After starting the year with new leadership and an expanded budget, the Association of Student Representatives is working on reforming elections, overhauling the student constitution, confronting areas of student concern and dealing with recent funding challenges. Here’s a recap of the fall semester, with a preview of what is to come in the spring.
According to ASR’s online budgeting record, available through the university website, an increase in the student activity fee from $90 to $150 resulted in a larger operating budget for the governing body, so that ASR began the school year with $683,770.90 in their account with $341,885.45 available per semester.
At the beginning of the year, ASR allocated about $500,000 of the initial budget to chartered organizations”” campus publications, Greek Council, Student Ambassadors, recreational sports, Trinity University Volunteer Action Community, Trinity Diversity Connection and the Student Programming Board. The rest of the funds were made available to other student organizations via funding requests.
The biggest funding request approved for the fall semester was to recreational sports for $87,500 and the smallest funding request was to the Korean Student Association for $100 for their “Peppero Day.” As of Nov. 19, $35,391.53 remains for fall funding requests. This amount will roll over into the spring if unused.
Joe Moore, president of ASR, described the funding process and identified the categories that distinguish student groups from one another.
“There are four broad categories that we split funding into: programming, operational funds, travel and physical resources,” Moore said. “Whether or not you receive that tier of funding depends on what type of organization you are. [The Big Six] are university sponsored, and they are essentially set above the rest. Then we have registered groups, and that’s everything else that’s an organization.”
Aside from considering the type of organization that is applying for funding, ASR has a broad set of loose requirements that are also necessary for funding request approval.
“[In order to receive funding] the event needs to benefit the whole student body,” said Sean Solis, vice president of ASR. “Usually, you can tell if a group has done advertising to market the event to everyone if all students can go without having much of a problem or without thinking that they can’t attend.”
According to Moore, three of the recent funding proposals, as well as an issue concerning the Honor Council have led to discrepancies and discussion within the senate. Moore himself issued three separate presidential vetoes regarding the funding of diversity and social issues on campus. This is important to note as last year’s president, Logan Walsh, never used his veto power.
The first controversy surrounded the Oct. 29 meeting, where Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity on campus, requested funding to send three non-voting executive members to a national conference. This request generated Moore’s first presidential veto.
“My only qualm was that APO goes to three leadership conferences a year outside of the Trinity ones. The national one deals a lot with membership orientation and what it is to be an APO member, not to be a Trinity student, but what it is to be in APO,” Moore said. “The regional and local do the same thing. If we are paying for a local and a regional conference and they are going to ask us for those funds, then why should we pay for a national? At that point we are paying too much.”
Moore’s veto was eventually overturned by the senate, a process allowed in the ASR constitution with a two-thirds vote, and APO received $2,112 of the requested $5,434 to fund the national leadership conference. One of the main arguments for funding the organization was the size of APO related to its campus impact. In response, Moore expressed concern over using the size of an organization as a criteria for funding, arguing that it could lead to a decreased presence of smaller organizations on campus.
The second controversy of the year arose when the Black Student Union requested funding for executive members to attend the Southwestern Black Student Union Conference in College Station. This issue raised questions pertaining to promoting diversity on campus.
“I can tell you ASRs from the past have been concerned with the student issue of diversity, and now we have more of it,” said David Tuttle, dean of students and adviser to ASR. “So, now the question for ASR is how much do they try to nurture and promote that diversity.”
After an initial vote by the senate to only fund BSU’s executive members, Moore vetoed, forcing a compromise so that more members could attend. In the end, BSU received $3,744 for twelve members to attend the conference.
At a later meeting, the senate had to once again confront the role of social issues in funding when a request relating to the annual Martin Luther King Jr. March was made.
After her request for $2,610.05 to fund fair-trade maroon t-shirts to be handed out for Trinity community members participating in the march was tabled at the Nov. 12 meeting, senior Hannah Monroe created a facebook group that garnered 136 signatures for a petition asking ASR to fund the fair-trade shirts. With this support, more information and a lower request of $2,000 Monroe returned to ASR on Nov. 19.
At this meeting, debate continued within the senate regarding the funding of fair-trade goods and the funding of social issues. Over the course of the evening, Moore stated that he would veto anything less than the full amount. When the senate voted to fund a smaller amount, Moore vetoed, but his veto was again overturned, leaving Monroe with $1,000.
“I think [social issues] need to be incorporated [into funding],” Moore said later. “[The fair trade decision] essentially means that ASR is saying, “˜The things we support socially do not always play over to what we fund. We view those in two different spheres.’ Whereas I, personally and I think history has always been, that ASR always connects those two.”
Despite not receiving the full amount, Monroe remarked positively on ASR’s overall transparency and the funding procedure.
“I do see that there are people who are wanting to use the student activity fee well and want to be sure that they are honoring the students,” Monroe said. “It’s like we have a capacity to impact the campus if we buy cheaper shirts and more shirts, and I also see that we have an ability to impact that aspect of it.”
On Nov. 26 another proposal, although more procedural in nature, sparked debate within the senate.
According to Moore, approximately two months ago, ASR was notified about the possible changes to the Honor Code by Honor Council and set up an ad-hoc committee for review. At their presentation to ASR’s meeting on Nov. 26, Honor Council proposed a resolution to adopt amendments to the Honor Code.
After a straw poll indicated that the Senate supported the amendment proposal, ASR made changes to the proposed amendments including changes to the standards of evidence, ASR’s involvement in the appointment of council members and bylaw powers. Next week, the amendments proposed by Honor Council will be reviewed at the faculty assembly and then reviewed again by ASR before they can be adopted.
Within the semester, many structural and procedural changes have begun to take place in ASR, starting with the ongoing issue regarding the bollards blocking traffic near the Bell Center.
“ASR passed its own resolution [about the removal of the bollards] on Oct. 29 . The traffic and parking committee, which is composed to three students, three faculty and three administrators is currently debating what it wants to do,” Solis said. “What it looks like that resolution is going to be is that we would be taking the bollards down, and we would be placing two stop signs instead.”
Currently, the resolution is being processed by the administration and, according to Gary Logan, vice president of finance and administration, the decision will ultimately be made by himself or President Ahlburg before the start of the spring semester.
“I think the process and getting input from the students on the bollards is very helpful,” Logan said. “I think just getting information from the students regarding concerns or what they like or don’t like about issues is very helpful to the administration, so I think the [resolution] process has worked pretty well so far.”
The resolution is the first to be issued in over two years and Moore says ASR is still developing the process.
“We are in a little bit of an identity crisis in terms of what a resolution is. It’s our way as an organization, as a collective, of saying, “˜We as the representatives of the student body believe this needs to happen,'” Moore said, before noting how the process might evolve in the spring. “We will have resolutions concerning recommendations and I think we might expand resolutions also towards student groups.”
Along with the changes currently accompanying the use of resolutions, ASR is still adjusting to the changes within the senate from last year. According to Tuttle, changes in leadership have shifted the interests of ASR.
“ASR presidents in the past have been more concerned about not offending the senators so they have not really controlled conversation that much, whereas Joe Moore is controlling the heck out of the conversation,” Tuttle said. “They are having better meetings for it. ASRs of the past decade have also been obsessed with minutia and amenities. The fact that they are having discussions on an expanded level is exciting.”
With the more expanded conversations including diversity, social issues and the needs of the student body has come self-reflection and an evaluation of job descriptions.
“There is a major conflict of interest for me to chair but for me to also be president because a lot of times I take sides on things, and that makes it really tough to give discussion to the senate but then also be a counter weight in veto and also have a tie-breaking vote,” Moore said. “It’s almost too much power for me to have. So the idea would be that the VP would be the chair.”
Along with power exchanges and possibly transferring the role of chair to the vice president, ASR is currently looking into revisions of the election process, including moving to calendar year elections in order to enable smoother president and vice president transfers.
According to Moore, the president would have a cabinet that would focus on parliamentary procedure, funding and marketing. This would enable the ASR president to further their roles as student body president. Senators would also be elected only by members of their own class, and the elections would be based more on the senator’s stance on student issues.
“You should represent the student body and their opinions,” Moore said. “I am really going to make people clarify what they believe on things, for example stances on free trade, social issues and diversity, during elections.”
After meeting with the curriculum review heads earlier this semester, ASR is researching the details of the curriculum review to prepare for the town hall meeting on Dec. 3rd However, their opinions are still forming in regards to if students prefer the 4:4 or the 5:5 curriculum model.
“I think at the end of the day, something will be determined [in terms of a curriculum change and strategic plan] that works,” Moore said. “We are just looking to see if there is anything so extreme with the different proposals that we know students would hate.”
ASR’s major reform for the rest of the school year entails an overhaul of the student constitution, including the development of committees within ASR to address student issues and particular sections of the constitution.
“We are doing a revision of the student constitution, so we would be developing specific sub-committees within ASR,” Solis said. “For instance, one of them would be working with student affairs, and they could focus their issue for the year and have something to work towards. They would be staying more on-top of those certain areas throughout the year.”
The creation of committees would coincide with the possible election revisions. According to Moore, he would also like to change the constitution’s name from “The Constitution of the Trinity University Association of Student Representatives” to “The Constitution of Trinity University Students,” denoting that the student body endows power to ASR who represents the entire student community.
ASR will be holding a town hall to discuss the constitutional changes with the rest of the student body and receive input this upcoming January or February.
According to Solis and Moore, plans are being made to continue research next semester into parking, Aramark, residence hall life and other facets of student living.
Particular interest is being devoted to recent student concerns about Mabee Dining Hall, and to increase ASR’s transparency and presence on campus.
“This is a new year for ASR. It is kind of like a new era, and we need to change with that, and the university is changing,” Moore said. “I saw that a lot of organizations, institutions and the whole campus, we are shifting. We are moving to new things, new curriculum, new strategic plan, and I thought that ASR needs to do this as well.”