Senate Minutes 4/7/2020

WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS STUDENT UNION SENATE MEETING

DATE CONVENED // April 7th, 2020

LOCATION // Zoom

RECORDING SECRETARY // SENATOR Gaby Smith and EVP Anne H

TIME CONVENED // 8:00pm — Speaker Gaby Smith Calls to Order

AGENDA 3/3/2020Senate SessionUpdatesIntroduction: what is a joint session?Student Activity Fee (SAF) presentation and discussionOpen ForumExec and Advisor UpdatesSenate Snapz

Attendance

FirstLast04/07
ChloeDoumarTE
AdinEhrlichP
NkemjikaEmenikeP
StephanieHernandez-BarralesP
PhilipKeislerP
MatthewKimA
KristinaLeeP
NicoleLeersP
AmaanMahadevanP
EricMillerA
SophieScottP
GabySmithP
OliviaVellaP
SophiaConroyP
DylanRosenthalP
TennysonHolmesP
AdamOubaitaP
ChristineMuoghaluP

SAF Discussion

  • Joel: should endow, earn interest, and use the money for MHF & commit to future budget. Doesn’t want to blow money all at once.
  • Sophie: contribute money to nonprofits in the city. Understand we don’t make donations, but these are extraordinary times. Need to break the WashU bubble. DENEB – over 20% wanted it to go to nonprofits.
    • Janice: before we can consider making a donation, she’ll have to talk to legal counsel & make sure we can do this. Nonprofit donating to nonprofit has tax implications – need to be in accordance with nonprofit tax status.
  • Raghed: refund SAF to seniors. Whether we’re refunding all students is up in the air. Want to consider extra programming in the fall, because that’s what students are most upset about right now. 
    • Alexa: standard carry-forward process for students. A ton of requests are being prioritized already.
  • Kem: refund is the main priority. Donating to MHF and crisis funds are also good options, but they should be more supported by the university than us. Need to prioritize individuals’ getting their own money back first. 
    • Crisis fund doesn’t give a lot of agency to students with how/when to use their money because it’s university controlled. They want flexible money to be used for current needs.
  • Philip: focus should be on the Crisis Fund. Many students don’t need that money right now, so CF makes it go to students who actually do. 
  • Alim: Agrees with refunding to seniors, but virtual programming is important to look into because the activities fee usually goes to that. Wants to explore more.
  • Adin: Money should go back to students, but agrees with Joel that it should be put into a separate endowment & use interest off that to put toward MHF. Takes big burden off our shoulders for GB.
    • President can call an emergency session to vote altogether with 2 bodies.
    • Ethan: ConCouncil hasn’t made a decision yet.
    • Adin will submit one lol
  • Jon: Feels impossible to refund activities fee. SAF should be carried forward to the fall semester to fill the expectations of students.
  • Nathaniel (constituent): Take the avg of carryforwards in the past, Subtract that from the remainder, Then keep the avg carryforward for SU to allocate, and give the rest as refund
  • Dylan: let students decide on their own (opt-in system)  if they want a refund or if they want it to be carried forward.
  • Zoe: refund to seniors for sure, but carry the rest forward
  • Adam: refund to students. People can give donations to the community on their own, not our place to make that donation for people especially when people are in need. 
  • Janice: The refund would not be prorated by the number of days left, because we could’ve spent more in fall than spring. Abroad students wouldn’t get a refund probably.
  • Malar: refund to seniors. Virtual programming wouldn’t be equitable to student groups because some just can’t do it virtually. If we put it to student activities, put it to MHF or put it to increasing GB.
  • David: Give students the decision to opt-into contributing it to CF or carry forward or refund.
  • Bryan: refund is priority. Alternative use is accounting for budgetary shortfall. Don’t know how covid will affect enrollment. Many GB costs are fixed, so a portion of the money can go to covering those fixed costs.
  • Alim: partial refund seems to be more difficult than what he anticipated. Seniors definitely still should. Should use internally – increasing funding percentage or MHF
  • Zoe: diminished enrollment hurts so much because groups are already increasing budgets. Funding will crash in the future & will affect groups so much more in the future. 
  • Fadel: We can’t decide what we’re going to do until we know the number. Cover budgetary gap. Covering funding percentage is also crucial. If we want to even meet the programming that students wanted in the first place, we’ll have to remember the funding percentage.
  • Philip: sees more immediate concern for a refund or CF than programming of next semester.
  • Joel: If refund isn’t even that great, then there’s lowkey no point. Imperative that we plan ahead to meet future student group requests. Carry it forward.
  • Student Outreach
  • Sophie: need to get student data for what they want, because we have limited perspectives. Put together a couple surveys.
  • Fadel: If there is a survey, there should be more development of it. Somewhat vague. 
  • Nicole: not comfortable providing recommendations to Exec Council without gauging student opinions. Need to hear student voices. Reached out to Tim Bono to get professional feedback about the survey.
  • Zoe: we know that students’ first priority is the activities that they would’ve gone to We were elected to make these decisions & there’s a lot of nitty gritty details that students might not know. 
  • Kem: need student input.
  • Raghed: need student survey for input. Refund to seniors for sure. 
  • Amaan: Structure of Sophie’s survey is short & direct. Should add explanations of each line item & explain how allocating works. Should be a section at the end where students can type in where they want the money to go.
  • Fadel: we’re elected to take in info and make these decisions. Students don’t have the context that we do. Survey does not capture the nuances of decisions. We can collect student input with open office hours. GB is not a survey, even though it’s more money. We should do the same thing by opening office hours, but really shouldn’t do survey.
  • Chloe: Lack of transparency is one of SU’s biggest criticisms. Doesn’t have to necessarily be a survey. Office hours are interesting, but students might not show up. Random sampling of students show up to a focus group where they’re explained the nuances of SU.
  • Malar: so hard to create a survey that includes all the info needed. They may not understand that MHF is something that has to happen for instance. So contributing to that is really just contributing to something that already happens.
  • Sophie: not giving students enough credit. Office hours makes it hard for students to give feedback, and it wouldn’t be quantitative so you wouldn’t be able to understand how much of the budget should go somewhere.
  • Bryan: survey is important because corona changes what people think about their needs and the best use for this. Many students are often more familiar with our policies than we think.
  • Philip: survey needs to add a free response portion.
  • Alim: if there’s a survey, students need to understand a lot. Should be a survey, but not with percentages. Wants more qualitative responses.
  • Gaby: Google Form with qualitative data?
  • Jake: we should be finding as many routes as possible to get student feedback – not just through one or two means. 
  • Kristina: wants a form because discussion is hard with people who may not be able to access office hours. Only a month left of school, so needs to be a quick thing.
  • Nathaniel: best way to give students a voice is to refund what is available directly to them. This gives them the option to put it wherever. Email should include places to put their money. Clicking donating to the MHF would be misleading because it wouldn’t actually be going to MHF.
  • Jon: only have less than a month, so survey should be taken quickly. Talk to group treasurer’s to get their opinion on this. Need office hours.
  • Nicole: motion for straw poll. 
  • STRAW POLL: 24/29 reps want “some form of online outreach beyond office hours including but not limited to an open online form or a survey”
  • Senator Adin Ehrlich had to leave the session but voiced support for the straw poll to the Speaker of the Senate
  • Fadel: a survey won’t be beneficial because we don’t have numbers. Office hours and all that can be trusted.
  • Zoe: wants a survey, but it needs to be very particular. Focus group is a good idea. It’s not that we aren’t giving students credit – it’s that they just don’t have physical info available. 
  • Philip: If we don’t know the amount of money, it’s hard to figure out policy because a refund of $5 wouldn’t get a lot of votes. Need to figure out a range of what their refund would be, because that would impact student voice.
  • Joel: nuances are impossible to communicate to students on a survey. Response to a survey should be taken with a grain of salt. Shouldn’t be taken directly with percentages. Making a decision without a survey isn’t the worst.
  • Chloe: if there will be outreach, what will the survey look like? What’s the way forward?
  • OUTREACH METHODS
  • Alim: Sophie’s survey is good bc it gives a ton of options. But also thinks there needs to be a lot more context given. ”This is what we’re thinking about, what do you think about it?” Basically give students a loose budget to give feedback on.
  • Sophie: Wants a quantitative sliding option. WUGO survey ranks priorities but doesn’t tell us how much to go where. Relying on Tim Bono is necessary. Reach out to her if you want to work on a survey.
  • Otto: getting feedback is important. Survey isn’t urgent because refunds won’t go out for a while. We have plenty of time. Sophie & Alexa & other reps should make a survey. Present Senate & Treasury a survey to vote on.
  • Amaan: key to improving the survey is making sure students are informed. Include short blurb with the reason why each option is worth allocating to. Bc at the end of the day, the options are all valid places. 
  • Raghed: We should talk to student groups & students. Need to come back and give more feedback to the exec council. 

Open Forum

  • Open seat for TT committee tomorrow 7-9pm
  • 1:1s for new senators
  • Committees meeting this week