ASUO senators have shown a sharp divide over Senator Abel Cerros’s proposal of a new “ASUO Mediator” position. This position would de-escalate conflict between senators, as well as between them and their audience members.

Although a majority of senators have expressed support of the position, two senate meetings debated whether the position should be funded through a stipend model or by an hourly wage.

During last week’s ASUO senate meeting, Senator Cerros’s request of $3,795 to fund the position did not pass 8-10-1, and a vote on whether the position should be paid hourly or through a stipend was tabled. Cerros’s proposal includes the mediator receiving $11 per hour over a 10-15 hour work week.

Those in support of an hourly wage say the system would enable the position to be competitive as they seek to attract applicants with experience in conflict resolution, which would most likely consist of a student from the Law School.

However, those in support of a stipend pay like how it would cut the costs of funding the position.

Senator Zachary Rentschler is one who wants a stipend model to fund the position. Student leadership positions get stipends, and Zach Rentschler said at the meeting that this job would be a “student leadership development” position similar to a senator.

“I am always on duty as a senator. Even when I am in class, people ask me about senate and the special request process and for them [an ASUO mediator] it would be a similar experience,” Rentschler said.

On the other hand, senator Nicole Hendrix’s support for an hourly wage is because she says the mediator should be paid for actively attending senate meetings, and providing office hours to interact with other students.

“I feel it [an hourly wage] is more exact, even though it is hard to measure when they are going to speak. It is not for how many times they are going to intervene, it is about them actively listening in the meeting and paying attention,” Hendrix said.

Also, senator Nicole Hendrix’s support for hourly is based the fact that a stipend position would not support work-study.

The position is the brainchild of Senator Cerros, who circulated an “ASUO Feedback” survey on October 15, gathering input on how he could improve the experience of students attending senate meetings.

Fifteen students responded to the survey. The results show that most participants answered “access to a senator prior to a meeting,” was “not accessible.” Cerros also shared anonymous answers to three of the short-answer survey questions which showed that some survey-takers felt intimidated at senate meetings.

Duties of the mediator are to include: being a resource on issues of “conflict, bias and neutrality,” have the ability to intervene during senate meeting discussions in order to “educate and deescalate conflict,” and investigate complaints to prevent formal investigations before they turn into “formal investigations” (such as the ASUO Constitution Court judging over a grievance).

Senators will meet during next week’s senate meeting to vote once again on how the position will be paid.

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