Undergraduate Senate, GSA hold annual joint ratification meeting

On Wednesday, April 19, the Undergraduate Student Senate and the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) met in Tepper Simmons Auditorium for their annual Joint Ratification Meeting (JRM). The JRM is a once-a-year meeting where the two student government bodies meet to approve the results of the student elections and budgets from the activities fee.

Climate Action Resolution

The meeting opened with a vote to endorse J.R.22.09, titled “A Resolution on Climate Action.” This was proposed by the Climate Action Working Group of the Sustainability Initiative. The joint proposal has two main features. The first sets a goal of Carnegie Mellon having net-zero emissions by July 1, 2030 in both Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. Scope 1 emissions are direct (sources that are controlled or owned by an organization) and Scope 2 emissions are indirect (purchase of electricity, steam, heat, or cooling).

The second part of the proposal outlines the formation of a Climate Action Planning Committee. It would develop “an actionable plan for 2030 to achieve a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions related to direct, Scope 1 emissions and indirect, Scope 2 emission by July 2030.” The committee will also make recommendations to measure Scope 3 emissions (Results of activities from assets not owned or controlled by the organization, but the organization indirectly affects in its value chain) and then make recommendations to address them.

The standing committee will have both undergraduate and graduate students and make recommendations to the Provost no later than April 30, 2024. The committee will focus on providing recommendations in ten areas — which are listed in the proposal — and will also provide an annual report of progress toward the 2030 net-zero emissions goal.

With a vote of 25-0-1 in the Senate and 49-0-2 in GSA, the proposal will be delivered to the Office of the Provost later this month.

Student Body Elections

The next section of the meeting was led by Election Board Chair Sarthak Bisht. The student body elections are run through a single transferable vote. For single-winner elections, this means that the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their votes are transferred to the voter’s next choice until one candidate has a majority. For multi-winner elections, candidates must meet a specified quota, and when they do, they win and their surplus votes are transferred. There is also a one percent minimum applied, which means executive candidates (Director of Finance, Director of Organizations) need at least one percent of votes from graduate and undergraduate students to win.

This year, the total turnout was 4.25 percent, a low in the past few years. 7.27 percent of undergraduates voted while 1.24 percent of graduate students voted. In the five years prior, the lowest turnouts had been 13.15 percent of undergraduates in 2019 and 1.88 percent of graduates in 2020.

Elizabeth Fu was the winner of the Director of Finance position after three rounds of voting. A total of 412 ballots were cast and the winner needed 207 total votes and 69 graduate student votes to win. Daphne Han was the winner of the Director of Organizations after one round of voting. A total of 348 ballots were cast and the winner needed 175 total votes and 69 graduate student votes to win.

The slate of Undergraduate Senate candidates was also looked at. In the School of Computer Science, seven seats were filled by six candidates; in the College of Engineering, 12 seats were filled by six candidates; in the College of Fine Arts, six seats were filled by four candidates; in Dietrich College, 10 seats were filled by 10 candidates; in the Mellon College of Science, six seats were filled by one candidate; in the Tepper School of Business, five seats were filled by three candidates; and in the BXA program, one seat was filled by one candidate. Any seat unfilled seat will be vacant in the upcoming school year until filled.

A number of issues were also noted during the presentation. The Election Board was convened later in the Spring semester than usual “due to unclear constitutional language.” There was also a late start based on tech “due to the lack of a functional elections platform,” which required an emergency meeting. Also, a lack of internal participation from issues of quorum, communication, and internal participation slowed down the overall process.

During the election process, students reported confusion about single transferable voting, including write-ins and no confidence votes. Additionally, as noted earlier, there was lower-than-expected turnout, which was attributed partially toward Election Board's failure to publicize elections well. It was also partially attributed to the elimination of the Student Body President and Student Body Vice President elections, which historically got the most attention in these elections.

With votes of 24-0-2 in the Senate and 55-0-0 in GSA, the results of the elections were ratified.

Student Government Executive Budget

The Student Government Executive Budget pays for Student Government operations, including line items like honorariums for the Director of Finance (DoF) and Director of Organizations (DoO), Joint Funding Committee (JFC) committee members, Student Government Staff, TartanConnect, and some other Student Government Infrastructure. In the budget, a total of $78,514.50 was proposed for student government, which was $3,720.32 over the $74,794.18 that it will be allocated. The total proposed budget is almost a 20 percent increase over last year, with the total allocation growing comparatively by five percent.

Some noticeable increases are the honorariums for the DoF and DoO. Both positions currently pay $2,500, and the proposed budget increases the honorarium of DoF to $8,000 and the DoO to $5,000. According to DoF Clarissa Liang, this is to better reflect the amount of work these positions do and bring them into line with the salaries of the GSA President and Senate President. Another sizable increase was the JFC Meeting Food budget, which went to $5,400 from $3,150, a 71.43 percent increase. Liang explained that this was because of the increased frequency of meetings of the JFC. Additionally, an auditing committee will be formed, with a total budget of $4,902; this will cover the cost of honorariums and meeting food. The JFC piloted an auditing committee this past year and is looking to make it more official in the coming year.

Before the budget was voted on, an amendment was proposed to cut down the proposed line items of the DoF honorarium, DoO honorarium, and JFC food by $1,000 each. The amendment passed Senate 10-9-5 while it failed GSA 1-44-8. The final votes on the as-is proposed budget were 15-4-6 in the Senate and 47-2-3 in GSA, passing.

Activities Board Elections and Budget

Activities Board (AB) is the programming arm of Carnegie Mellon’s student government that provides free events to the student body. AB is composed of six committees: Concerts, Films, Events, Speakers, Publicity, and Tech; Tech is operationally independent from AB.

Each committee of AB is composed of one chair and one to two leads. AB Main/President, Internal and Finance Chairs oversee AB’s internal operations. To put into view how many students AB impacts, 2,250 concert tickets were sold to their last show (COIN at Spring Carnival), and multiple of their events like Chili Cookoff and Skate Night were at capacity.

As part of AB’s internal processes, they have elections that are approved by the Senate and GSA during the JRM. As part of their elections, AB has a screening process to determine eligibility for AB Exec; candidates then have to give a one- to three- minute speech to current AB exec and the AB general body. There is then a series of internal discussions and then voting. The AB exec board that was brought before the Senate and GSA was passed.

Next, AB presented its FY24 Budget Request, which asked for a total of $627,135, or about 23.17 percent of the JFC Main budget. They went through how much each part of AB would be receiving under the proposed budget. AB Main was slated to receive $53,674, an increase of $22,000 from 2023 due to additional funds for honorariums and the National Association for Campus Activities.

AB Concerts was requesting $297,550, up from $256,649 in 2023. The increased budget is a result of inflation and post-pandemic transition, desire to book more notable performers, and price increases in fees and agent costs. AB Films will be merged into AB Events moving forward. AB Events requested $86,111, which is slightly less than the combined AB Events and AB Films budget in 2023 of $86,423. AB Speakers requested $189,800 for the upcoming year, which is up from $126,340 in 2023. This increased budget is a result of increased artists and agent fees, desire to book higher profile artists, and high attendance at all events and utilization of funds.

An important increase in the overall AB budget came from honorariums for next year. AB proposed in this budget that the Internal Team (AB President, Internal Development Chair, and Finance Chair) would each receive an honorarium of $8,000; Committee Chairs would receive an honorarium of $5,000; and Committee Leads would receive $4,000. A proposed amendment changed these values to $4,000, $3,000, and $2,000, respectively. This passed Senate 13-7-2 and passed GSA 37-13-0. A second amendment proposed that the honorariums be changed to $6,000, $5,000, and $4,000, respectively. This amendment failed in the Senate, 6-15-2. In a final vote of the AB budget, the amended budget passed Senate 22-1-1 and passed GSA unanimously.

Second Round of JFC Appeals

After coming back from a short break, both the Senate and JFC voted to suspend quorum in case they fell below quorum at any point during the meeting. The Senate passed this 20-1-1 and the GSA passed this unanimously.

Following this, the Senate and GSA heard the second round of JFC appeals. Each organization presented its appeal request, followed by its GSA and Senate sponsor sharing their rationale for sponsoring the appeal. The current DoF then presented the JFC’s rationale for rejection. The DoO and organization representatives then answered any questions. The appeal must pass with a 2/3 supermajority vote. There were a total of seven eligible appeals that were presented at the JRM.

In order to do a second round appeal, a number of qualifications must have been met. The first is that the line items that were being appealed had to have been rejected by the JFC. Additionally, organizations must have sponsors from both GSA and Senate that do not have affiliation with the organization. The organization representative must also not be a member of GSA or Senate. The final qualification was that the line item does not meet the JFC’s FY24 metric cap.

The first presented appeal was from Scottie Ventures, which was appealing for $1,090. Their line items that were cut include funds for a competition, recruitment, professional headshots, and a Crunchbase Pro Subscription. They were sponsored by Senate member Mason Xiao and GSA member Matthew Reeder. The Senate and JFC funded $790, which excluded the costs for meals during travel, which the JFC does not fund. The votes were 17-4-4 from the Senate and 50-1-1 for GSA.

The second presented appeal was from the Robotics Club, which requested $6,200 to build another buggy as part of their RoboBuggy project. They were asking for $4,000 for shell materials, $1,200 for microcontrollers, $500 for headlamps, $300 for flood lights, and $200 for servos. The appeal was sponsored by Xiao and GSA member Aditya Desai. The appeal was amended to $5,400 for shell materials, servos, and microcontrollers. The Senate approved the amended appeal 16-5-1, and the GSA approved the amended appeal 33-15-2.

The third appeal was from Carnegie Mellon Racing, which asked for $13,550. These costs were associated with paying registration, travel, and lodging for competitions. There was a proposed amendment to change the cost for travel and lodging to $4,000 from $8,250. This proposed amendment failed in the Senate, 6-10-3. They then proceeded to vote on the entire proposal, which was rejected by the Senate, 6-13-2.

The fourth presented appeal was from the Jewish Graduate Student Association for $5,800. The requested funds were to cover costs for kosher ingredients for Shabbat dinner and lunch events, wine for Shabbat dinner and lunch events, and wine for Jewish holiday ceremonies. The Senate sponsor was Ellie Fu and the GSA sponsor was Mitchell Fogelson. The appeal passed both the Senate and GSA.

The fifth presented appeal was from the Google Developer Student Club, which was requesting $1,000; they are a new organization on campus. They were asking for funds for advertising, their Solutions Challenges Final Hackathon, and food for general body meetings. The appeal was sponsored by Senate member Eunice Lee and GSA member Nandankumar Desai. The Senate voted first and rejected the appeal, 5-10-3.

The sixth presented appeal was from Cru, which asked for $2,520. This money was to be used for a fall retreat, winter conference, food during general body meetings, and event supplies. The appeal was sponsored by Senate member Alexandria Donohue and GSA member Matthew Reeder. An amendment was made to remove the line items related to the fall retreat, which was passed by the Senate and GSA. The final vote on the amended appeal was 15-3-1, passing the Senate, and 23-4-3, passing GSA.

The final presented appeal was from Tepper Finance Group, which asked for $2,000 for hosting their alumni event at a non-Carnegie Mellon venue. The appeal was sponsored by Donohue and GSA member Lucas Jia. The appeal was voted on and failed in the Senate, 9-9-2.

Final JFC Budget Votes

To close the meeting, there were two more votes. The first was on the section of the JFC budget that included student honorariums and alcohol allocations, which needs a 2/3 supermajority vote to pass. There were no objections from the Senate or GSA, so this passed. The second vote was on the rest of the JFC budget, which also received no objections.