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Senate condemns Spencer talk, explains decision to fund event

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Just an hour before a controversial visit by Jihad Watch founder Robert Spencer, the 19th Undergraduate Senate unanimously passed a bill condemning the Stanford College Republicans’ (SCR) decision to bring Spencer to campus.

Senate condemns Spencer event (FEBE MARTINEZ/The Stanford Daily).

The joint resolution regarding Spencer’s invitation had already been reviewed by the Senate during last week’s meeting. In the bill’s preambulatory clauses, senators acknowledged that Spencer has founded two organizations identified as hate groups and that “students in the Muslim community have reported feeling unsafe and unwelcome as a direct result of the fact that [Spencer], who promotes hate for them, is coming to campus.”

All senators present voted in favor of the bill, officially condemning Robert Spencer but reaffirming the ASSU’s commitment to “support all student groups equally.” The senators who were not present sent in their affirmative votes in absentia.

Senator Doris Rodriguez ’20 stated in last week’s meeting that students who feel their voices are not being heard had the opportunity to request refunds for events like Spencer’s talk. However, assistant financial manager Sean Means ’18 clarified that students could not possibly have done so for the Robert Spencer event, due to guidelines dictating a specific time period for requests to be made.

“Students have the ability to waive the fee between the first day of the quarter and the third Friday of the quarter, so the funds [for autumn quarter events] are already encumbered,” said Means stated.

Student Life committee chair Lizzie Ford ’20 also noted that the petition to cancel funding for Spencer’s event had only begun circulating after the funds were earmarked. She added that the decision to condemn Robert Spencer’s talk yet refrain from canceling the event was mostly based on funding guidelines and timeframes.

According to Ford, legal considerations also prevented the Senate and the University as a whole from preventing Spencer from speaking Tuesday evening.

“Because Robert Spencer hasn’t threatened a specific person at a specific time, unfortunately he is allowed to come to campus and we could be held liable for violating California statutes if we were to preclude him from coming,” said Ford.

The bill upheld the value of free speech on Stanford’s campus, while also reaffirming the senators’ responsibility to take a stance against bigotry and act as allies to the Muslim community.

Apart from the bill, the Senate also discussed ongoing efforts to support first-generation and low-income students. Ford and Appropriations chair Gabe Rosen ’19 are collaborating with Counseling and Psychological Services, the Financial Aid Office and the Diversity and First-Generation Office to improve mental health resources for the community.  

In addition, student body vice president Vicky Niu ’18 reported on her efforts to plan a community center event with Vice Provost Susie Brubaker-Cole, bringing together on-campus groups working against sexual violence. According to Treasurer Katie Hufker ’18, the Senate will be meeting with the Office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse Response next Tuesday. The Senate will also be attending a sexual violence training session at the Graduate School of Education this coming week.

 

For more information about the ASSU student activities fee waiver, visit http://assu.stanford.edu/funding/.  

 

Contact Melissa Santos at santosmm ‘at’ stanford.edu.

 

Melissa Santos is a sophomore from Los Angeles studying comparative literature. She is the Desk Editor for the Daily's campus life beat and chair of the Community Life and Inclusion Program. Ask Melissa about her love for teaching or her Golden Girls obsession at melissasantos ‘at’ stanford.edu.