On Tuesday, the Undergraduate Senate held a secret 8 a.m. meeting that appears to be in violation of multiple ASSU constitutional clauses guaranteeing transparency in student governance.
Former treasurer Katie Hufker ’18 emphasized that the meeting was “informal” and therefore was not subject to the rules prescribed by the Constitution. All 15 senators were present at the meeting, and the body discussed transitional matters and logistics when it convened.
According to Hufker, the gathering was intended to help prepare incoming senators for their new positions and to inform them on general University structure — such as funding processes — in preparation for tonight’s first official public meeting of the new Senate. She added that the informal meeting has taken place in previous years as well.
“No official business is being done at the meeting, it’s just to help make sure the senators are prepared to take on their new roles,” Hufker said.
The meeting was held in a conference room of the ASSU office in Old Union, rather than the Senate’s usual Nitery 209 space, which can be reserved and used by a variety of student groups. The office door was locked through the meeting’s duration, and could only be opened by individuals with ASSU office swipe access.
According to an ASSU bylaw, all meetings must be held in spaces “accessible by all participants, including members of the general public.”
There was no Senate secretary present to take notes, and an official recording of the meeting was not made.
At the meeting’s outset, Hufker and Luka Fatuesi ’17 — former senator and current ASSU assistant financial manager — attempted to prevent The Daily from attending and reporting on the meeting.
But one clause of the ASSU Constitution states that all Stanford students “have the right to attend all open meetings of the Association and to view all open records of the Association.”
The meeting was also not posted on the ASSU Undergraduate Senate Calendar. On the group’s website, only its regular Tuesday evening meetings were listed.
Another section of the Constitution says that information about the location, timing and agenda for all Senate meetings “must be made available in a public place” electronically, and at least 24 hours before meetings should be held. The Daily was unable to find any online information about today’s meeting prior to its occurrence.
The meeting primarily consisted of planning which Senators intended to run for which positions. Most of the Senators who put their names forth for positions were uncontested: Leya Elias ’21 for chair, Jianna So ’21 for deputy chair, Michal Skreta ’21 for treasurer and Faa Diallo ’21 for parliamentarian.
Both Gabe Rosen ’19 and Jamie Seney ’21 said they intended to run for appropriations chair. Each gave a brief speech to the Senate on why they were the right pick for the position, with Rosen emphasizing his prior experience and Seney emphasizing her first-generation, low-income background. Neither faced questions during the allotted questioning period.
Following the statements, Fatuesi gave the rest of the Senators 15 minutes to deliberate, after which an “informal vote” would be taken if no consensus had been reached.
At this point the Senators tried again to remove The Daily so they might speak in confidence. Fatuesi suggested changing the meeting’s status to “off the record” so the group might deliberate on Rosen’s and Seney’s candidacies, and The Daily was asked to stop recording.
The Daily refused, again on constitutional grounds.
“Recordings of all such meetings may be made so long as the act of recording the meeting does not interfere in a substantial way with conducting the meeting,” the constitution reads.
In a vote 5-6-2 (with two Senators not yet arrived), the Senate ultimately decided to table deliberation until tonight’s regularly-scheduled meeting. No measures in the Constitution or its bylaws mention regulating procedures for informal votes.
“The discussion will happen again,” Hufker told The Daily, in reference to the morning meeting. “Just, in the past, we’ve found that it’s nice to be able to talk about things amongst ourselves a little bit.”
Senators also discussed which of the six committees they were interested in joining.
All decisions made at the secret meeting are nonbinding, and the official nominations and voting for positions will be done at the Senate’s regularly-scheduled weekly meeting tonight at 7.
This article will be updated.
Contact Brian Contreras at brianc42 ‘at’ stanford.edu.