Senators seize new power

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Mar 032011
 
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Student government senators unanimously increased their role in the oversight of more than $31 million in student fee allocations. By voting through legislation last week and overturning a veto by President Cooper Anderson on Wednesday night, senators siphoned away powers previously vested solely in the vice president.

Highlighting a philosophical rift between the two camps, Sen. Ben Weiner from the College of Natural Sciences and Elections Manager Andrew Ives introduced Bill #4012, which passed unanimously. The legislation lets senators ratify, as well as impeach, members of the Student Fee Review Board, which has the ability to recommend student-fee-increase proposals.

Previously, only Vice President Jennifer Babos could add and remove SFRB members. Anderson wanted to keep it that way.

“I just wanted to provide the Senate with another perspective because I wasn’t sure if it was heard,” he said Tuesday before his veto was rejected, adding that he based his decision mainly off of feelings that the bill unnecessarily politicized the work of SFRB.

The group, according to him, already had sufficient limits to its power, set by the Senate.

“They (SFRB) send their (funding)suggestions along to the Senate. I felt that was a good enough check upon the work SFRB has done –– the fact that Senate analyzes their work,” Anderson said.

But the 21 senators and two cabinet officials who fought for the bill disagree.

Supporters of the new measure argue the vice president wielded too much control under previous SFRB bylaws. Under worst-case scenarios, the vice president –– who chairs the group and has sole control over its membership –– would be able to select individuals only if they were sympathetic to his or her viewpoints on what deserved a fee increase.

High-level ASCSU officials have expressed deep concern about the fact that Alex Babos, Jennifer Babos’ brother, sits on the board and could help push through a highly controversial student fee increase of $3 to $4 to go toward the Office of Women’s Programs for interpersonal violence prevention and education.

An ASCSU official said Alex Babos’ presence on the board presents a serious conflict of interest and feels that the board has been stacked in favor of pushing through the proposed fee.

But Anderson asserts that siblings can still be impartial while serving with each other in student government.

“I think everybody that has been chosen on this board has been chosen in a very fair way. I think all throughout politics –– from the state, local and federal level –– people have shown an ability, whether they’re related to someone or not, to make a fair and impartial decision on what’s before them,” he said. “We’re all adults here.”

The Senate will vote on the fee before the end of the semester, and the Senate’s recommendation could influence whether Anderson will present the proposal to the CSU System Board of Governors before power is handed off to the next ASCSU president. The BOG has final say over all fee increases.

Nevertheless, senators cautioned against suspicions that the current SFRB is stacked to favor Babos’ political or personal interests.

“I really trust Jenny’s decision in the people that she put on the board,” said Sen. Taylor Jackson from the College of Engineering. “There are a lot of people on the board, so even if there were bias, there are a lot of other people on there to cancel it out.”

There are currently 14 members, including Alex Babos, on SFRB. Members from ASCSU include one senator and two members of the executive cabinet.
According to Jennifer Babos, all students who applied to be on SFRB and are not currently serving in ASCSU were accepted to the board. The only people who were denied participation on the board were internal ASCSU officers –– an act intended to make sure students outside of ASCSU are the majority sitting on SFRB.

For Eric Berlinberg, ASCSU deputy chief of staff and vice chair of SFRB, the legislation aimed for something greater than partisanship.

“Yeah, the politics are part of it,” he said. “But I think a bigger part of it is the checks and balances piece … I think that by allowing the vice president to have full and complete control over (SFRB) is a conflict of interest.”

_News Editor Jordyn Dahl contributed to this report.
Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com._

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