Student Union Vice President Aaron Finkel ’20 swore in the newly-elected Senators — Class of 2022 Senator Nancy Zhai, Class of 2021 Senators Nakul Srinivas and Zach Kern and International Senator Yuechen Ta ’21.
Student Union Budget
Treasurer Adrian Ashley ’20 and President Hannah Brown ’19 came to the Senate to report on the Union’s 2019 fiscal year budget and presented the fiscal year 2020 budget to be voted on by the Senate. The Senate is constitutionally mandated to vote on the budget each year but has never done so before. “I want to be fully transparent with how the money is getting to you guys,” Ashley said.
During his presentation of the 2019 budget, Ashley reported that E-Board and the Senate spent $4,000 and $12,000, respectively, and that the Student Union spent $10,500 on projects such as the free airport shuttle during winter break. “At the beginning of the semester, we had $38,000. That was something that we weren’t really happy with,” Ashley said, adding that the new budget would set a lower benchmark for spending. He encouraged Senators to create Student Money Resolutions because “the entire Student Union is penalized” with a smaller budget “if … one section of the Student Union doesn’t spend any money.” He stressed that if the Senate spent all its funds, it could request emergency funding, which it would most likely receive if the Allocations Board saw that it was using its funds to better student life.
The new budget would set aside $21,000 for the Senate, $15,000 of which would be allocated for both Midnight Buffets, and the remaining $6,000 for SMRs. Ashley stressed that senators must think ahead when they create their SMRs so they can submit them within the next week and include them in his request for emergency funds. After Massell Quad Senator Kendal Chapman ’22 asked why the Midnight Buffet is in the Senate budget, Brown explained that past precedent has seen the Services and Outreach committee plan the event, so the funds would be allocated to the Senate.
The Senate voted by acclamation to pass the fiscal year 2020 budget.
Executive Officer Reports
Finkel reminded the Senate of the attendance policy, noting that Foster Mods Senator Matthew Reeves ’19 has not attended any Senate meetings since his election in January. The Senate will vote on whether to impeach Reeves at its next meeting on Sunday.
Finkel announced that there will be another free airport shuttle during April break and reminded senators of the mandatory “Meet the Union” event on March 22. Additionally, Finkel announced that the candidate meeting for the 2019–2020 E-Board election will take place on Tuesday, with a debate to follow on March 18, Finkel stated.
Committee Chair Reports
Club Support Committee Chair Noah Nguyen ’21 reported that her Club Application Training event was successful, with over 20 students interested in starting clubs. At the event, the committee discussed “all the information about our new application.”
Nguyen also reported on the committee’s working group, which is currently pursuing the Secured Club Advisor project and recently proposed a draft of the project during a meeting with leaders of secured clubs. During the meeting, Nguyen stated, the project received “a lot of feedback,” with a common concern being that a club advisor “might want to get too … involved in the leadership decisions of the club.” Addressing that concern, Nguyen stressed that the club advisors would only be there for club leaders seeking advice and could not do anything beyond the terms stated in their contracts.
Health and Safety Committee Chair Josh Hoffman ’21 announced that professors who have technology to record their lectures are now required to do so, and labs in inaccessible rooms must be moved to more accessible locations.
Finkel reintroduced the amendment to sanction senators after three unexcused absences each from committee and Senate meetings. Ridgewood Quad Senator Leigh Salomon ’19 clarified that sick leaves “wouldn’t count towards your absences.” Racial Minority Senator Denezia Fahie ’22 asked how a senator could get involved in a committee if they had a “serious conflict” with the meeting time. Salomon and Finkel responded that chairs would “try their best” to be flexible and allow people to do work outside of meetings. The amendment passed by a roll-call vote.
Senators were skeptical of an amendment to clarify that Judiciary representatives must hold office hours because the demands asked of justices would increase. Midyear Senator Madeline Scherff ’22 pointed out that justices are “elected representatives of the student body” and thus should be “readily available” to the public. Responding to a worry that justices could resign if asked to hold office hours, Off-Campus Senator Jacob Diaz ’20 declared that the Union should not “give in” to justices “not wanting to do work.” The amendment passed by a roll-call vote.
Finkel reintroduced an amendment to require an E-Board member to attend Senate meetings and report on them to the E-Board. Executive Senator Kent Dinlenc ’19 said the amendment is “pointless” and makes his job “arbitrary,” as he and Finkel already report E-Board meetings to the Senate. Racial Minority Senator Geraldine Bogard ’20 countered that the many communication problems plaguing the E-Board and Senate make the amendment necessary to improve transparency and correspondence between the two branches. The amendment did not pass.
Senators were divided over an amendment to require the confirmation of appointed positions each semester. Dinlenc asserted that this amendment would give the Senate “power that we do not need” and that if someone had a problem with an appointee’s job performance, they could “complain to the president,” who could remove the person if they deemed it necessary. Salomon disagreed, stating that the amendment would put a check on the President’s ability to create positions “just for the sake of creating positions,” which has been a problem in the past, he said. Hoffman countered that the amendment was “no big deal to pass” and that the appointees would be “innocent until proven guilty.” The amendment did not pass.
Senator-at-Large Richard Kisack ’19 reintroduced his SMR to purchase mugs for University staff as part of an appreciation effort, having modified the SMR to purchase the mugs specifically for facilities workers and to take out the markers. In light of the budget presented by Ashley earlier in the meeting, Diaz asked whether the purchase was necessary and the best use of the Union’s money, adding that people “could do better with less money.” Fahie stated that if anyone had an alternative to the mugs, then it “needed to have been submitted two to three weeks ago” and that “something is better than nothing.” She declared that deciding between the budget and appreciating workers was “a moral debate that you could have within yourself.” Hoffman added that giving workers something physical would be more tangible and useful than a thank-you card.
Chapman and Class of 2020 Senator Tom Alger brought up the concern that the marker would wash off the mugs, and that the quality “wouldn’t be exactly what we’re hoping,” Chapman said. Other senators brought up budgetary concerns, noting that the shipping would cost more than the mugs and getting the mugs before April break would cost another $400. After a roll call vote, the motion failed. Finkel stated that the SMR was created with “very good intentions” and encouraged senators who were interested in worker appreciation efforts to get involved in the Senate’s tabling event writing thank-you cards for workers, to take place next week.
During the public forum, Finkel stated that he wanted to advertise that Senate meetings are public in the branch’s weekly email.
Senate meetings are held Sundays at 7 p.m. in the Shapiro Campus Center, room 313. They are open to the public.
—Editor’s Note: Nancy Zhai and Nakul Srinivas are News writers for the Justice.