Widgets Magazine

Undergraduate Senate tables bill to assist low-income students with organizational fees

The 18th Undergraduate Senate motioned to table a bill that would provide financial assistance to undergraduates joining student organizations at their meeting on Tuesday.

Known as the “Full House” Bill, the proposition would establish a pilot extracurricular funding program for low-income students and students on financial aid. Co-authors Gabe Rosen ’19 and Kayla Guillory ’18 describe the bill as a step in the right direction for students who want to join campus groups but cannot afford to.

“It’s a great step in the right direction because we believe that no student should have to make the hard decision between putting money to foot the bill for going here and actually joining student organizations available to them,” Rosen said.

The initial fund aimed at assisting low income individuals with dues and fees was introduced last spring, at which time the Undergraduate Senate tabled the bill due to questions about financial obligations. At the time, the senate was not sure if the funding would be equitable or compatible with financial aid.

Since then, Stanford First Generation and/or Low Income (FLIP) has endorsed the bill, calling it a “comprehensive plan,” and has offered insight on how to improve it.

Guillery said that the Diversity and First-generation (DGEN) office would hold the account for the bill, footing $15,000. The proposal asks for $35,000 to be supplemented by ASSU. The funding goes through the DGEN office anonymously so that financial aid packages are not affected.

Guillery also emphasized that “Full House” is a pilot program, and has had to work with very little research to build the budget.

Senators Hattie Gawande ’18 and Jasmin Espinoza ’18 expressed concern over the the way this bill would help integrate low-income students into the organization. In response, Guillery said that the process would be extremely confidential, with only one member of the DGEN office and organization heads have access to information on who receives funding.

Senator Ben Schwartz ’18 also commented on confidentiality, addressing students’ discomfort with coming out about financial status. Guillery assured the senate that the process would be extremely confidential.

“Only one person in the DGEN office will be aware of it, under a confidentiality agreement — not even financial aid will have the name. The only reason organization heads will know is to make sure the right person is getting funding, and they will be under strict confidentiality agreements as well,” she said.

Students who are interested in the fund would apply through the DGEN office. The fund would apply to all volunteer student organizations and non-volunteer student organizations, such as Greek life, as well as club sports. Rosen and Guillery stressed that it was a two-way street, and that the organization would have to be willing to accommodate as well.

“At the end of the day, we, as senators, want to make sure that nobody has to make the choice between helping to support their family or being able to join an organization with dues,” Rosen said.

Rosen is hopeful that the bill will pass next week after a few revisions.

The senate also tabled a bill that would fund print and web editions of the New York Times in dining halls and select stands on campus. The bill was proposed by Stanford News Readership Program (SNRP) as a service that the ASSU has provided this past year.

The proposition provides 300 print copies of the New York Times to dining halls across campus and creates 300 daily online passes for the web edition, as well as access to a complimentary New York Times educational website. The funding would require $29,400 per year.

SNRP president Nick Obletz ’17 said that the recorded usage of the print copies was 93 percent.

Several senate members pushed back on the bill due to the inability to prove that taking the print paper meant that students were reading them, with Senator Jayaram Ravi ’19 asking about a purely online edition.

Obletz argued that students and faculty have both requested the print edition, and unused newspapers are not charged.

“I know that when I was a freshman, I was super stoked going into the dining hall and seeing tons of folks reading the New York Times, and people started talking about it. You don’t really do that when you are looking at your computer screen. It doesn’t foster the same dialogue,” Obletz said.

Both bills require significant funds. Representatives from Stanford Student Enterprises noted that the ASSU was only under budget once in the past six years, prompting Senator Schwartz to caution the senate to watch where funds were being allocated.

“We only have one year underspent; we need to be more stringent. We are not trying to spend money that we don’t need to spend,” Schwartz said.

 

Contact Gillian Brassil at gbrassil ‘at’ stanford.edu.