process.  The Edit Board correctly notes that the rising refund rate is tied to both increased fees and greater number of requests.  They subsequently run off the cliff by asserting that “the bill that does accomplish its purported aim“, a similar claim made by that extremely fallacious petition circulated by the Alternative Spring Break Financial Officer.  Really?  The bill is meant to force VSOs, when desiring to tax students more, to make their case to us.  Student Groups are not getting budgets capped, they are not being restricted from money; they simply need to petition if they desire substantial budget increases.

In regards to the lack of “transparency,” the Daily’s critiques are off the mark.  Go to the January 13 article, Senate moves on Special Fees, the story about the meeting in which the bill was previous noticed to the Senate and discussed for roughly 15 minutes.  Tell me where the VSO Special Fees budget bill is mentioned.  I’ll save you the hassle-it isn’t.  How can the Senate be transparent when the institution charged with informing the campus fails in its mission?  From misstating the need for previous noticing funding bills (last Tuesday’s article), to the Edit Board claiming that there are 1500 student organizations (nope) and that less than two percent of financial officers responded about these proposed changes (60% of the 51 Special Fees groups did respond), The Daily has not set the record straight.

As a final note; I believe in the value of transparency, and its necessity to supporting truly democratic governance.  While I do personally wish that Financial Officers had been given a few days more time on this year’s Special Fees policies, I will vociferously defend the work of the Appropriations Committee, which has properly followed all procedures and has even gone above and beyond in their work.  Accusations of back-door secrecy are patently absurd.  All meetings are noted on the public Senate list, which in my time at Stanford I have never once heard The Daily refer to as not public enough.  For the first time ever, this Appropriations committee has held weekly public office hours for financial officers. The vilification Anton and others have received is misguided and simply wrong.  I will not deny there is still more we can do, both in terms of publicity and reforms.  But I hope the Daily and thus the student body is adequately versed before rushing to judgments not entirely based on facts.

Zachary Warma ’11, ASSU Senator

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