Last Thursday’s ASUCD senate meeting officially marked a new beginning.
The six outgoing senators – Adam Thongsavat, Osahon Ekhator, Ozzy Arce, Liz Walz, Alison Tanner and Selisa Romero – gave their farewell speeches. The six incoming senators – Yena Bae, Brendan Repicky, Miguel Espinoza, Amy Martin, Mayra Martin and Eli Yani – were confirmed.
People laughed, people cried. Now let’s get down to business.
Unfortunately for the newcomers, there isn’t much time to prepare for the most important time of year at the senate table – budget hearings. This is when ASUCD unit directors – the leaders of organizations like Unitrans and the Coffee House – write their budget and present it to the association.
Granted, budgets pass through various filters like the Internal Affairs Commission, Business and Finance Commission and the Office of the Controller before they reach the senate table, but the new senators should tread lightly.
Some former senators have had a tendency to take controller and commission recommendations as fact. They spent their time on other projects and voted along with the majority when it came time to approve the budgets that make up the majority of the $10.7 million that ASUCD controls.
This is not why they were elected. A senator’s primary responsibility is to allocate millions of dollars as efficiently as possible to benefit the student body. While budget-hearing season is when most of the money is allocated, there are financial decisions to be made every single week.
In order to represent the students and vote intelligently, senators need to do a few simple things.
The first is to attend every senate meeting. Senators are students just like us. Things will happen unexpectedly, but there are few excuses to warrant missing a meeting. These meetings happen on the same day at the same time every single week. Despite this fact, some past senators have struggled to appear consistently.
In the nine senate meetings since the fall term senators were confirmed, two of the former elected officials – Romero and Ekhator – were late, absent or left early five and six times, respectively.
The senators who stayed for the duration of every meeting – Darwin Moosavi, Emmanuel Diaz-Ordaz, Rebecca Sterling, Matt Provencher, Arce and Thongsavat – deserve praise. Add Tanner to the list as she only missed one meeting because she spent the night in the hospital.
Another thing senators can do is talk to students. The most obvious way to complete this task is to hold office hours every week. However, staying holed up in the senate office for four hours at a time doesn’t cut it. Senators need to go out and interact with their constituents.
Senators could hold their office hours at the CoHo, library, quad, Memorial Union Games Area, Silo or even on a bus, as long as the location and time are announced publicly. While some senators already do things like this, it’s a habit that the others should adopt.
Being a senator is a thankless, low-paying endeavor. Even the laziest ones work for less than minimum wage on a per-hour basis. But, it’s the job they signed up for. Now that they get to put ASUCD senator on their résumé, they have to uphold their end of the bargain and do what is expected of them – allocate $10.7 million in a way that most benefits UC Davis students.