In its meeting Tuesday night, the 18th Undergraduate Senate discussed the Constitutional Council’s decision to move forward with a suit that Band and Stanford Health Peer Resource Center (SHPRC) filed to appeal the Senate’s decision not to fund their officer salaries. Senators also heard several bills addressing divestment from fossil fuels, Islamophobia and perceived conflicts of interest with student journalism, respectively.
Last week, the Senate refused to fund officer salaries for Band and SHPRC on the grounds that ASSU does not fund salaries for any other voluntary student organizations (VSOs). The groups were told that they could not petition the funding cuts, so they subsequently filed a Constitutional Council case.
The Constitutional Council resolves disputes as the “Supreme Court” of the ASSU. The Council decided Tuesday morning that it will hold a formal hearing of the Band/SHPRC suit next Wednesday.
Senator Hattie Gawande ’18 took issue with the logistics of the Council’s decision, noting that the Senate would have preferred to present arguments at the Council meeting that decided to pursue the case. Chair of the ASSU Constitutional Council Jonathan York ’13 J.D. ’18 replied that the Constitution does not provide for input from the parties on the initial determination on whether the suit is “frivolous,”and that petitioners were given prior notice of the meeting.
Daily staffer and KZSU member Caleb Smith ’17 proposed the creation of a new “media commission” that would oversee all funding requests by organizations designated as “student media groups” in order to curtail any perceived or real conflicts of interest for student journalists covering the Senate.
The proposed commission would have the power to designate “media groups” and would attempt to separate the ASSU and campus groups completely with regard to funding decisions.
Senators wondered why media groups should have a special commission when no other VSOs do. Smith argued that media groups are unique in that seeking funding may create perceived conflicts of interest with their work.
The Senate also discussed a joint bill with Fossil Free Stanford to “seek comment” on fossil fuel divestment from the Stanford Student Enterprises Board of Directors, the Financial Manager of ASSU and the student body. Senate Chair Shanta Katipamula ’19 called the bill “crucial” to having a legitimate discussion about divestment because the bill seeks advice from various stakeholders about the issue.
Senators also discussed a bill to support the fight against Islamophobia and a bill that would put officer salary funding policies on the spring 2017 ballot, which would cement the Senate’s intentions not to fund officer salaries of student groups regardless of the Constitutional Council’s decision.
Senators wore capes and crowns to satirize the Stanford Review’s recent petition to abolish senators’ salaries. A Stanford Review letter about the petition referred to senators as “kings.”
“Everyone on the Senate saw the Review’s suggestions,” Katipamula said. “We think they are interesting, so for the night we’ve decided to call ourselves royalty.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that York said “inconvenience should not stop the appeal’s progress” in response to Gawande. A different council member made this statement. York’s actual response was that only the council may determine whether a suit is “frivolous.”