The Arizona Desert Lamp

ASUA Senate Meeting, 2 Sep 2009: Baby, I got your money, don’t you worry.

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 2 September 2009

Source: Leech, John. "The Comic History of Rome."

Source: Leech, John. "The Comic History of Rome."

ASUA/GPSC relations – moving cautiously towards Ausgleich. The last time we compared relations between these two governments to central European power politics, relations were not exactly cordial between the Graduate and Professional Student Council (GPSC) and ASUA. GPSC President Bieda was threatening lawsuits, and alluding to future problems down the road*:

According to Bieda, once GPSC goes under Student Affairs, ASUA has to request their permission to hire any graduate assistants.

He said this will inevitably increase tensions between GPSC and ASUA.

Right now ASUA employs about half a dozen graduate assistants and has never consulted GPSC about hiring them, which they are required to do, Bieda said. They also have five graduate students from the College of Law serving on the ASUA Supreme Court. Bieda said ASUA has also considered funding for graduate clubs even though that should have been assigned to the GPSC.

Yet with each new school year, hope springs eternal, and thus a representative from GPSC came as a “liaison” to ASUA, vowing to replace a “historically tense relationship” with a new one. At the end of the meeting, President Nagata offered similarly sentiments, citing his summertime work with current GPSC President Talenfield and declaring that “any prior history between the organizations] has been effectively squashed.”

Such sentiments are nice and promising, but they do not come without problems. For one, the two organizations are logistically butting heads – both ASUA and GPSC hold their meetings Wednesday afternoon (5 and 7:30, respectively), creating problems for future liaisons who don’t want to spend five hours in legislative meetings (although I think our commenter “Dave” has a solution for this). Beyond that, though, there’s the whole question of that “representation” thing. In effect, ASUA’s constitutional decree that it represents the entire student body makes the GPSC an illegitimate organization. Things like this need to be solved before you can start worrying about tuition and other issues of substance.

Executive operations debate – Senate accepts role as division of executive branch. The debate that began with protest from Wallace the Younger would have to finish without him – he was absent for today’s meeting, perhaps licking his wounds from last week’s bruising fight. Sen. Katherine Weingartner, however, delivered a proposal of his in abstentia – but not before offering a compromise amendment of her own. This measure consisted of two parts:

(1) All expenditures from executive operations above $1,000 must be approved by the Senate before release. An exception can be made if the spending is an “emergency,” in which case the Senate must receive notification within 24 hours, as well as an explanation of why such spending needed to be spent in such a manner.

(2) All expenditures from executive operations account must be posted online for public viewing.

These proposals received far more consensus, and passed unanimously. This probable is in direct relation to their general harmlessness. The first proposal is nice, but the loopholes can already be seen. For starters, ASUA executives can now simply move money in amounts of $999.99. The three separate $1,000 allocations by President Bruce for the ASA protests will become three $999.99 allocations, and nothing has changed.

The “emergency” provision also opens itself up to abuse, as general impatience is used to justify declaration of an”emergency.” Hopefully, this will be checked by a Senate, willing to call out executives that abuse this privilege; such a Senate does not yet exist.

Finally, the online idea is nice, but we should remember that it does not yet exist. Several times during the meeting the “check” of the online postings came up, but for the time being such a “check” is merely a theory. A nice theory, but about as effective a check on executive overreach as … well, the Senate.

Wallace the Younger’s proposal was far more controversial. Its provisions:

(1) Reduce the President’s operating budget from $7,000 to $4,500, and the vice presidents’ budgets from $7,000 to $4,000. These budgets include a $1,000 “cushion” – which seems to indicate that historically the president would only need $3,500 (this was not entirely, and corrections in the comments are appreciated as always). The operating budgets for the chief of staff and treasurer would remain the same.

(2) Allocate the remainder of these funds into a separate account, which would be overseen by the Senate. Executives seeking operating funds in addition to those already allocated would have to petition before the Senate, which would have to vote to approve the amount (presumably, a majority vote rather than 2/3, but this was not specified)

This site had proposed legislative oversight over these funds in last week’s report, so naturally much of the Senate recoiled at the idea. Yet surprisingly a faction of three Senators – Sens. Quillin, Ruiz, Weingartner – supported the proposal, defending it against the group led by Wallace the Elder. The arguments – along with their retorts – broke down into three basic issues.

Efficiency. Wallace the Elder worried about “red tape,” worrying that, “ASUA is already complicated enough as it is” and that the process would take “too long.” Sen. Brooks fretted that making the executives wait for the Wednesday meeting to request additional funds would not be as efficient (although it adds a nice twist to ‘Welfare Wednesday’).

I can’t recall anyone ever saying that the main problem with ASUA was its ineffeciency, but for argument’s sake let’s say that it is. In this case, the best thing that the Senate could do would be to vote to abolish itself, and to have its funds dispersed equally amongst the various executives. Senate meetings take up inordinate amounts of executive time, that could be used towards any number of serious work. There’s no reason that the functions of the current Senate – which is just a division of Club Resources anyway – couldn’t be dispersed among extant bodies, minus the ineffeciency of curcuitous debates.

Everybody seems to love “checks and balances” on this body, but most them seem entirely ignorant of the fact that the very purpose of checks and balances within a polity is to introduce inefficiency. This is generally seen as a good thing, but many figures over the course of history have disagreed – and further, they generally seemed to have been vindicated, although Clio has judged them unfavorably for other reasons.

Executive Love. Given this unhealthy obsession with efficiency, the slavish deference that legislators continue to show towards their executives becomes even more troubling. Wallace the Elder declared his “love” for the Dauphiness three executives, arguing that they were fiscally responsible and thus required no additional checks. Sen. Yamaguchi echoed him, saying that, “We know that they’ll be fiscally responsible.”  Yet as Sen. Quillin pointed out earlier, “We can’t rely on the fact that we’re always going to have fiscally responsible officers.” Contra Sen. Yamaguchi, given recent memory one would be inclined to draw the opposite conclusion.

It is very possible to let the specter of Last Smash Platinum FAIL loom too heavily over the body, but if there is any lesson that should be learned. The system that allowed for the concert to happen was not marked by inefficient debating bodies, but by a hyperefficient (and, by definition, anti-democratic) executive cabal that effectively turned a deliberative body into a booking agency. We’ve remarked before on the ahistorical nature of university affairs, but it’s still astonishing that the two-term Senator seems to have entirely forgotten what, exactly, happened last year.

Fairness. A bizarre case was made by Sens. Davidson and Yamaguchi alleging that the potential of an emergency in one executive’s department would unfairly take operating funds from the other executives. Ignoring that this money isn’t an inheritance, isn’t this kind of the point? As Sen. Ruiz pointed out, if this did happen under the current system, the funds would be “unfairly” distributed from, say, the EVP’s oper. budget to the President’s – leaving the EVP with less money than before.  Under the new proposal, the exact thing would happen – only that the power of transfer would lie in the Senate.

It’s also odd that the current operating budgets – which, if Wallace the Younger’s numbers are right, are a few thousand dollars more than necessary – are being held as the paragon of distribution. Which God descended from on high and inscribed on Mt. Lemmon, “THOU SHALT ALLOCATE 7,000 US DOLLARS FOR EACH EXECUTIVE OPERATING BUDGET.” Hell, one might even call it inefficient. Moving some of the funds to a ‘pool’ of money would result in fact result in a more efficient allocation of resources – those programs that needed the funds the most would receive them.

Legislative Overreach. Given the last three arguments, it’s not surprising that the moment a Senator dares to assert any authority over the executive branch, the handwringers come out. This was illustrated beautifully when Treasurer Harris, asked about his meeting with Sen. Daniel Wallace by Sen. Quillin, noted (to Sen. Quillin’s surprise) that no such meeting had occured – Wallace had gone directly to Gail Tanner, ASUA’s full-time business advisor. Pretty cheeky, as they say across the pond, but not out-of-line. Wallace the Elder, however, was astonished by his younger colleague’s failure to show deference, using it as a rhetorical tool during a heated back-and-forth with Sen. Weingartner (which, amusingly enough, elicited a “tsk-tsk” from EVP Fritze, who offered her disapproval of his conduct as an “etiquette tip”). Considering that Wallace the Younger left the treasurer’s budget untouched, I can’t imagine that the blood is too bad; but the reaction to his action was telling of the dotishness of the legislative branch.

At any rate, this was the ultimately winning argument against the proposal, and initially went something like this: Suppose the president were to spend her $4,500 operating budget, and needed more money from the Senate. Wouldn’t they have to come back each time they wanted to spend something, like, to use Sen. Atjian’s example, a $30 stapler? No, no, protested Sen. Weingartner – we would allocate the money in large sums. Sen. Sly Dog Seastone, resembling an old Platonist who twistedly keeps returning the Academy long after the Dadaist takeover, went in for the syllogistic kill. This, he declared, is no better than the current system – after all, you’re just giving them thousands of dollars, with no idea of where the money will ultimately end up. Either you overregulate, or it’s pointless.

This is novel, but it ignores much of the discussion from last week revolving around transfers. Much of this budget is used by the executives to transfer lumps of money to divisions under them that need it. Contrary to the ‘stapler theory’ of allocation, divisions that run over don’t need to have each and every additional expense approved – instead, the executive allocates, say, $1,000. Is this irresponsible? It would be, if these funds were simply rubberstamped. Far more likely is the idea that these transfers are contingent on some sort of proposal, along with an explanation of why all the original funds were spent before the end of the year. While the executive doesn’t have an exact idea of what will be spent, he does have a general sense of where the funds are going, and further he knows how funds were spent in the past.

So it is with this proposal. In effect, the Senate would gain the transfer power over this small pool of funds. Much as divisions under executives, executives would have to go before the Senate, armed with a presentation of how the original money was spent, and how future money will be spent. The only thing that this reallocation of money does is put some of the discretionary power back in the hands of the legislature. It is an extremely modest move towards giving the Senate a bit of the “power of the purse” that most legislatures possess.

Yet the Senate, averse to any further responsibility than they already have, voted to keep the current amounts and to reject the Wallace proposal, by a vote of 6-3 (with D. Wallace absent). A toast goes out to Sens. Quillin, Ruiz, Wallace the Younger, and Weingartner for attempting to make the Senate relevant.

Southwest Leadership Conference – Fun for the Political Class! Unfortunately, this wasn’t the full ASA rundown that was expected, and thus the SAFRA drinking game ended before it started. Instead, the ASA directors hawked the Southwest Leadership Conference, and reminded Senators and other ASUA members that for a limited time, their registration fee would only cost $25 – half of the normal student price! After all, the conference “is designed for student governments and campus student leaders.” Look, defending internal stasis while agitating for change can be exhausting – and there’s no better way to kick back than a “Lobbying” workshop at the Mariott.

* – Any Wildcat staffers reading this: we love the site makeover, but this archive problem is really a drag. We need these articles, bad. For now, readers who want to read the entire article should follow this link, which should lead to a cached version of the article.


5 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Bergan said, on 3 September 2009 at 12:53 am

    so pissed I missed this

  2. Stephen Bieda III said, on 3 September 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Asking President Shelton to resolve the constitutional dispute between ASUA and GPSC isn’t as far as a lawsuit. 😉

  3. lucyblaney said, on 6 September 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Hey, Desert Lamp, if you want to talk to someone about the specifics of the GPSC move to build a better relationship, you can feel free to contact me directly. It’s not exactly fair to speculate on the move when you haven’t even tried to interview anyone involved.
    Lucy Blaney
    GPSC Rep from Humanities and ASUA Liason

  4. […] Fritze said would be discussed later. Meanwhile, Sen. Daniel Wallace – bringing up his old bugbear – wondered why these funds couldn’t be derived from the Executive Operations account. […]

  5. […] the ad each and every time he had a chance to speak. But once again, he raised the specter of the executive operations funds. Since this is an executive program, and AVP Ziccarelli has an operations budget of $7,000 […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: