Alex Mills’ promotion came at a momentous time for Student Congress. And it was momentous in itself.
By stepping in for Deanna Santoro as speaker, Mills became the first graduate student in recent memory to serve in the role.
And with budget decisions and proposals to amend the Student Code lying on the horizon, his one-month term will be as influential as it is brief.
Though his appointment followed a student body election season rife with lawsuits, complaints and hearings that raised multiple questions about the interpretation of the Student Code, Mills said he will prioritize the budget and leave the Code amendments to others.
“I guess I see it as more of a caretaker role,” Mills said. “I’ve been in Congress for two years. I’m not coming back next year. My number one priority is to just make a smooth transition for next year.”
Following the contentious campaign season for student body elections, representative Adam Horowitz said there are some activists in the legislative branch who want to revamp Title VI of the Student Code to clarify election laws.
But Mills said that is not a priority for him.
“We all have a limited amount of time and energy, and we should spend it on things that we have started,” he said.
Though Horowitz and former speaker Santoro agreed that Congress’ main concern for the coming month should be the annual budget, they both said there could still be time to put some small amendments to the Student Code in motion.
“You can’t produce any major pieces of legislation in the last few weeks,” Santoro said, adding that she would co-sponsor smaller Title VI amendments.
While he believes the Code needs changing, Mills said he will leave that responsibility to other Congress members and focus on allocating student fees to different student groups. He said his main obstacle is that student groups are requesting three times more funding than is available, and some of them won’t see any money at all until next fall.
On Thursday and Saturday, Mills and the finance committee heard from 75 different student groups requesting some portion of money from student fees. Since Congress can only allocate about 35 percent of the budget during spring semester, many of those groups will have to come back to request funding again in the fall.
Despite the limited spring allocations, a mix of graduate and undergraduate groups have requested funding from the finance committee.
Mills said his position as a graduate student will not influence how the budget hearings play out.
“I don’t think it’s really going to affect things at all,” he said. “The two groups have worked really well together, and we do a better job when we have a diversity of viewpoints.”
Santoro added that because the speaker is a non-voting member on all committees, Mills won’t have much input as to where the finance committee allocates funds.
“The speaker is sort of an administrative role,” Santoro said. “Alex has been in Congress a long time. He knows what he’s doing, he’s doing a great job.”
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