The 13th Undergraduate Senate convened for its first meeting of the 2011-12 academic year Tuesday, confirming Adam Adler ’12 as its new Elections Commissioner and discussing several upcoming bills.
Former Elections Commissioner Stephen Trusheim ’13 nominated Adler at the Senate’s final meeting of the 2010-11 school year, but the Senate postponed taking action amid concerns that Adler — then the ASSU solicitors general (SG) — misused his discretionary power as SG. After filing a complaint against former ASSU Publications Board co-director Alice Nam ’11 and former Senate Chair Madeline Hawes ’13 in response to their decision to nominate Zachary Warma ’11 to the position of publications board co-director, Adler offered his services as SG to the respondents, a move to which Nam objected at last year’s final meeting.
Prior to his confirmation, Adler fielded questions from the Senate, which focused on his platform and his involvement in the Flipside’s satirical request for a Segway in its special fees budget proposal.
In his brief outline of his plans as commissioner, Adler spoke of working with the Constitutional Council to redraft the election policies to make them “more tight” and to create an elections handbook detailing all election policies in “one spot.” He also spoke of plans to increase voter turnout and reach out to the graduate student population, a group that traditionally sees low participation in the elections.
“The last commissioner was by the book, but I want to build the elections,” Adler said. “I want to make Stanford elections something to be proud of.”
Adler is the managing editor of the Flipside, a position that he also held at the time of the publication’s controversial Segway request. Although Adlers said the stunt was not his idea, he said he supported it “wholeheartedly” as a criticism of the current special fees system.
Quoting Adler’s comment in a post by the Unofficial Stanford Blog on the debate, Senator Ben Laufer ’12 expressed concerns that Adler would misuse his position.
“You think that the special fees process was ridiculous, and the way you went about exposing that was kind of, in my opinion, snake-like,” Laufer said. “You went through the process by exploiting the system in and of itself. If you’re in the position of Elections Commissioner, my concern is what you’re going to do to the process to exploit the system.”
Adler stressed that he would ensure to avoid conflicts of interest during his term and said he would appoint a “neutral” substitute to review cases where his involvement might prompt accusations of wrongdoing.
“I’m not Robert Mugabe — I want to avoid that,” he said. “I manage the elections; I don’t want to control them.”
The Senate confirmed Adler’s nomination, with Senators Dan Delong ’13 and Laufer abstaining. As the Elections Commission is already violating bylaws by falling short of the required four members to serve on the commission, the Senate urged Adler to make filling the position of assistant commissioner his highest priority.
The Senate also heard from publications board chair Kate Abbott ’12, who announced that the board will hold its first all-editorial meeting next Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. and a publications open house on Oct. 6 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., both in Old Union. The board is currently working with Student Activities and Leadership to determine better distribution strategies for the publications it oversees.
Appropriations Committee Chair Brianna Pang ’13 then presented funding bills for the evening, noting that Barrio Assistance, a tutoring service group, asked for $700 to pay for unspecified damages to a rental car.
President Michael Cruz ’12 joined several senators in expressing concern over the fact that many student groups often use similarly vague statements when requesting budget modifications from the Appropriations Committee. The Senate voted to table the bill until the financial officer of Barrio Assistance could meet with the committee to further explain its request.
The Senate approved all other funding bills for the evening.