Widgets Magazine

ASSU convenes final meeting for 2010-11

At its last meeting of the academic year, the Undergraduate Senate failed to confirm an elections commissioner, a move that may stand in violation of ASSU governing documents. According to the Joint Bylaws, both the Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Council must approve a new commissioner by the end of spring quarter.

Current Elections Commissioner Stephen Trusheim ‘13 presented a bill during Tuesday night’s meeting that sought to appoint Adam Adler ’12 to this position. But when outgoing Publications Board Co-director Alice Nam ’11 mentioned Adler’s involvement in a Constitutional Council complaint filed earlier this year, the Senate decided against taking action on the bill, turning down a motion to move it up from previous notice.

At the beginning of the quarter, Adler filed a complaint against Nam and former Senate Chair Madeline Hawes ’13 in response to their decision to nominate Zachary Warma ’11 to the position of Publications Board co-director. Nam said this incident should be discussed with Adler prior to his confirmation as elections commissioner. In particular, she said she was concerned about an email response Adler sent her during this period.

Although the names of those filing a complaint are supposed to be kept confidential until a ruling from the council, Nam said Constitutional Chair Samir Siddhanti ’12 accidentally revealed that it was Adler, ASSU solicitor general (SG) at the time, who had opened the case. SGs represent and advise students in constitutional cases.

Nam said she sent Adler an email to ask for the documents that outlined the procedure SGs must follow in order to file a complaint and, on March 31, received a response back from him. She said she was worried by the ending to his message, which she read out loud during the meeting: “Let me know if there’s anything I or any of the other SGs can do to help you out.”

“It seems he was unaware that we already knew that he was the one that had filed the complaint,” Nam said. “In other words, just to make this clear, he filed a complaint and then offered a service to us, his respondents, assuming that we didn’t know.”

“I have no doubt Adler is very well versed in the governing documents of the ASSU,” she added. “However, as it’s been pointed out before, the elections commissioner has a tremendous amount of discretionary power, and it concerns me a little bit that this seems to be a case where Adam Adler has misused discretionary power as solicitor general.”

Trusheim, however, disagreed.

“It sounds to me like he’s simply being polite,” Trusheim said. “I end all my emails with ‘let me know if there’s anything else I can do.’”

He added that the selection commission had unanimously chosen Adler. The committee consisted of Trusheim; former ASSU President Angelina Cardona ’11; current President Michael Cruz ’12; Sjoerd de Ridder, a graduate student in geophysics; Kamil Dada ’11 and Hawes. He also pointed out that Hawes was the other individual the complaint was filed against.

“I’m not here to defend his character,” Trusheim said. “I’m here to defend the fact that in his interview and in his application, he struck me as an impartial observer — someone who would be really well-qualified for this position and someone passionate about fairness in these elections.”

Senator Janani Ramachandran ’14 asked why Adler was not present to take questions prior to his confirmation as elections commissioner. Trusheim responded that Adler was unable to make the meeting.

He also commented that the elections commission is already violating bylaws by falling short of the required four members to serve on the commission.

In a 1-8 vote, the Senate declined a motion that would have allowed the legislative body to vote on the bill that night.

Debate over traditions fund

Earlier in the evening, the Senate heard from sophomore class president Phounsouk Sivilay ’14 and junior class president Christine Kim ’13 who requested that the traditions fund be split equally amongst their groups to fund Full Moon on the Quad (FMOTQ) and the Mausoleum Party, which their classes are respectively in charge of organizing.

The class presidents would not be able to access this money until the beginning of next fiscal year, which begins in July, but Sivilay and Kim said they wanted to know that the funds had been allocated to them. Sivilay said that having this money early would be helpful in potentially signing a bigger-name artist to play at FMOTQ. He mentioned three artists that they are currently considering.

“Contracts with huge artists do not come three months or two months before an event,” Sivilay said. “We can’t sign that contract without knowing that we have the money allocated in July.”

They also referenced the fact that last year, FMOTQ received $5,000 from the traditions fund and the Mausoleum Party received $7,000. Senator Chair Rafael Vasquez ’12 commented that the traditions fund had been reduced from $15,000 to $12,500 this year, which meant if the Senate chose to split the pot between the two events, it would be unable to fund any more traditions.

“Just to clarify, we gave pretty much the majority of the funds to the class presidents because, partly, they were the only ones that asked for them,” said ASSU Vice President Stewart Macgregor-Dennis ’13. “But there are also other student groups such as Axe Com who asked for some money later on in the year. So it’s not like this tradition fund is specifically for this purpose.”

Nanci Howe, associate dean of Student Activities and Leadership, suggested that both the sophomore and junior class presidents apply as Voluntary Student Organizations (VSOs), which can be awarded up to $6,000 each fiscal year. Vasquez agreed with this plan and said the Senate could later reimburse the class presidents from the tradition fund if no one else claimed this pot of money.

However, Sivilay said the sophomore class presidents wanted to use the money they could obtain as a VSO to fund class-specific events.

The Senate then came up with several different compromises. It took a straw poll, which ended up showing that they preferred giving both groups $5,000 from the traditions fund and $1,000 as a VSO.

Before voting unanimously in favor of this agreement, the senators debated what precedent they might be setting by honoring this request.

“What we ought to think about is by potentially passing this right now, what’s the result of that,” said Senator Daniel DeLong ’13. “One possibility that we may want to consider is if we pass this, we are incentivizing groups to come here earlier and ask for more money. And that’s the antithesis of what we want to be rewarding here.”

Deputy Chair Dan Ashton ‘14 had a different opinion.

“Speaking as a member of the Appropriations Committee, groups coming in late is the problem,” he said. “Groups coming in early is a great thing.”

A move toward campaign financing

The Undergraduate Senate passed a flurry of bills in its final meeting of the academic year, including all funding bills and a piece of legislation that will make information about Senate projects available in an online database. It also confirmed the Nomination Commission’s selections for various University committees and the appointment of Kate Abbott ’12, current deputy editor of The Daily, and Samuel Coggeshall ’12, incoming editor in chief of the Stanford Chaparral, as the new ASSU Publication Board co-directors, the latter of which led to a small celebration during the meeting.

Most of the time, however, was spent discussing the “Bill to Create Equal Opportunity in Senate Elections,” which was authored by Senator Alon Elhanan ’14. As originally written, this piece of legislation would have set aside $3,000 of unspent discretionary money from previous Senates and used this to refund at most $100 to low-income students who run in Senate elections.

This fund would be overseen by an ad hoc committee that consists of the ASSU elections commissioner, the deputy chair of the Undergraduate Senate, an ASSU senator and any other individuals approved unanimously by the other members.

Senator Ian Chan ’14 asked what Trusheim thought about the bill as outgoing elections commissioner.

“It has no implementation details,” Trusheim said. “The end part of the bill is that the ad hoc committee comes up with the rules. I’m all for the Elections Commission to do its own thing, but this bill has nothing about how this will be implemented.”

Warma agreed.

“I think this is a great starting point and an alternative to a cap,” he said. “However, instead of trying to get this in at the eleventh hour at the end of the school year, this is something that needs more time.”

Elhanan commented that he wanted to get the legislation passed so it could be advertised to freshmen. He said this would allow incoming students to know that anyone could run for Senate regardless of finances.

“When did you first think about running for ASSU?” Warma said.

“February,” Elhanan said.

Warma said ASSU consciousness spikes during the winter, and that there was no need to rush the bill.

Elhanan, however, said that he would rather have the ad hoc committee try to come up with rules to this fund than the Senate continuing to review the bill. Trusheim then suggested stripping the bill down to just creating the ad hoc committee and adding a provision that the committee could not give any funds without prior to approval from Senate.

“The words coming out of Stephen’s mouth are good ones,” DeLong said.

With the revisions, the bill unanimously passed and the last meeting of the year came to a close.