The Undergraduate Senate settled into office yesterday. At its first full-length meeting Tuesday night, it confirmed the membership of Senate committees, passed funding bills and discussed two separate pieces of legislation–one that would create paid consultant positions on the ASSU Publications Board (Pub Board) and another that would establish the office of ASSU Parliamentarian.
The Senate also had its first disagreement over the purchase of balloons.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Senate passed a bill that confirmed the assignment of senators to its five different committees. The structure of these committees differs slightly from previous years. The Senate has eliminated the Communications Committee and split the Student Life, Housing and Education Committee in two. The latter’s responsibilities will now be divided between the newly formed Academic Affairs Committee and Health, Wellness, Housing and Dining Committee.
Senate Chair Rafael Vasquez ’12 asked ASSU President Michael Cruz ’12 to create these new committees.
“We would like to see how these committees work this year instead of changing the bylaws,” Vasquez said.
The Senate also confirmed the Nomination Committee’s appointments to University committees. Prior to the votes, Senator Alon Elhanan ’14 asked if there were any conflicts of interest since one of the nominees, Deepa Kannappan ’13, also serves on the Constitutional Council.
Cruz said it was not against the ASSU governing documents for members to serve concurrently on University committees. The Senate unanimously approved the nominees afterward.
The conversation then turned toward funding bills, with five different student organizations presenting requests for financial support. Since the Appropriations Committee has not had any official meetings yet, the Senators decided to go through each request line-by-line.
A request from the Stanford Israel Alliance, which included $500 to buy two balloon arches for an event to celebrate Israel Independence Day, sparked a discussion among the Senators.
“I think two arches of balloons would be awesome, but I’m not sure if that’s the best way of spending student money,” said Senator Ben Laufer ’12. “I think everything else is really awesome, but I’m not sure if that’s going to add to the event in a way that’s worth $500 to the students.”
Senator Daniel DeLong ’13 agreed, saying that balloons were not environmentally sustainable. But Vasquez said the previous Senate had approved the use of funds for balloons in the past.
“I think there are noble intentions, but nobody has taken an in-depth look at the policy yet,” said Senate Deputy Chair Dan Ashton ’14. “So until then, we should defer to the previous group.”
Instead, Senator Karl Kumodzi ’14 suggested a compromise and the Senate approved the funding bill with one revision: it would only give the group funds for one balloon arch. All other funding bills were passed.
ASSU Publications Board Director Zachary Warma ’11 then gave an update on plans to establish a publication center on the second floor of the Nitery. He presented a bill that sought to provide all campus publications with access to page layout and web design consultants. The Senate will vote on the bill next week.
During this conversation, Warma decided to take the senators to the rooms in the Nitery where the Pub Board hopes to create the publication center.
“This is the student union, so why are the doors locked?” Warma said, as he pulled the handles of the doors. University staff members are currently using the space, he said.
Nanci Howe, associate dean of the Office of Student Activities, said the issue was slightly more complicated.
“One challenge with the space is that the University has made a commitment to having spaces as open to all students as broadly as possible,” Howe said. “Do we want to have space dedicated towards publications? Does that fit with the initial mission of this space?”
“For me, I’m very supportive of student publication,” she added. “But I’m much more interested in creating a space that can be used [by] all students, rather than one labeled for publications.”
At the end of the meeting, Cruz presented a bill that would establish the position of ASSU Parliamentarian. The Parliamentarian would be in charge of keeping ASSU governing documents up-to-date and making sure that all members complied with them.
The Senate will vote on this bill at next week’s meeting.