Widgets Magazine

Senate debates allocation of discretionary fund

With eight weeks remaining in their term, the ASSU Undergraduate Senators debated at their Tuesday night meeting how to allocate the $5,800 remaining in their discretionary fund. Since only eight of the 15 Senators attended the meeting, a lack of quorum at moments during the meeting prevented the Senate from voting on several of its action items.


In open forum, Galaan Dafa ’12, representing the Stanford Association for International Development (SAID), asked the Senate for suggestions on acquiring the over $50,000 necessary to bring Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister, to speak at Stanford.


Dafa said that after receiving confirmation around four days ago that Blair is available to come to Stanford, the group has approached numerous financing organizations, attempting to accumulate the money within the next 10 days before the opportunity closes. The $50,000 is needed to pay exclusively for security and travel detail rather than honorarium, according to Dafa.


ASSU Appropriations Chair Brianna Pang ’13 expressed frustration that the ASSU Speakers Bureau hadn’t offered to support the event.


“The Speaker’s Bureau has $86,000 in their honorarium line item and $65,000 in reserves. Why can’t they pull from their reserves?” Pang said. “I feel like convincing the Speaker’s Bureau to give them the money is better than getting it from the buffer fund.”


Dafa specifically asked the Senate to consider taking the funds from the ASSU buffer fund or Senate discretionary funds, but both suggestions were rejected. Senators rebuffed the idea to use their discretionary funds since the amount would provide only a fraction of the necessary support.


Dafa claimed that he and other SAID leaders approached President John Hennessy and were advised to seek support through the Senate buffer fund. Both Senators and Director of Student Activities and Leadership (SAL) Nanci Howe expressed surprise that Hennessy would have advised this.


“I’m pretty sure we’ve tried to get Tony Blair [to come] in the last couple of years and it hasn’t worked out,” said Dafa, who expressed his frustration at being unable to finance such a prestigious speaker. “It is nice that we’ve got this [opportunity] now. Being unable to find the funding at Stanford just seems paradoxical.”


ASSU Elections Commissioner Adam Adler ’12 also requested funding from the Senate’s discretionary account for his event The Stanford 2020, a program modeled after TED Talks, at which seven to eight professors would present their research to students. Having run successfully last year, this would be the second annual Stanford 2020, Adler said.


Adler added that the event could not receive funding through an ASSU Executive Action Grant, even though it had been awarded the funding last year. When asked why they hadn’t received the grant again, Adler speculated that the Executive might have been concerned about the event conflicting with its own agenda.


“The Executive’s Service Summit is about the same time and he [ASSU President Michael Cruz ’12] didn’t want our event overshadowing his event,” Adler said. “I think that’s what he is worried about.”


“It is certainly not an obligation of the Senate to [fund] this, but it is something that is nice, and you have the money for it, and there aren’t any other initiatives on the table,” Adler added. He encouraged the Senate to draw from its discretionary funds, and said he hoped to secure the money this week so that he could focus on logistical questions, which necessitate funds before the quarter ends.


“We do have $5,800,” Senate Treasurer Ian Chan ’14 said. “I don’t see any other significant proposals by any other committees to be needing any significant funding, nor do I see us giving all our $5,800 to bring Tony Blair here. We have seen this work before and it is worth trying to get it to work again.”


The potential of the money being used to fund Tony Blair coming to campus — as well the desire to include the Executive in discussion — caused Senators Nate Garcia ’14 and Janani Ramachandran ’14, respectively, to abstain from the vote to fund Adler’s event, automatically disqualifying the budgetary allocation since fewer senators voted than was necessary for quorum.


The Senate will return to the request next week.


Without the necessary number of voters, the Senate also had difficulty passing a bill that would have extended the Special Fees submission deadline for several prominent student groups, including The Daily. Although he said he did not want to endorse the bill, Senator Ben Laufer ’12 changed his vote from abstention to approval after acknowledging the urgency of such an extension to allow the action to pass.

  • Janani Ramachandran

    Minor correction: I did not vote “abstain” on Adam Adler’s bill, but voted “no” on it, not because I did not believe in the potential success of the event (I went to it last year and certainly enjoyed it), but because I think the Senate deserves another week of discussion with other branches of the ASSU (such as the Exec) that is typically more involved with this type of funding for programming events.