Widgets Magazine

Student groups debate funding issues at town hall

Last Sunday, the ASSU Senate, along with Executive Cabinet members from the Funding Committee, held a town hall in Old Union to discuss student group funding. The town hall was open to the student body and drew an audience of 19 students representing 10 different student groups.

The student groups represented at the town hall were Stanford Golf League, Stanford in Government (SIG), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MECha), Axe Committee, Stanford American Indian Organization (SAIO), First-Generation Low-Income Partnership (FLIP), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Alliance Streetdance, Avicenna Journal and Dance Marathon.

Thirteen members of the ASSU Senate and executive branch were also in attendance.

After providing brief contextual information, the town hall broke off into small discussion groups, each led by an ASSU representative.

The discussion questions posed to the attendees were the following: How should Senate prioritize events to fund? Is it fair for groups to be able to build up reserves? Should Stanford try to lower activities fees?

After more than 30 minutes of group discussion, the town hall reconvened to share ideas and suggestions generated in the discussion groups. Here are a few of the suggestions and opinions shared during the town hall:

  • “Has anyone actually asked the campus if they think the student activities fee is too high? That I think is the most important question. Maybe the reason why people think the ASSU Senate careens from spending crisis to spending crisis is because there is no clearly articulated strategy for funding and so you become the target of The Stanford Daily, which I will tell you as a fifth year co-term, every single year has gone after this topic. If you are able to come back at them and say, ‘Look no one cares what the activities fee is and we are trying to change it from this articulated solution,’ then they’ll stop writing about it and they’ll stop having inane op-eds that are poorly reasoned.” – Matt Anderson ’14, SIG
  • “I think there is an over emphasis on raising the student activities fee. You can opt out. It is higher than all other universities’ but at the same time Stanford has an unparalleled diversity that is important to student life. That is worth it.” -Destiny Lopez ’15, FLIP
  • “The two options if we don’t have any sort of reform is that we choose which groups are more valuable to us, which is going to be a huge debate, or you can have a first-come-first-serve [basis] per quarter and, once we run out of money, you stop [funding].” -Eric Theis ’16, Senate Treasurer
  • “With this general fee problem, more and more student groups are going to want to become special fee groups because they don’t want to deal with the mess of having our budget limited. But when more groups apply to special fees that drives the student activities fee way and way up.” – John-Lancaster Finely ’16, Senate Parliamentarian
  • “For organizations that are larger and have reserves, it’s hard for us to figure out a budget for the year ahead of time if we are trying to spend down our reserves. If we come into a year and all of a sudden you might be taking out of those reserves, it becomes difficult for us to be a responsible fiscal organization to figure out what we have and what we should spend for the year… Reserves as a general idea exist for a reason. For large organizations there can be unforeseen expenditure.” – Zach Ellison ’16, Financial Officer for Dance Marathon

The senate will continue discussion of funding reform at the next senate meeting on Tuesday, where Theis hopes to pass his bill allowing the senate to use up to $150,000 from special fees reserve accounts to supplement general fee groups, given that specific conditions are met.