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ASSU Senate discusses transition documents and budget

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At a Tuesday meeting notable—at 25 minutes in duration—primarily for its brevity, the ASSU Undergraduate Senate discussed the upcoming ASSU elections and their plans to facilitate a smooth transition for next year’s Senate.

After several committee chairs announced that they were working on transition documents, Deputy Chair Garima Sharma ’15 suggested that the Senate create a transition subcommittee to advise the incoming Senate.

“In two weeks, we shall be replaced, which is scary but good,” Sharma said. “I was thinking of having some sort of transition document in which we list all of the important things that we have been working on and all of the things that we have not been able to deal with that we would potentially like [the next Senate] to deal with.”

Senators Viraj Bindra ’15, Kimberly Bacon ’15, Daniela Olivos ’15, Brandon Hightower ’15, Lauren Miller ’15 and Sharma expressed interest in serving on the subcommittee.

Senator Ismael Menjivar ’15 announced that the Senate had held an informational workshop for candidates, motivated by an article in The Daily about candidates’ general lack of knowledge about the Senate.

“Around 15 candidates showed up, which is like half,” Menjivar said. “We just gave them advice on running for Senate and what [the] Senate does, so at least they are a little bit more informed. At least half of them are.”

The Senate also discussed the timeline for approving next year’s ASSU budget after Assistant Financial Manager Stephen Trusheim ’13 M.S. ’14 asked senators about their plans for the budget.

Some of the most notable recent budget changes occurred in 2011, when presidential discretionary spending increased by 31 percent and senators debated the $16,000 allocated to Executive Cabinet member salaries.

However, Trusheim said that many elements of the budget are generally left unchanged each year, including presidential and vice presidential salaries that have “stayed pretty much constant for 10 years.”

“I don’t think there have been any world-changing [adjustments] in the budget. There is only a certain amount of money every year, and it pretty much goes to the same things every year,” Trusheim said. “The scale of money we’re talking about is so low that you really can’t do much with it unless you take it all and put it somewhere.”

Before discussing next year’s budget, senators gave individual committee updates. Academic Affairs Committee Chair Shahab Fadavi ’15 reported on further communications with Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Harry Elam regarding student concern about a proposal by University Registrar Tom Black to schedule popular courses at 8:30 a.m. and ban double-booked schedules.

The Academic Affairs Committee hosted a meeting with Elam on Feb. 28 attended by an estimated 40 to 50 students, at which attendees questioned Elam about the course-scheduling proposal.

“The miscommunications about a lot of the things that were being proposed were clarified at the meeting,” Fadavi said. “[Elam] took the feedback really well, and that translated into tangible actions.”

Fadavi said that the Faculty Senate decided to postpone a vote on the proposal until May—delaying the proposal’s implementation until the 2014-15 academic year—so that more feedback from students could be solicited. According to Fadavi, the Faculty Senate will likely vote on a revised version of the original bill.

“There are a lot of issues coming up in terms of students dealing with the administration and conflicts in terms of their interests,” Fadavi said. “I think what this represents, hopefully for R&DE and other administrators as well, is that it’s possible to come up with a positive and friendly solution where you have student feedback included.”

The proposal will be discussed further at a town hall meeting this evening.

Senators also heard a report from Miller, who said that the petting zoo hosted by the student life committee during dead week was extremely successful, despite what Bindra described as a “minor hiccup.”

“Someone thought it would be funny to call the police and say that animal cruelty was going on, but they determined that it was a joke call,” Miller said. “The police were very friendly and went in the petting zoo and played with the animals, so it worked out great.”

Though Appropriations Committee Chair Nancy Pham ’14 was not present at the meeting and no funding bills were presented, Senator Christos Haveles ’15 remarked, “Appropriations is continuing to appropriate.”

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