Last night’s ASUO Summer Senate meeting was bogged down in procedural hiccups. For those of you who don’t know, the ASUO operates on a 12 month fiscal cycle, starting on July 1 (today), and thus ending on June 30 (last night). ASUO Accountant Lynn Giordano was there to navigate the mostly-freshman senate on the intricacies of this process, but each agenda item had its fair share of bumps in the road. Add to that a Summer Senate Chair who has never chaired a meeting before, and you’d think the meeting would end in explosion. I have to say, that for being unprepared, all parties did fairly well.
There were six “special requests,” the most interesting of which being from the Men’s Center. This past year, the Men’s Center conducted a series of focus groups surrounding healthy relationships. These conversations and interviews are on an audio recording in their office. Incidentally, the Men’s Center had a portion of left-over money from an unused “Stipend” line item (they couldn’t get anyone to fill a stipend position). Thus, they wanted to move that unused stipend money into a new line item to pay someone to transcribe the interview. This would have been all fine and well, if the budget cycle hadn’t ended last night. Even if Senate had moved the money into another line item, that money would have transferred into the 2010-2011 surplus at midnight last night (it’s confusing, I know). Brian Jacoby (Men’s Center Director) and Senate decided that they would use the 2010-2011 stipend money for the transcription project, and he would come back to surplus to get money for a stipend position next year, should they fill it.
This is most interesting considering the only other consequential special request on the agenda. ASUO President Amélie Rousseau and ASUO Accountant Lynn Giordano came in to request that Senate earmark funds from the ASUO Executive budget previously allocated for a Sustainability Coordinator position. Essentially, former-ASUO President Kallaway and Rousseau tried to evade the previously stated budget constraints by funneling 2009-10 money through a department so it could be spent in 2010-11. When that didn’t work, Rousseau came to Summer Senate to ask them to earmark the funds for use in 2010-11. This is largely unprecedented, with the only earmarking in recent history being used to fund the 24-hour library.
Obviously, this raises concerns about the ASUO’s abuse of process. As Sen. Bocchicchio mentioned at last night’s meeting, “We’re making an exception for ourselves, when it’s something no other student groups are allowed to do.” In fact, the Men’s Center request could have been solved by earmarking the stipend money and allowing them to use 2009-10 money in the 2010-11 budget cycle. When this was brought up, Sen. Stark-MacMillan responded by pointing out the differences in the requests, saying, “We found a solution that worked with them, now we need to find a solution that works with us.” Ultimately, Senate voted to approve the earmarking for $10,000 of the Sustainability Coordinator position’s potential future salary.
Other notable moments of the night:
- Summer Senate Chair Kaitlyn Lange cracked the whip on Robert’s Rules of Order, announcing that senators will only be able to speak twice on a debatable motion and will be limited to ten minutes. The latter is fairly reasonable, and the former exists to prevent back-and-forth and other repetitive discussion. She also called out Sen. Bocchicchio for being redundant, to which he challenged the ruling of the chair. It was pretty epic.
- There are now three Summer Senate internal committees: Rules, Outreach and Projects. They’re pretty self-explanatory. I’d like to see how much Summer Senate actually gets done before September.
- The body chose not to allocate themselves summer stipends. The money that was allocated for June stipends rolled into surplus today, and they are not going to give themselves funds for the rest of the summer. Because the Green Tape Notebook (governing document / constitution of the ASUO) says they can’t.
I think if Senate can do the work necessary to prepare for meetings this year, they might actually do a good job. I suppose we’ll have to see. During the next meeting the body will have $5000 to play with, plus some time before the meeting doing office hours to get some work done. And they’ve set themselves up for it. I hope they’re ready.