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SA Senate allows elections committee to delay election to early April

Lucas Cabrera Haché | Photographer
The Joint Elections Commission internally approved its calendar in its Feb. 17 meeting, which would set the election for April 5 and 6.

The Student Association Senate unanimously passed legislation during its meeting Monday pushing back the date of their upcoming elections and encouraging more transparency from the University about how student tuition and fees are spent.

The Election Timeline Amendment Act of 2023 allows for more flexibility for the date SA elections are held, removing the March 31 election deadline if the Joint Elections Commission provides an acceptable reason for the delay. The amendment states elections must be held within 14 days of the previous March 31 deadline to ensure newly elected SA officials have time to transition into their positions.

The Joint Elections Commission internally approved its calendar in its Feb. 17 meeting, which would set the election for April 5 and 6.

Senate chairperson pro tempore Demetrius Apostolis, CCAS-U, said the need to push back the date of the election came from delays in appointing JEC commissioners to oversee the election.

“We believe that this resolution strikes the right balance between ensuring the integrity of the elections process and accommodating unforeseen circumstances that may arise,” Apostolis said.

The Funding Transparency Act calls on the University to establish a database disclosing which organizations, both for-profit and nonprofit, donate more than $50,000 to the University. SA Sen. Rami Hanash Jr., GWSB-U and sponsor of the resolution, said the legislation will provide students with a better understanding of the University’s “financial interests.”

“Students will need to have a better understanding of where their money is going and whether it is being used in ways that align with their values and priorities,” Hanash said.

The Board of Trustees is looking to increase the University’s donor network, focusing on alumni outreach and increasing donations from existing donors. Earlier in the semester, 14 student organizations and seven professors formed a “coalition” calling on the University to publicly disclose its funding.

The Senate unanimously approved freshman Joe Caltagirone as assistant legislator general.

SA Sen. Linsi Goodin, CCAS-G and chair of the finance committee, said the general allocations process for the fall 2023 semester is set to open March 1 and close March 20. Student organizations will have the opportunity to request funding from the SA during this period.

The finance committee held a series of four information sessions for student organization leaders about the allocations process works and changes made to make the process more accessible, like allowing requests for category funding instead of line items. Legislative Budget Officer Nathan Nguyen said the finance committee is hopeful the allocations process will be more successful after the information sessions and feedback from student organizations.

Goodin said the University-Wide Program Fund is out of money for the rest of the academic year. The University-Wide Program Fund serves as a combined fund between the SA and the University, and a joint committee allocates funds for multicultural and campus-wide events.

SA Sen. Gabriel Young, CCAS-U, said he was concerned the committee did not plan for multicultural event funding needs later in the semester. Young, who also serves as president for the Philippine Culture Society, said there is no money left in the fund for celebrations of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage month, which occur in May.

“I reached out to Vice President Xu asking about how the process was for UWPF, and Vice President Xu told me that there was no money left in the UWPF,” he said. “And so that was disheartening to hear.”

SA Sen. Cody Ingraham, LAW-G, said the Student Bar Association is concerned about how the University-Wide Program Fund benefits law students, as few events held by law school student organizations meet the requirements to use the fund.

“There was no communication to the SBA on what type of programming the fund was being used that students from law school could end up being a part of,” Ingraham said.

Apostolis said the Governing Documents Committee reviewed and approved the SA Constitution. The Senate will have the opportunity to review the document and suggest revisions.

Apostolis also said the governance and nominations committee will be conducting interviews to fill eight vacancies in the senate this weekend.

SA Vice President Yan Xu said the University is in good financial standing after he attended a Faculty Senate budgeting and fiscal planning meeting.

Xu said he and SA Sen. Amy Cowley, ESIA-G, are planning to survey the conditions of spaces for students who are parents. Xu said he hopes the SA can collaborate with graduate student organizations to address the quality of the spaces.

Xu said the SA is currently researching whether or not the University is complying with a D.C. law, mandating universities provide menstrual products in bathrooms.

SA President Christian Zidouemba said he is advocating for the financial aid website to make its information available in Spanish. Zidouemba said he is assembling a task force to address this initiative, working with students who brought the problem to his attention.

“Anybody who wants to be able to access those websites should be able to do so in their own language,” Zidouemba said.

SA Sen Nicole Blackstone, G-At-Large, expressed concern over Zidouemba’s appointment of Sinan Kassim as director of external relations, which did not require senate approval. The SA in January rejected Zidoumba’s appointment of Kassim to be executive secretary of community and government relations.

The next SA Senate meeting will be held March 6 at 8:30 p.m. in the University Student Center’s Continental Ballroom.

Erika Filter contributed reporting.

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