Widgets Magazine

Senate debates use of leftover funds

Senators held a marathon, two-and-a-half hour meeting that largely consisted of debates regarding the allocation of several thousand dollars in left-over funds from various Senate discretionary accounts.

With $5,700 remaining in Health and Wellness Committee Discretionary Funds, $600 in Traditions Fund, and $1130 in General Discretionary spending, the senators, who are hoping to have their last meeting before transition next week, debated how to allocate the money.

Chair of the Health and Wellness Committee, Taylor Winfield ’13 requested $6000 for three new initiatives designed to promote student’s happiness and wellbeing. Her proposal included the initiation of “undead” or “live” week preceding quarterly exams, which may incorporate movie night, star watching, dance and yoga classes, massage chairs, and bring-a-pet-to-class day; the development of a website that merges resources from all campus institutions addressing different aspects of student health and wellbeing; and the establishment of a fall-quarter course focused on positive wellbeing exercises and best practices.

Co-Directors of the Undergraduate Product Design Student Association also came in requesting $4500 from the ASSU discretionary fund to purchase materials for student artists to create original art for the Frost Revival Concert on May 19. They argued that the initiative would not only promote student art on campus, but would also establish precedent for displaying art at Frost Amphitheater events.

The senators also considered the possibility of an ASSU transition retreat, which Rafael Vasquez guess would cost, at most, $1000.

“We don’t want to set up the next Senate for failure,” appropriations chair Brianna Pang ’13 said, warning the senate against spending all of their discretionary accounts. The funds are designed to last through this fiscal year, which lasts until the end of July.

Laufer also expressed concern that giving a VSO discretionary funding might set a dangerous precedent.

“I’m a little concerned that we’re giving this group preference,” Laufer said, “I do think we should at least be mindful that we’re allowing a VSO to spend money out of the discretionary when there is a very clear other system for [receiving funding].” He argued that the Undergraduate Product Design Student Association should request all of their funding from the general fees account, which has about $40,000 in it for the next six weeks, according to Pang.

“I understand the principal thing, but is there really a problem with just giving them the money? We have it,” Nate Garcia ’14 said in response to Laufer’s comment, “This is just a very practical use.”

The senate decided to allocate all of their remaining Health and Wellness Committee Discretionary Funds to Winfield’s initiatives and, on a vote of 11-2, the $600 in Traditions Funding to the Product Design Association. They also approved the remaining $3900 of the VSO’s request from General Fees.

While all of the senators actively participated in discussion earlier in the night, both Ben Laufer ’12 and Chair Rafael Vasquez ’12 noted that many of the senators were absentminded and disengaged during the discussions of the new budget and the Alternative Review Process revisions.

Alon Elhanan ’14 called the first action item, a bill proposing to reestablish “uniforms” for ASSU senators on the days of their meetings, “a bad joke.” Author Brianna Pang ’13 withdrew the bill, which had garnered ridicule from Elections Commissioner Adam Adler ’12 over email on Tuesday afternoon.

Co-Director of the Publications Board Kate Abbott ’12, who waited for more than an hour before she could give her five minute report, expressed frustration over the meeting’s duration.

“It’s already been such a long meeting that we appreciate efficiency in letting you know what we’re doing,” Abbott said in response to a sarcastic comment from Elhanan, “If you have constructive and non-sarcastic comments on how to improve pub board and how to work together in the future, we’d be happy to hear them.”

The senators passed a bill modifying the non-discrimination statement in the ASSU Bylaws, an issue which the senators had debated at length in their April 10 meeting. The bill, which Senator Alon Elhanan ’14 said “actually doesn’t matter” and Ben Laufer ’12 called “mainly symbolic,” added “gender identity, national origin, religious beliefs (or lack thereof), socioeconomic status and/or veteran status” to the non-discrimination clause.

Previous Notice

The senators began discussing changes made to the budget for the upcoming Undergraduate Senate and continued debate over revisions in the Alternative Review Process (ARP), which must be approved after a two-year pilot program aimed at reducing barriers to reporting sexual assault.

The current budget’s proposal has eliminated the $3000 pay for the Senate Chair and the $1000 for Deputy Chair (among other stipends), instead choosing to grant $400 stipends for each senator. Vasquez, who authored several of the changes, had announced earlier in the meeting that he had decided to allocate the $500 remaining in his discretionary account as a grant for Treasurer Ian Chan ’14, whose work for this year’s senate of securing reimbursements and subsidies, he said, has gone above and beyond the responsibilities of a senator.

Although no one from the Board of Judicial Affairs and only one representative from the Graduate Student Council were present, the debate over the alternative review process(ARP) for sexual assault cases continued to be divisive.

“The law school professor [Dauber] really misled to the point where she even actually might have lied to us about what she said to us that civil cases do not need to be determined by unanimity,” Laufer said of the last week’s joint meeting, where members of the GSC, BJA, and senate discussed revisions of the ARP, “I’ve been at least told…that civil cases actually do need to be confirmed by unanimity; sexual offenses would be considered a civil offense.”

The senate plans to approve the new budget and conclude the debate about ARP at their meeting next week.

  • Alon Elhanan

    To be clear, I said the bill modifying the non-discrimination statement in the ASSU bylaws “didn’t matter” not because of the intent, which I wholeheartedly support, but because university administrators stated that the current non-discrimination statement already protects the added provisions from being discriminated against.

  • Wow.  I really needed to take a breath before posting in response to this one.  While I can see that some students are having an emotional reaction to the issue of the University Sexual Assault policy, accusations of dishonesty are really uncalled for and out of line.  They are also totally inaccurate since the information I gave the GSC and ASSU was entirely correct. 

    Civil cases for torts such as assault, battery, negligence or sexual battery are state law matters.  The vast majority of states do not require unanimity in civil verdicts.  California requires a 3/4  majority for a civil verdict (which is exactly what the BJA’s ARP proposal would require).  In California, the 3/4 majority is stated in Art I, Section 16 of the California Constitution. See Cal. Code Civ. Proc. Section 618 (2008) (requiring 3/4 vote for verdicts in civil cases) For a complete listing of state civil jury voting rules, showing that 33/50 states do not use unanimous verdicts in civil cases, please see this listing from the U.S. Department of Justice, Appendix Table 1: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/cjcavilc.pdf 

    For more information on California civil juries: http://www.uchastings.edu/public-law/plri/spr96tex/juryuna.html

    I think it is absolutely outrageous that the Daily would publish a statement by a student that accuses a faculty member of outright lying.  I was not mistaken but even if I was, is this really the kind of overheated talk that advances the goal of informed debate on an important issue? You never even called me to fact check that statement. Had you called, I could have given you citations above.  I am just astounded. Seriously?

  • Student

     The Daily covered a meeting in which a Senator stated that you misled. You weren’t at the meeting to provide a response. Don’t take issue with The Daily because some Senator said you were a liar in a public forum.

  • Ben Laufer

    Hi Professor,
    First off, I would like to apologize for the offensive comment. The quote was taken very much out of context, and it really only included half of what I was trying to say. I have written to the author and requested that the following changes to made to more accurately reflect what I said:“The law school professor [Dauber] really misled to the point where she even actually might have lied to us about what she said to us that sexual assault cases do not need to be determined by unanimity,” Laufer said of the last week’s joint meeting, where members of the GSC, BJA, and senate discussed revisions of the ARP, “I’ve been at least told–and these statements certainly do need to be researched more thoroughly–that sexual assault cases actually do need to be confirmed by unanimity; sexual offenses may be considered a civil or criminal offense.”At the meeting last week, I remember that you told us that a) sexual assault cases are civil matters and b) juries for sexual assault cases never have to reach a verdict unanimously.  It is my understanding that a sexual assault offense can be criminal.  In criminal offenses, my understanding is that the jury does have to reach a unanimous decision.  The article did not mention the fact that I think it is not perfectly clear that we should follow the civil suit guidelines as opposed to the criminal requirements.  In fact, I have not yet decided which standard I think the OJA should use moving forward.  It is unfortunate that the article did not directly quote me and that the elipses removed some important qualifying information.  Again, I apologize for the accusatory statement; my intention was not to offend. You are obviously more knowledgeable than I about the relevant law and I would like to hear your thoughts moving forward. I hope to see you next week.All the best,Ben  

  • A Question

    Judicial Affairs sanctions are arguably more serious than monetary (i.e. the penalty in a civil case) especially when a multi-quarter/year suspension is being considered or even expulsion. Why is such a low standard as preponderance appropriate? Is a Judicial Affairs case regarding a fundamental standard violation (let’s say sexual assault) more analogous to a civil case or a criminal case?

  • Ben Laufer

    Were you at the meeting, anonymous? If you were, you would know that I did not call Professor Dauber a liar.  I was partially misquoted and misrepresented.  While it is true that I, regretfully, used the word “lied,” in my mind, there is a very big difference between saying that someone “misled” and “might have lied,” and explicitly calling someone a liar.  Regardless, I apologize for my slip of the tongue.    

  • A Question

    And there is also the issue of a guilty verdict being permanently on a student’s record.

  • Dear Ben:

    Thank you for your note.  Unfortunately your “corrected” comment isn’t really any improvement and the Daily still failed to fact check your statement or solicit a response from a faculty member accused of lying by a student.  I appreciate your apology but this whole episode really falls short of what I expect in terms of adult responsibility both from you and from the Daily.I am certain that I said at the meeting that this is not a criminal matter and that it would be akin to a civil matter and that I clearly stated that it is more common for  civil juries to use non-unanimous verdicts.  I recall this because there was some discussion about whether I was referring to civil or criminal proceedings and I specifically said that this would be a tort, that I teach Torts at SLS and if anyone was interested in that topic.  The point furthermore I was making is that civil suits for damages all use the “preponderance” standards, that unanimity is not generally required in civil juries.I was responding to the question of whether we should raise our requirement to require unanimity in response to the lowered burden of proof, and I was stating my view that such an adjustment would be unnecessary since our system would now track the civil justice system, which seems to be working just fine. It is further my recollection that the law student there to argue for unanimity at the meeting responded that yes, it’s true that civil juries use both the preponderance standard and the majority jury verdict, but that he felt that being suspended from Stanford was more like a criminal than a civil penalty.Parenthetically, I would like to say that however much you value your chance to have an education at Stanford, having to be suspended for some period of time is not the same as going to prison or otherwise losing your liberty.  It is a financial penalty, equivalent to the difference between what you earned while out of school or the lost value of earnings during the delayed period when a responsible student would have had his degree and been working.  At it’s worst, if a student was expelled, which is a very rare sanction even for sexual assault, it would be the lost value of the Stanford degree versus the degree that the responsible student eventually earned from whatever other school he ended up attending. That is not like going to San Quentin or Lompoc. It’s not even like picking up trash at the side of the road. It is a civil penalty. Period.On this, let me just add that the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights enforcement agrees with me, since they are the agency that mandated Stanford to reduce our burden of proof from “beyond a reasonable doubt” which is the burden for criminal conviction to “preponderance of evidence” which is the burden for civil damage suits in tort.Thus, I think it was absolutely clear that I was talking about civil juries.  Even if I somehow was not clear or you did not clearly understand me or ended up confused by the conversation, I do not think your comment, or even your “corrected” comment, is the right way to handle this.  A better approach would have been to (1) email me, stop by during my office hours, facebook me, or call me on my cell phone number which is on my office door to ask me what I meant, and ask for clarification of my comments regarding this subject and the difference between criminal and civil juries etc; and (2) if I did not clarify it to your satisfaction after talking about it, then to say that you and I disagree about whether or not suspension from Stanford is more like jail or financial damages.  It was not appropriate without some evidence of my intent (or any evidence that I had said anything untrue which I didn’t) to say that I “misled” students or “lied” to them.  

    That is an incredibly serious thing to say about a faculty member  since it goes to the heart of my reputation as a professor and as a caring, committed teacher at this school. The  fact that maybe you misunderstood me at the meeting is no excuse for saying it. If you really had a question then you had options to find out the answer.  

  • Timothy Lau

    The argument for a low panel voting requirement in ARP is
    compliance with the “spirit” of the recommendations of the federal
    government. Therefore, the appropriate civil jury voting requirement to consult
    is that of the Federal government – unanimity.

    And even if we look at state law, Professor Dauber’s link (Appendix
    Table I, p. 12) shows that every single one of the 50 states apply at least a super-majority
    rule. To simply equate a 3/4 vote on a 12 person panel (in CA civil suits) to a
    3/4 vote on a 4 person panel (in ARP) is highly disingenuous. A 3/4 vote on a
    12 person panel is a super-majority. A 3/4 vote on a 4 person panel is a simple
    majority. In the context of a 4 person panel, super-majority means unanimity.

    Neither Federal nor state law support the contention that a
    simple majority suffices for a civil jury verdict. Stanford students
    deserve a presumption of innocence and ARP should require no less than a super-majority before suspending a student for years.

  • The US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights has required all universities with sexual assault/sexual harassment policies to use a “preponderance” standard (which is the standard for civil liability) rather than the heightened “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard” used in criminal cases.  In point of fact, Stanford was one of only two or three schools that used such a heightened standard, and the DoEOCR felt that we were failing to safeguard the rights of female students under Title IX by having that burden of proof.  If you read my post above you can see why I think that suspension or even expulsion from Stanford is a civil, not criminal, penalty.  Though you may really value your education, suspension from Stanford is not the same as losing your liberty or going to prison.  The civil system is where money damages are decided and litigated and a delayed conferral of a Stanford degree as a punishment for a finding of responsibility for sexual assault properly considered an economic penalty.

  • A Question

    Thanks for replying. What about the issue that a guilty verdict remains on a student’s record? For example, a student is found responsible for sexual assault, is suspended, and then later graduates. Later the student applies to law school. Some law schools require a “dean’s statement” and when this form is submitted by the Stanford Dean of Students, the sexual assault case will be listed. Is that still only equivalent to a monetary penalty?

  • Tim, the requirement in CA is a 3/4 rule.  I understand that you would like it to be a higher requirement, but it’s not disingenuous to say that it’s is 3/4.  If we could have this debate without the namecalling I can continue it.  If not, then I just can’t participate.

  • It does not (this kind of shocked me actually) appear on the transcript. Even if the student is suspended due to a (unanimous) finding of responsibility for sexual assault it is not on the transcript.  If that student applies for a job in which he is asked “were you ever disciplined” he has to answer truthfully of course, but there is no transcript record of it. Some people might think that there should be but there is not.

  • A Question

    See my comment above. I know it isn’t on the transcript but it does come up in certain situations. If there was a notation on the transcript, would you support a higher standard of proof? Would that make the potential sanctions significantly distinct and more serious in that it would no longer be comparable to a monetary sanction/civil case?

  • Anyway I assume that the Daily has no intention of (1) fact checking the quotes in this story; (2) amending it to show that my statement was correct; or (3) even answering my emails; but just plans to leave a scurrilous and false charge against a faculty member up on the web. So I have to go find a fish to wrap this paper in.

  • Ben Laufer

    Dear Professor Dauber,

    Thank you very much for the lengthy response.  I would like to meet with you privately and I will send you an email shortly.  Again, I apologize for my accidental slip of the tongue and I look forward to sitting down and speaking with you soon.  

    Take care,

  • Mldauber

    Not in my opinion. Whether or not you have to account for your disciplinary violations or not — that is not a criminal sanction. One of my kids smoked pot in high school and had to include her explanation in her college essay. That fact was past of the learning experience not an extra punishment and it didn’t transform the academic discipline into a criminal proceeding. Whether the train of consequence follows a student is an artifact of a bad choice made by the student and part of the learning and maturing.

  • A Question

    To elaborate: a sanction for a
    sexual assault case is more serious than just a suspension/delay in degree
    conferral (or even possible expulsion). This isn’t just about the potential
    loss of the monetary value of a Stanford degree or the monetary loss due to
    delayed degree conferral, but it’s about the potential loss of being accepted
    to graduate schools, being hired for certain jobs, etc. It’s a huge financial
    loss with losses accumulating even after the sanction (let’s say suspension) is
    served, and more seriously, it’s having one’s name and honor permanently
    destroyed. For many people, having a good name is worth more than almost
    anything. This seems like a burden closer to a criminal sanction than to the simple
    loss of money that occurs with a tort. With the “preponderance” standard and
    only a 3/4 vote requirement to find a student responsible, I worry about
    innocent students found responsible who would lose much more than the monetary
    value of a Stanford degree.


  • Anon

    Small note, but there’s no such thing as the Health & Wellness Committee Discretionary Fund.  Because there’s no such thing as a Health & Wellness Committee in the senate.  Another issue of incorrect reporting by the Daily.

  • That’s fine Ben. I accept your apology.  We can get together next week sometime.  Hopefully this is a good opportunity to reflect on making good choices in the words we use.

  • A Question

    I unfortunately posted the elaboration above basically at the same time you replied. Does your opinion remain the same even with what I explained are my concerns? I very much appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions and lend your expertise to this important discussion. I’m a bit undecided on the topic and value hearing your thoughts given your experience and knowledge.

  • Well, no it doesn’t really change my view because loss of reputation is a big part of what people do lose in tort litigation — it’s a big reason that people file tort suits, for example, to teach the tortfeasor a lesson.  they want the negative publicity and loss of “good name.”  They want society to know that they were wronged. If the entire thing was going to be confidential a lot of people would be very upset — it’s not only about the money. Look at the litigation for example against the Catholic Church. One of the things people were most offended about was that the community was kept in the dark.  That is a pretty good analogy since it was for sexual battery and negligence and is kind of similar to what we are addressing here with this proposed policy. So no, the fact that there could be reputational damage does not elevate this to something “more” than a civil action.  Indeed, the confidential nature of OJA proceedings make the damages that students are assessed much less than in a typical, analogous civil jury proceeding. Sometimes such proceedings might be closed for privacy but in general the public aspects of trial are very important.

  • anon

    lol. you have too much time on your hands.

  • And if I wasn’t clear in my presentation please be assured it was inadvertent and not an effort to mislead or lie.