By Erin Woo
In its 17th meeting, the 20th Undergraduate Senate voted unanimously to pass a resolution supporting the creation of a permanent community center for the disability community.
The Senate also tabled a resolution that, if passed, would commit the Senate to “actively provid[ing] public and financial support” to the Ethnic Theme Associates’ (ETA) campaign to increase their pay in the present and to secure back pay from the University.
Disability community center
The resolution in support of a disability community center, authored by a coalition of senators and co-sponsored by the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) Executive’s Disability Advocacy Committee, termed the community center a “necessary first step in the University acknowledging disability … as an identity that has broad implications for all walks of life.”
Since fall 2017, the disability community has used the Abilities Hub — a temporary space located in the Bridging Education, Ambition and Meaningful Work (BEAM) and Office of Accessible Education (OAE) building — to study, socialize and host events.
“I remember going to the opening of the Abilities Hub last year, and I remember thinking that it was such an amazing step in the 30-year-plus journey that the disabilities community has been going on to have their voices heard on campus,” Senator Gabe Rosen ’19 said, “But I also remember thinking that it’s not enough. It should only be a temporary solution to a very long-term problem.”
In October, ASSU Disability Advocacy co-directors Bryce Tuttle ’20 and Frank Mondelli Ph.D. ’21 authored a petition calling for a permanent community center. The petition was signed by over 1,200 Stanford community members.
“The disability community center would mean so much to so many people,” Tuttle said at Tuesday’s Senate meeting. “[It would] make people know that Stanford is a place that is safe and good for people with disabilities.”
Ethnic Theme Associates
Senators also debated financial clauses — including back pay and the promise of Senate financial support for ETA’s “peaceful assemblies, protests or events” — on the ETA pay equality resolution written by Senators Rodolfo Salazar ’21 and Melody Yang ’21.
Since the Senate’s meeting on Jan. 8, Salazar had amended the resolution’s wording to “support the ETAs on demanding the University to provide financial reparations for all previous ETAs,” rather than for the Senate itself to place demands on the University.
Despite the softened wording, senators still named concerns about the potential scope of those reparations, both in terms of the dollar amount and the number of ETAs who would be eligible to receive back pay.
Salazar told the Senate that he did not know how much money reparations would involve.
Senate chair Leya Elias ’21 suggested that reparations be limited to the past two to three years or to ETAs who are still Stanford students.
“In principle, I completely understand the idea of making sure that through an intertemporal lens, there’s justice for people who did not get this increase in funding earlier,” Rosen said. “I would just recommend that when you guys are going to the University that you try and have a concrete dollar value of the cost.”
Senator Faa Diallo ’21 called the question of reparations a “distraction” from the question of ETAs hoping for higher pay in the present.
Additionally, senators raised questions about the clause that would commit the Senate to use its discretionary funding to “actively provide public and financial support to peaceful assemblies, protests or events led by the ETAs to organize for pay equity.” The discretionary funding is typically allocated to the Senate’s internal food, meeting and organizational expenses, according to ASSU Special Projects and Governance Manager Luka Fatuesi ’21.
Use of discretionary funding to support the ETA’s campaign, though, could be a “a dangerous road to go down,” argued ex-officio Senator Tim Vrakas ’21.
Salazar said the Senate would be a “last resort” for the ETA’s pay equity campaign, though several other senators noted that this was not included in the wording of the resolution.
According to Student Activities and Leadership Director Nanci Howe, ETA rallies in White Plaza likely would not require much, if any, funding.
Rosen, the appropriations committee chair, said that to use discretionary funding, the Senate would need to consider “what guidelines exactly would pass the threshold of being allowed into our funding pools.”
“We need to be very careful as an institution to make sure that we are applying our discretion as fairly as we can,” Rosen added. “What if there’s a group that’s not a VSO that’s advocating for one thing, and there’s a group that’s advocating for another, and it just so happens that each of those groups are on different sides of an issue? The Senate, I would hope … would be able to fairly balance the funding between the two, so each gets equal say, but we need to make sure that the guidelines are there to guarantee that.”
The issue of the Senate’s funding discretion recently sparked controversy over the body’s decisions to reject and then accept the Stanford College Republicans’ (SCR) standard grant request for funding to host controversial conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, whose visit is currently scheduled for Feb. 28.
The question about funding the ETAs’ campaign represents a larger issue, according to Senator Tyra Nicolay ’21: the question of how the Senate can fund groups and causes that are not voluntary student organizations (VSOs).
“The ASSU has evolved,” Elias said. “The way that we look at our budget and the way that we support student groups also needs to evolve.”
Student Activities Directory
As his personal project, Senator Martin Altenburg ’21 created a directory for student organizations that he called a “Carta for clubs.”
The directory, which currently exists as a PDF booklet, includes a breakdown of membership by class year, size, weekly time commitment and tips for incoming members for each organization listed.
Information was submitted by student VSO leaders through a survey sent out in conjunction with SAL Associate Director Ankita Rakhe.
Altenburg plans to expand his directory to a Carta-esque website including organizations’ websites, dues and contact info.
“You’re the first person who’s really reported back on a very positive Senate experience,” Nicolay said of Altenburg’s project. “I’m really happy to see you flourish and do such amazing things.”