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ASUO Senate 11/29: How do we get to Responsibility from here?

Just another crazy night in the boardroom, complete with “concerned students for a much higher PFC Benchmark”, another attempt to rescind the ADFC benchmark, a late-night informal pact, a resignation , cage-free egg debate, Angela Davis, a Con Court nomination, and plenty of good old fashioned hand wringing, bickering, and recrimination. What’s not to like?

Constitutional Court Appointment
The evening started with a whimper, and the unanimous appointment of Sean Bogart (sorry Con Court fanboys, not sure on the spelling) as a Justice of the Constitutional Court. Given that the last nominee resigned a week after his confirmation, and the fact that with this confirmation the court was finally complete for the first tie all year, it was unsurprising to see almost no debate or questioning. Based on the ponytail though, I’m guessing he’ll be a strict constructionist.

Angela Davis
The Black Student Union made a request for $4,460 to bring well known radical, prison abolitionist, and activist Angela Davis to speak for Black History Month. The justification for this was that too often BHM becomes cliched, overlooked and routine… apparently, Ms. Davis’ colorful past (complete with a well deserved smackdown by Solzhenitsyn) is enough to break BHM out of its rut, and for less than $5,000? What a steal! The proposal was unanimously approved, after only brief and fruitless questioning by Sen. Justice, on the need for over $2,000 in advertising for the event. Turns out it was completely necessary.

Cage Free Eggs
Food Services Manager Tom Driscoll discussed the proposal to move all of the Residence Halls to using only certified humane cage free eggs. According to Driscoll, the cost will be twice as much per egg, and since the cost will be passed on only to students living in the Residence Halls, the price tag for this feel-good move would be $13 per student. Luckily, the Senate was only debating a symbolic resolution of support for such a move, rather than a mandate to Food Services, but regardless there seemed to be little appetite for such a move. Supporters suggested that American laws regarding animal treatment were outdated, and that this move was a necessary step… Senator Rosenberg even suggested that the Senate watch the videos that SETA (Students Ethical Treatment Animals) had provided. Thanks anyway Senator, but if that happened, they’d probably have to trot out the Suicide Prevention video again too, and the Senate still wouldn’t want to jack up prices by $13 per student. Given the current situation, wouldn’t renewable energy or energy efficiency be a better outlet for the well intentioned, and the incurable activists?

SB20 and SB22
Senate Bills 20 and 22 were sent to rules committee for reformatting. They are both very boring bills. Don’t bother trying to care.

SB24: The Cage-Free Senate Office Bill
Due to shortages of space and equipment in the Senate office, a bill was brought forward to authorize a request to the EMU House Committee for new offfices. The bill was roundly rejected on the grounds of appearing to self-interested, especially in light of space shortages in the EMU. The Senate’s Old Man River, Dallas Brown, sagely advised the Senate to consider their independent status, and the problems with working in the same space as the Executive. “The reasons for having an exec, senate and con court is to have a separation of powers,” said Brown, “if you all are in the same space, the lines get blurred.” Because this Senate has nothing to learn from the past, Brown was conveniently ignored.

Winter Goals
Discussion was held on the issue of Winter Term Goals, in which a few Senators mentioned concrete proposals, but most simply spouted platitude. Senator McKenzie made it clear that he expects to be as heavily involved in PFC as possible, and that some kind of PFC reform was in the offing. Senator Gulley made an unexectedly strong stand on student representation in the University Senate, saying that all 18 Student Senate members should have votes on the University Senate, instead of just the current five. This seems like a very reasonable idea, and We commend Sen. Gulley for doing more than just making seconds faster than anyone else in the Boardroom, and encourage him to follow his proposal with action.

Benchmark Discussion
The hot stuff. Well hyped with a last-minute email informing Senators and Programs that “there might be a rescinding motion tonight,” the discussion was fiesty and contentious. The debate quickly broke into two sides, one backing the position of the Executives memo in saying that CSL (current service levels) cuts would be inevitable, and the other arguing that CSL could be maintained by making cuts elsewhere, particularly in group budgets. The main point of the evenings debate seemed to center on making the PFC understand that they should maintain CSL and basic services which are open to all students, and cut everywhere else, as painfull as that might seem.

President Axelrod showed real leadership skills in calling on the Senate to accept its decisions and move on, rather than tear itself apart trying to rework all the benchmarks. Although he maintained the position in his memo, he did express a commitment to finding creative ways to cut the budget, including renegotiation of the LTD contract, moving services to the Universities responsibility, and even using overrealized funds to balance the budget. Although we disagree with the memo he released as well as the tactics of fear used to whip up groups into a minor frenzy, there seems to be at least some movement in the right direction. It is important for those on Senate who wish to see more fiscal responsibility to realize that Programs are a relatively small part of the budget, and while they should be closely scrutinized (more on this in our next issue), one should not think that we can balance the budget out of group funding. Let’s not miss the forest for the trees here… the goal is to level off, or bring down the Incidental Fee, which will take far more than simply putting a big squeeze on programs. Full-on audits and harsh cost-cutting for programs is the fun part, granted, but a bigger picture approach is also necessary to succeed here. If Axelrod supports using the Overrealized Fund to balance the budget, let’s hold him to that, and work with him to take this historic step… Go look up the last time students got together to hold the Incidental Fee at a zero percent increase, because as far as I can tell it’s never happened. Talk about a potential legacy.

A motion was made to rescind the ADFC benchmark, which failed, but prompted an unexpected response from Senator McKenzie, who suggested that through cutting subsidies for pre-school game tickets, cutting the number of free tickets, and other cost cutting, the ADFC could get its benchmark down to 3% from 7%. His suggestion was that, if this sacrifice were made, surely PFC could get their budget to a 0% increase. This compromise was doomed, however as PFC felt like it had made more than enough sacrifice already, but was more than willing to just take the ADFC up on their reduction. This Debate went on for some time, finally culminating in an informal pact between the ADFC, PFC and EMU Senators: based on the ADFC’s example of creatively finding ways to significantly cut budgets, PFC and EMU would attempt to reciprocate the effort by taking a long hard look at their own budgets, and make a good faith effort to come in under their benchmarks. Senator McKenzie’s brave example shows the way for student leaders to make tough choices, and his informal style allowed a “gentlemans agreement” (sorry pronoun police) that could bear real fruit. It is now up to the PFC and EMU to take this seriously, and deliver results.

Senator Drew Pinson resigned in the final minutes of the meeting, as he will be studying abroad next term. While the Commentator prefers resignations in the heat of battle, as grand moral gestures for a failing yet noble cause, we wish Drew all the best. His common sense, responsible approach and calm judgement will be missed.

Final Note: New Issue Preview
For all you Senators and PFC members, who still don’t understand why the Incidental Fee needs reform and responsibility, this next issue is for you. You’ll see the facts, the numbers, and the cognitive dissonance at play in this process. We’ll give you some modest proposals, we’ll give you a program hit list, we’ll show which programs should be taken over by the University, and which should be preserved at all costs. We’ll also have an interview with Bill Harbaugh on the Frohnmayer ethical complaints, and a discussion on the role of DPS. Look for it Finals Week!

  1. Jacque says:

    I too enjoy your recaps Ted, but I sometimes wonder if all the reporters are at a different meeting than I am…

  2. Doomscheissah says:

    *ding dong*

    Friday night “services”, anyone?

  3. Timothy says:

    It’s “Rennie’s” you illiterate sot, do not disrespect our church again.

  4. Dallas says:

    Damn Ted,

    I never knew such a boring meeting could be such an entertaining read. I’d say you should be promoted to the Emerald but then your writing skills would level off. Your commitment to political pundancy is inspiring, you may be the first Commentator Editor to ever spend more time in the boardroom than Renee’s. Well done son.

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