The Associated Students of the University of Arizona, the university’s undergraduate student governing body, met for a marathon meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 19, where they discussed a variety of important matters like the proposed Students for Sustainability Referendum, the proposed reformation of the constitution and the dwindling appropriations budget. The meeting also saw updates provided by President Sydney Hess on everything from library hours to the upcoming elections.
SFS proposes referendum
The Students for Sustainability, a student-run organization backed by ASUA that promotes sustainability efforts on campus, proposed a referendum backed by Hess that would introduce an $8 student fee. The fee would go toward a fund that will then distribute that money to students who apply for sustainable projects on campus, like solar panel installation or composting.
“We have been doing a lot of research on referendum proposals," Hess said. "We are hoping to get the referendum approved by the senate. While SFS is also charged with getting 5% of the general electorate's signatures, they have to go around and get 2300 signatures that says students would be in favor of this $8 fee. So this would not go into effect until spring of 2021 to prove that we do have students' support.”
This would replace the tuition carve-out called the Green Fund, which receives money from student tuition. The problem that SFS has been having, along with other student organizations, is that they go to the Green Fund and nothing really comes out of it due to the politics, according to President Hess. The funding that SFS gets every year is $6,300 plus whatever the Green Fund approves to give them, and amount that changes every year and is not a reliable source of funding, which the referendum would eliminate.
An issue that the senate is facing is the diminishing appropriations budget. The appropriations budget is used to give funding to clubs sponsored by ASUA, with each club eligible to receive up to $5000 from this budget every academic year according to the bylaws. This funding is used for various things, with clubs asking for money to fund things from club t-shirts to trips.
The remaining appropriations budget is $23,000, and according to head of the appropriations committee Senator Gage Driscoll, that amount should not last them to the end of the year. This is a clear sign that something will need to be changed so that this problem does not persist in the coming years for the senate.
“This year’s appropriations board has seen a ton of funding requests, which I see as a really great situation happening, but it is an issue that we are running out of money,” Executive Vice President Bennett Adamson said. He then asked the senators for ideas on what they should do to fix this problem, bringing up changing the policy of the appropriations bylaws so that this does not happen again in the future.
ASUA constitution reformation proposed
The meeting began with Senator Joseph Sturm, the head of the Elections and Policy Committee, discussing the committee’s review and report of Senator Rocque Perez’s proposed changes to the ASUA constitution. The report suggested that the five recommended changes to the constitution be postponed indefinitely in their entirety. This led into Hess proposing a different set of changes that she worked on along with other members of the senate that were inspired by Perez’s original ideas for reforming the constitution.
These new changes would be a significant overhaul of the constitution that would expand ASUA and promote the voices on campus that are being overlooked. A lot of these changes would be smaller but would aid the larger amendment. Some of these include changes not originally stated but have been in need of correction or addition for some time. The amount of senate standing committees would also be cut from four to two. The stipends of the officers would also be changed to compensation and scholarships. This constitution would not go into effect until spring of 2021, giving a full year to get everything in order and prepare for the necessary adjustments.
College of Medicine senator proposing creation of lounge for undergraduate physiology students
Gomez Ambriz, senator for the College of Medicine, is staying true to the platforms he committed to when he ran for senate, with his last commitment being to build a community for the medical and physiology students. This comes in the form of a plan named Physiology Pulse, which is in the works in the college, but is being proposed to startup with the help of Ambriz as he nears the end of his time in office.
What he is proposing to ASUA is a “mini” Pulse, a beginning to the larger plan the faculty intends to bring to fruition in the near future, which comes in the form of renovating the basement of the physiology building, or the Ina A. Gittings building. Ambriz worked with the college to get a quote for how much money he should ask of ASUA to buy furniture to make a space for these students, as well as a place for the physiology council he is trying to create. Simply buying this furniture would kick-start building a community for physiology and pre-medicine undergraduates, giving them a place to hang out and connect with one another and hopefully becoming a place they find as a sanctuary of sorts.
The senators all agreed that it was a great proposal and would be a positive initiative for ASUA to support, but the proposal was tabled until next week in hopes that Senator Ambriz can get a better quote from the college, with ASUA having to carefully consider their spending with a dwindling budget.
“Even though this would only theoretically serve 2,000 students, it’s a big impact for students who are going through pre-med or are in physio,” Ambriz said. “This would give them a better college experience, because that’s what ASUA is for. We’re here to serve students and make the most of their undergraduate careers.”
President Hess provides important updates
President Hess attended the meeting this week to not only support the SFS referendum proposal and introduce the proposed constitutional reformation but also to update the senate on the many important orders of business being conducted around the university.
She began by giving the highlights of the latest Campus Conversation, which she had partially attended prior to the senate meeting. Campus Conversations is exactly what it sounds like: a chance for students and people in the university community to address problems they have encountered to the administration directly. The main points she brought up were issues with students being disrespected culturally and misgendered, which prompted students to call for cultural competency training for all staff.
She also covered what had happened at the latest Arizona Board of Regents meeting that was held at Arizona State University Feb. 13-14. The most vital piece of information that came out of the meeting was ten new academic programs. Another important update was confirming that the library will be changing its hours due to budget cuts, which will mean it is no longer open 24 hours, being closed from the tentative times of midnight to 6 a.m. since that is when the least amount of traffic occurs and will affect the least amount of students.
She also spoke on conversations in the works, like how to support online students in clubs and organizations, and asking the senators to speak with their colleges about being more compassionate with attendance policies.
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