In the 19th Undergraduate Senate’s first meeting Tuesday night, Lizzie Ford ’20 was sworn in to replace Matthew Cohen ’18 following his resignation. Senators also elected Kojoh Atta ’20 as Senate chair and passed a bill to alter the Senate’s policy revision process.
Ford replaces Cohen
Following two terms on the Senate, Cohen, who was re-elected to serve on the 19th Undergraduate Senate, was appointed chief of staff in the ASSU Executive branch. Cohen’s appointment left one vacant seat on the Senate.
Ford, having received 734 votes in the spring election, filled the vacancy that Cohen left on the Senate in light of his appointment.
Ford was originally not elected to the Senate because of an ASSU bylaw mandating that at least three members of the Senate be upperclassmen. As a freshman, Ford was thus originally replaced with junior Katie Hufker ’18, who was sworn in last week.
“I’ve had a really long campaign process, and [initially] I thought I had won, but then I really hadn’t,” Ford said. “For two weeks, I’ve been in this middle zone. It is great to finally be on Senate and have the opportunity to contribute.”
However, one student familiar with Ford’s placement who wished to remain anonymous wondered why Jacob Randolph ’19 was not chosen to replace Cohen instead of Ford in order to fulfill the three upperclassmen requirement. After Hufker, Randolph was the non-freshman candidate who received the most votes.
“It’s unfortunate that [Randolph] was denied his rightful seat on the Undergraduate Senate and that upperclassmen will be deprived of the constitutionally mandated three-person representation of upperclassmen,” the student said.
But according to both Hufker and Ford, the 2013 bylaw that mandated Hufker joining the Senate in the original election refers specifically to elections, meaning that it does not hold in the case of resignation.
Randolph, on the other hand, believes the bylaws clearly support the presence of three upperclassmen on Senate. He said he was unaware that Ford would be sworn in until after the meeting.
“I wish there would have been some discussion about this beforehand,” he said, calling Ford’s appointment a “very sudden move.”
Randolph said he is not committed to any particular response yet, but the anonymous student said he expects Ford’s election to lead to a case before the Constitutional Council, which interprets the ASSU’s constitution. Ford said that she is well aware that a case is a possibility, though she is confident in her assessment of the bylaw, and added that she has the support of returning senators.
“I’d be more than happy to testify, and of course I’d love to stay on Senate, if at all possible,” she said.
Atta elected Chair
In a 10-3 vote, the Senate elected Atta as Senate chair against returning senator Gabe Rosen ’19. Atta emphasized trust, transparency and accountability as key values in a speech he gave to fellow senators prior to his election.
As chair, Atta promised to include other members of the Senate in his meetings with University administrators and to release memos regarding the content of his administrative meetings to the Senate for the sake of transparency. He also plans to hold weekly office hours, continuing an initiative that started with former chair Shanta Katipamula ’19.
“I’m a student first, senator second and chairman third,” Atta said. “I want to increase the energy, equity and effectiveness of the ASSU Senate as well as the whole campus.”
Atta views his new role as an opportunity to increase awareness for underrepresented minorities and intersectional issues on campus.
“I want to make sure everyone on campus feels that their opinions are heard and addressed,” he said. “There’s a myriad of communities here at Stanford, and many of our issues are intersectional. Considering this political climate, we especially want to make sure that undocumented students, female students and survivors of sexual assault are especially protected.”
Following Atta’s election, the Senate elected Remy Gordon ’20 as deputy chair, Gabe Rosen ’19 as appropriations chair, Katie Hufker ’18 as treasurer and Chapman Caddell ’20 as parliamentarian.
The Senate passed a bill that allows the Senate to modify its policies with a simple majority vote, while Senate bylaws may only be amended with a two-thirds majority. Prior to this bill’s passage, ambiguity existed regarding whether policy changes required a simple or two-thirds majority to pass.
Rosen, who authored the bill, stressed the importance of the distinction.
“This bill came to our attention during the election season and during the end of our term,” he said. “There were some minor things in the bylaws that we needed to adjust. But really, the trick here is that there’s still ambiguity regarding what exactly we can do with Undergraduate Senate policies as opposed to bylaw modifications. It’s important to make this threshold for undergraduate policies explicit.”
The Senate denied Stanford Democrats’ request for funding to attend a conference on the basis of partisanship. Shanta Katipamula ’19, chair of the now-replaced 18th Undergraduate Senate, clarified that funding a partisan group would place the Senate’s status as a 501(c)(3) organization in jeopardy and that the Senate had similarly denied a financial request from Stanford Republicans in the past.
Phi Kappa Psi received funds to hire additional security for an all-campus party which they plan to host on Friday evening. The Senate also granted the Japanese Student Union’s funding requests for event in White Plaza on May 13.
Contact Courtney Douglas at ccd4 ‘at’ stanford.edu.