ASSU Appropriations / Financial Officer Rage Boils Over

[![]( "State of negotiations")](
State of negotiations
The past couple of weeks have seen quite a dialogue between the ASSU Undergraduate Senate Appropriations Committee and some of the Financial officers at Stanford Voluntary Student Organizations (VSO’s).

The fiery back and forth got started with the increase in refund rates (and here), which led the Senate to pursue a Special Fees* reform limiting the automatic yearly 10% adjustments of Special Fees (if only my bank account gave that kind of interest). Various defenses and condemnations of the Stanford Conservative Society’s involvement in the increased refund rate were traded; furthermore, Senator Zack Warma called the Daily out for it’s Editorial criticizing the bill, appearing in the very pages he used to edit just last quarter.

Things got real heated this week, when Tommy Tobin of the Stanford Project on Hunger published an opinion in the Daily on Monday, calling for reform of the Undergraduate Senate Approps committee. It seems that Mr. Tobin’s chief complaint is that his and other groups had a “general lack of knowledge” about the ASSU funding policies, and walked away from the process underfunded and unhappy with the process.

In all fairness, the explicit policies are in fact the first result in a Google search for “ASSU Appropriations Funding policies”; in addition, the policies are directly linked to from within the Capital Group funding platform, which Financial Officers must use to apply for funding.

Not to be outdone, Mr. Zietsman followed with a counter-piece Tuesday; in it, Zietsman outlines the dilemmas and difficult choices the Appropriations Committee makes on a Daily basis. Namely, that there is a fixed sum money that needs to get distributed among the plethora of Stanford groups; furthermore, he brought to light the unfortunate over-spending by previous Senate .

Mr. Zietsman also sent the following letter to Mr. Tobin (made public on the Senate list by Mr. Tobin), which the *Review *has published below:

On Feb 22, 2010, at 11:44 PM, Anton Zietsman wrote:

Hey Tommy,

Quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of your attempts to drag the approps committee through the mud. Not only are your attempts misguided and incorrect, but they are unfair to the other committee members who put in their time and effort to serve the student body.

I’ve drafted an op-ed in response yours, which ive attached at the end of the email. However, there are some things I’d like to highlight.

First of all, while your op-ed read “Reform Needed”, you proposed none. None at all. You didnt even come close to start proposing reforms. All you did was complain. How is that productive? If you really cared about the groups you mentioned in your op-ed, you would have thought about ways to reform the process and would have proposed substantive policies. But you didn’t. And it looks like you don’t want to. You’ve showed everyone that you are good at complaining Tommy – everyone knows that now. I challenge you to step it up though. While its very easy to complain, its a lot harder to come up with solutions and you haven’t provided ANYTHING substantive over the past 3 months.

I also think your efforts to market yourself as a martyr to the student body are tragic mischaracterizations of what you are trying to do. I also think they are dangerous. I think your view on the entire process is incredibly limited. You want funding for SPOON, irregardless of policies and consequences. The reason you got involved in the  first place was because the Approps committee asked for documentation for your funding requests. You’re point of view is that the fact that we make it harder to get funding is a bad thing – which is characteristic of someone in a VSO’s position. your attacks on the legitimacy of the approps committee also are pernicious, because, whether you like it or not, we are at the center of millions of dollars worth of spending and we have been doing a good job.

again, while you are simply fueled by the interest of your group, we have to deal with ALL of the groups. We have to worry about precedent, about fairness, and about equity. We have to know that our actions with one group will affect our actions with all the other groups. and we have to acknowledge those consequences too. your op-ed clearly suggests an ignorance of our goals. we are trying to reduce the financial pressure on students and make sure that there are enough funds so that groups such as yours can keep on programming in years to come. tell me what is reprehensible with that tommy. (if you can’t, try and justify your actions, which have been explicitly going against those goals)

In your op-ed you presented the fact that we want FOs to read the policies as something negative. are you kidding me?!?! you want to know what the biggest problem with the funding process is? FOs dont know what the hell they are doing. applications are botched and incomplete. policies are not read or considered. there is never any documentation. as someone who has a lot more experience than you ever will in the funding process, let me tell you where “reform is needed”: groups need to train their FOs, groups need to select FO’s who will be on campus during their tenure, groups need to make sure their FOs go to the banking workshops, FOs need to read and follow the policies. Thats were reform in needed! your personal vendetta against the committee is doing nothing to address that central issue.

Tommy, consider this email an invitation and a challenge. I challenge you to ameliorate your rhetoric when it comes to the approps committee. i challenge you learn more about where we are coming from and what we are trying to do. I challenge you to actually propose a reform instead of just complaining. I challenge you to adopt a broader perspective and think about the consequences of your proposals. I challenge to actually get to the heart of the problem and work from there. (That is, if you actually care)

I hope to see you at tomorrow’s meeting


Anton H. Zietsman
Appropriations Committee | Chair

The Review doesn’t endorse Mr. Zietsman’s tone, though it should be noted this was intended to be a private correspondence. The substance of Mr. Zietsman’s argument serves as a pretty staunch and thorough defense of current practices, so I don’t think we can expect to see this latest back and forth move in any particular direction. Let’s keep it clean, gents!

*A brief note to the reader: undergraduate groups at Stanford are typically funded by EITHER General Fees OR Special Fees. Special Fees are voted on the ballot, and levied on the student body every quarter; General Fees are distributed throughout the year, and have a yearly cap of $7,000.

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