A More Helpful Senate
Throughout my three years on Senate, I have often been critical of the body, not because I dislike being on it, but because I know it can do many things a lot better. I have worked hard to listen to student voices both in reforming Senate internally and pushing it toward improving student life externally, and I hope to continue that work next year.
Continue my work to increase Senate's transparency – I have been TCU Parliamentarian for the past two years, and in that time, a lot about the way we handle resolutions has changed. In my first year, we generally received resolutions just days before they were heard and seldom posted them online. Since then, I have instituted live streaming for all resolutions and required that a summary be submitted two weeks before and the full text one week before. This is real progress, but we can still do more: let’s collect and clearly publish aggregate-level data of groups’ budgets and use that data to ensure we are treating all student groups fairly.
Lift the food cap for religious and cultural groups – Most student groups can only have 20 percent of their budget dedicated to food, while religious and cultural groups are capped at 40 percent. Food is central to the mission of many organizations, which exist largely to help people coalesce around shared experiences and culture; for these groups food caps force them to either pad the budget with money they do not want or need or miss out on food that would genuinely benefit them. The cap should therefore be increased for all groups and eliminated for religious and cultural groups.
Fund programs that help students, don’t give Senators a raise out of the student activities fee – earlier this month, TCU Senate voted 16-14 to pay members of its Exec Board and Allocations Board, with a total of $8,500 coming from student activities fee money. This money could be better used in the student support fund, soon-to-be-created leadership stipends fund, or to limit the personal contributions that student organizations are allowed to pay. I would push for a bylaw requiring that future raises to our own pay must be passed by referendum, and ensure that the student activities money that you all pay is used to help you.
Set equitable standards for budgets prior to budgeting – many groups may be afraid to ask for a lot of money, while others purposefully inflate their budgets. Oftentimes the groups which submit smaller budgets than they would like are groups who know few members of Senate and are afraid to ask for too much money. Senate should gather a uniform set of standards to be applied to all budgets so that all groups are treated fairly, and groups aren't encouraged to pad their budgets in order to receive as much money as possible.
Remove unnecessary bureaucratic rules in supplementary funding process – TCU Senate can fund travel to California, but not to Montreal, a 4 hour drive away. The Treasury Procedures Manual (TPM) has a clause which forbids us from funding research, yet the definition is so broad that it forbids us from funding some clubs which have no other place to turn to. These are just two of many rules which were instituted in good faith, yet serve as an unnecessary inconvenience to many students on campus. I'll encourage a deep dive into the TPM, so that we can remove clauses that make people's lives harder without any real benefit to the student body.
Support expanded use of referenda so that all students can have a say on important issues – Senators are elected to represent the student body, but some decisions merit broader participation. Some are simply conflicts of interest; Senate voting to increase stipends for many of its own members comes to mind. Others are deeply politically charged in nature and would be better served by being put up for a student-body-wide vote. I would advocate for the increased use of referenda on issues which merit them so that we can come to fair decisions that reflect the will of the entire student body.