The 20th Undergraduate Senate narrowly voted to reconsider the funding status of three campus groups that submitted late requests for standard grant funding — The Stanford Daily, MINT Magazine and The Arab Students Association — in a heated and long-running meeting on Tuesday.
The Senate also announced the success of Senators Matthew Wigler ’19 and Jon Johnson’s ’21 resolution to have mozzarella sticks served at The Axe & Palm (TAP).
The bulk of the meeting was spent debating the minutiae of The Daily’s financials after a presentation from The Daily’s Chief Operations Officer Regan Pecjak ’18. Pecjak’s presentation came as a follow-up to Editor-in-Chief Claire Wang ’20 and Executive Editor Anna-Sofia Lesiv’s ’20 presentation at last week’s Senate meeting.
Pecjak’s presentation highlighted the specifics of how The Daily receives funding. The newspaper is funded by The Stanford Daily Publication Corporation, which provides funding for basic operations, and Friends of the Daily, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that receives funds from alumni for programs that support the paper and its staffers.
Friends of the Daily also maintains a quasi-endowment, the funds of which go towards furthering The Daily as an organization in terms of digitizing past paper editions, as well as expansion and leasing The Lorry I. Lokey Daily Building, where newspaper operations are housed.
After Pecjak’s presentation, senators first asked a series of clarifying questions about the specifics of The Daily’s balance sheet before further questioning the rationale behind reconsidering funding the paper’s printing operations.
Senators Leya Elias ’21, Tim Vrakas ’21 and Melissa Loupeda ’21 inquired into The Daily’s access to the quasi-endowment provided by Friends of the Daily and the specifics of the total amount of money it has access to.
“We heard a number around over a million dollars,” Elias said, referencing data from The Daily’s GuideStar, an information service that reports on nonprofits, which Luka Fatuesi ’17, ASSU Special Projects and Governance Manager, shared at last week’s Senate meeting.
Pecjak replied that he was unsure what Fatuesi and Elias had seen since The Daily’s assets haven’t increased in value given recent stock market conditions.
The discussion intensified as senators raised the issue of past precedent to inform how best to proceed with the decision on hand. Financial Officer LoMo Phillips ’18 and Nanci Howe, Student Activities and Leadership (SAL) director, argued that providing the funds to The Daily would create precedent for typically inexcusable exceptions.
“There was a group that came in on Sunday and we turned them away because we said that we couldn’t make exceptions,” Phillips said. “And it’s my job, as Financial Manager, to make sure that there is fairness and equity in terms of dispersing funds out to student groups.”
Senator Gabe Rosen ’19 noted that complete consistency in funding groups is also not in the Senate’s history.
“I think it’s disingenuous to now say that we are ensuring the conformity with [funding] policies because, frankly, we have not been in [conformity] with the policies that we should’ve been.”
Loupeda agreed with Rosen’s general sentiment that there is inconsistency in Senate funding of unique cases but pointed out that the Senate does not always act in favor of organizations that fail to turn in adequate materials in time.
“For us to be very strict and say no to everybody makes sense, but the same principle that you’re saying has happened on the flip side,” Loupeda said. “I at least was met with really strong feelings regarding not funding [this other group]. Is it a categorical difference for you because The Daily has a different role on campus?”
The debate then turned to the question of whether or not this “categorical difference” exists between The Daily and other groups on campus.
Many senators voiced what they saw as the importance of Daily coverage in bringing student leaders to the Senate for advocacy purposes and vice versa: in relaying the ongoings of Senate legislation to students.
“My role as Secretary is to write down everything that happens [in Senate meetings],” said David Jaffe ’21. “Because I don’t have access to send these things out to everybody in the student body, I rely on The Daily to actually publish to the student body everything that you guys do. So what you guys do — good, bad, ugly, great, fantastic, whatever it is — it really wouldn’t be known to the student body if not for The Daily.”
In an interruption of Senator Martin Altenburg’s ’20 motion to vote on the matter, Phillips announced another intricacy.
“To preserve the financial integrity of the organization depending on what you vote tonight any of the applications that were submitted after the deadline I have to cut by half, out of principle … It’s not fair, I think, to hold exceptions,” she said.
Rosen pointed out that if this cut is made, “automatically MINT and the Arab Students Association are zeroed out,” referring to the fact that if a group’s application for an annual grant is below $6,000 it is ineligible.
This eleventh-hour mandate sparked confusion among Senators, but there was no room for further discussion as to what MINT or the Arab Students Association could do in this scenario. Elias called for a motion shortly after; it passed 6-5.
The Senate ended its meeting by announcing that, per a resolution introduced last week, mozzarella sticks are now offered at TAP.
A previous version of this article misspelled the name of David Jaffe ’21. The Daily regrets this error.
Contact Zora Ilunga-Reed at zora814 ‘at’ stanford.edu.