Updates from February, 2013 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • 12:01 am on February 25, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Live Blogging | VSA Council, February 24, 2013 

    Hey everyone! Gear up for an exciting meeting! Professor of Economics Paul Ruud is here to talk about divestment, and the Vassar Haiti Project has arrived, presumably to contest a fund application denial issued by Council last week.

    7:02 | Attendance

    Class of 2016 President and Ferry House Representative are not in attendance.

    7:03 | Consent Agenda

    1. $0 from Conference to WVKR
    2. $0 from Conference to Soundsystem
    3. $180 from Capital to Soundsystem
    4. $0 from Discretionary to Vassar Haiti Project
    5. $370 from Discretionary to Polo
    6. $0 from Discretionary to START
    7. $1600 from Capital to NSO

    Representative from the Vassar Haiti Project Mai Heuien has asked that the VSA Council remove item four for further discussion later in the meeting. The remainder of the agenda has been passed without comment.

    7:04 | A Resolution in Support of Fossil Fuel Divestment

    Professor of Economics Paul Ruud has been invited by members of the divestment campaign to deliver some remarks. He says that Vassar should divest for ethical, social or political reasons, but not to make an economic impact on fossil fuel corporations.

    According to Ruud, divestment would be relatively more expensive if it were to happen immediately, but relatively inexpensive if it is undertaken over a long period of time.

    Ruud adds that the fuel reserves held by corporations have up to five times more carbon than can be safely released into the atmosphere. He argues that this sets a limit on the amount of fossil fuel that can be burned, and that investing in fossil fuels is risky in the long run. Ruud believes that Vassar should divest to mitigate this risk.

    VSA Vice President for Finance Alex Koren ’13 asks if co-mingled funds would impede divestment. Ruud says that safe transitions between investment vehicles is possible over many years.

    Since last week, the Student Life Committee has worked with the divestment campaign to revise the resolution. The changes to the resolution emphasize that Vassar should announce its intention to divest for political, ethical and social reasons now, but undergo the actual divestment process over a period of several years in a way that would minimize the risk of loss.

    All but Koren vote in favor of this resolution.

    7:26 | Vassar Haiti Project Fund Application

    The application submitted by the Vassar Haiti Project requests that the VSA help them fund a trip to Haiti.

    One of the reasons that the Finance Committee did not allocate funding is that the VHP is part of a national 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Heuien asserts that this this trip is being planned separately from the national organization.

    The VHP has fundraised $7000 for the trip so far. The organization is requesting a little over $3,000.

    Another member of the Vassar Haiti Project, who has been on this trip in the past, says that it was an inspiration and a learning experience for her.

    There are roughly 20 VHP members in attendance.

    Koren outlines two concerns that the Finance Committee had when it was reviewing the fund application. He says that one concern was that, since the Vassar Haiti Project has a separate account with Haiti Project, incorporated (the 501(c)3 organization), whose transactions are not available to the VSA Council. The other concern that Finance Committee had was that some students are receiving academic credit; VSA Council does not fund projects which receive academic credit.

    Koren says that, for these reasons, funding the application would be against the VSA bylaws.

    The Vassar Haiti Project, through is 501(c)3 account, manages about $100,000 each year, but most of this money is earmarked for specific projects in Haiti, such as schools and medical clinics.

    There is concern among members of Council that it is illegal for Vassar, as a 501(c)3, to contribute to another 501(c)3. Town Houses President Carmen Angleton ’13 suggests that the discussion be put on hold while all parties consult one of Vassar’s legal advisors.

    Council votes against making an allocation.

    8:05 | Executive Board Report with VP for Activities Doug Greer ’14

    Greer and the Activities Committee have been working on integrating the new student organization program passed last semester.

    8:06 | Executive Board Report with VP for Finance Alex Koren ’13

    Special purpose funds are in good health, but the discretionary fund is low.

    Koren and the Finance committee are working with the Financial Aid office about the possibility of subsidizing student organization with high barriers to entry (such as the Polo Team).

    In a survey issued by the Finance Committee to the leaders of student organizations, 80% of respondents said that they would prefer that their funds be rolled over year to year. At this time, left over funding is returned to the VSA discretionary fund. According to Koren, there is a tremendous bump in spending at the end of every year, presumably because student organizations know that they will not keep their funding.

    8:14 | VC Together Update with VP for Student Life Dallas Robinson ’14

    VC Together is an organization that has been formed in the wake of the Westboro Baptist Church’s announcement to picket at Vassar this Thursday. The tentative plan is to hold a rally on the Residential Quad, but there will be a meeting tomorrow night to make finalized plans.

    8:17 | Seven Sisters’ Council Constitution with VP for Operations Deb Steinberg

    Over the past few months, Steinberg has been collaborating with student representatives from the other Seven Sisters on a joint constitution for an inter-college programming board.

    Council accepts the constitution.

    8:22 | Open Discussion

    There are 90 days until Commencement.

    The START committee will be holding three meetings this week to foster an open dialogue and gauge student interest in the possibility of an all-campus smoking ban.

    8:27 | Council adjourns

  • 12:05 am on February 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Live Blogging VSA Council, February 17, 2013 

    7:04 | Consent Agenda

    1. $1,533 from Conference to Wordsmiths
    2. $695 from Community to Slow Food
    3. $512 from Discretionary to TAs
    4. $792 from Conference to Haiti Project
    5. $315 from Conference to Vastards
    6. $5,000 from Conference to ViCE
    7. Preliminary Organizations
    8. Minutes from 2/10 meeting

    All items are adopted without debate.

    7:05 | Forum with Dean of Strategic Planning and Academic Resources Marianne Begemann and Director of Investments Steven Dahnert

    Dahnert begins the forum by outlining some basic facts.

    The purpose of Vassar’s endowment is to support the College’s mission, according to Dahnert. Vassar’s committees do not choose every single specific investment that the College makes; it hires private fund managers to make individual investment decisions. However, Vassar does direct these managers to work in certain, broad ways.

    Vassar does not generally monitor what assets its managers choose. According to Dahnert, one of Vassar’s typical managers make individual security selections.

    Many of Vassar’s investments are held in co-mingled funds, and Vassar can not tell the managers of these funds specifically where to put the money. To explain this, Dahnert makes an analogy: Vassar has a share in these funds in the same way that stock owners have shares in companies.

    Dahnert continues by saying that he believes that Vassar’s investments in fossil fuels are comparable to its peers. He reiterates that the managers of these co-mingled funds do not release specific information about the funds, but he feels confident that about 60% of the co-mingled funds have some fossil fuel exposure. In order to divest from fossil fuels, Vassar will have to leave each of these funds entirely.

    “I strongly oppose divestment,” says Dahnert.

    Dean Begemann begins by describing the role and responsibilities of the Campus Investor Responsibility Committee. She speaks directly about the issue of fossil fuel divestment. The CIRC has been reviewing the proposal for several weeks; once it is done, it will make a recommendation to the Trustee Investor Responsibility Committee which ultimately makes the final decision in consultation with the Trustee Investor committee.

    Josselyn House President Casey Hancock ’15 announces that, during the last week, the Divestment Resolution that the VSA had been considering has been changed. Now, it no longer supports the Greens’ specific divestment proposal, but divestment from fossil fuels in general. The VSA will vote on this resolution later in the meeting.

    VSA President Jason Rubin ’13 asks Dahnert and Begemann to comment on the state of the endowment. Dahnert reports that the size of the endowment has returned to its 2006-2007 levels, but Vassar’s spending now is higher than it was then.

    “We’re not in a sustainable position,” says Begemann, adding that the endowment per student has only grown very slightly in the last ten years, but costs have risen at a higher level.

    VP for Finance Alex Koren ’13 asks why fund managers would refuse requests to divest. Dahnert says that investment managers hold funds from many different organizations, and they cannot have one single organization dictate how all of the organizations’ funds are invested.

    Town Houses President Carmen Angleton ’13 asks about Vassar’s history with divestment, in particular about Vassar’s divestment during Apartheid and Sudan. Dahnert says that, during the Apartheid divestment, Vassar’s investments were mostly direct, so there was no issue with co-mingled funds. A few years later, Vassar made the decision to divest its direct investments from Sudan, but not the co-mingled funds.

    Class of 2016 President Max Moran asks how much money Vassar invests directly in fossil fuels. Dahnert says that less than 1% of the endowment is directly invested in fossil fuels.

    Rubin asks what effect divestment would have on fossil fuel companies. Dahnert believes it would have no effect, explaining that most trades of stock are conducted between investors, and there is a zero net sum resulting from the trades.

    Lathrop House President Sophia Wallach reminds the room that the divestment proposal is not meant to have a practical impact, but to make a political statement. Dahnert does not think that the political statement will have an effect either, saying that these fossil fuel companies are extremely successful, and there is a high demand for their stocks.

    “I support lowering carbon emissions, but this is not the way to do it,” says Dahnert.

    VP for Academics Amanda Zeligs ’13 asks if there are other ways that the College can support the environmental cause. Dahnert says that staying invested and having a voice in the companies’ policies as shareholders would be more effective than divesting.

    VP for Student Life Dallas Robinson ’14 asks if it is sustainable to stay invested with fossil fuel companies even though they are founded upon limited resources. Dahnert says that it is the fund managers’ job to account for such an issue, and that they are capable of divesting when the fossil fuel industry is no longer profitable.

    “Divestment is a feel-good measure,” says Dahnert. “It’s not going to address the core problem.”

    7:52 | Forum with Do Something VC

    Do Something VC was created in the wake of the Westboro Baptist Church’s announcement to protest at Vassar.

    Do Something VC is meant to coordinate the efforts of the entire Vassar community in responding to the WBC protest. They have been collaborating with students, faculty, staff, administrators, and student organizations.

    Robinson says that some students have expressed their discomfort to her that Do Something VC is “predominantly white and male.” Robinson asks Do Something to comment. Do Something VC representative Logan Keane ’15 says they have been in contact with ALANA orgs, and everyone who is interested in joining is welcome to its public meetings.

    8:07 | Given that classes will be held as usual on the Thursday that WBC will protest, representatives of Do Something VC confirm that classes will not be cancelled, but individual faculty members are allowed to cancel their own classes.

    8:10 | A Resolution in Support of Fossil Fuel Divestment

    Gabe Dunsmith ’14 and Noah Bogdonoff  ’14 begin by addressing Dahnert’s comments from earlier in the evening. He says that Vassar is a part of a larger national movement; if many Colleges tell their investment managers to divest, then the managers will divest.

    He adds that a major part of the movement to divest is to make a political statement, but that was not a big part of Dahnert’s presentation.

    Bogdonoff says that individual lifestyle changes will not make as big of an impact in the fossil fuel industry as Dahnert claimed.

    Bogdonoff concludes by saying that trying to influence corporations through channels available to us as shareholders can be ineffective.

    Aashim Usgaonkar ’13 claims that one of the studies that the Greens have used to support their cause is statistically meaningless. Specifically, the Greens used a study funded by the Aperio Group based on a stock index called the Russell 3000. Usgaonkar says that the way the Aperio Group used this index in their study is based on flawed assumptions.

    Moran says that he fully supports the resolution, believing that it will make a political statement.

    Council is currently discussing the quality of the resolution’s language.

    Class of 2015 President Alison Ehrlich suggests that the VSA Council table this resolution for another week.

    Steinberg supports Ehrlich’s suggestion, say she would like to make the resolution more specific.

    Dunsmith says he would be disappointed if this resolution was tabled again, saying that he and the other students behind the movement have been preparing it for months.

    Divestment Campaign representatives say that timing is critical in order to get on the Trustees’ agenda this semester.

    VP for Activities Doug Greer ’14 says that it is inappropriate for Council to ask a student organization dedicated to making political statements, to change the statements that they are making, as tabling this resolution for amendment would do.

    Ferry House Representative and member of the Campaign Lanbo Yang ’15 says that the resolution was left intentionally vague because members of the campaign do not fully understand the intricacies of Vassar’s endowment, and they wanted to leave multiple options open.

    Bogdonoff and Dunsmith are now in support of tabling this resolution in an effort to make it clearer and more effective at the Board of Trustees meeting.

    Council tables this resolution.

    9:31 | After a five minute recess, Council, in collaboration with the Ultimate Frisbee Team, has decided to table the resolution concerning Vassar Athletics and VSA organizations.

    9:33 | Executive Board Report from VSA VP for Student Life Dallas Robinson ’14

    Since her appointment, Robinson has led the Student Life committee in discussions about divestment, the Westboro Baptist Church’s protest, and the VSA Council’s relationship with ALANA and spectrum organizations.

    9:34 | Executive Board Report from VSA VP for Academics Amanda Zeligs ’13

    The Academics Committee has been working on finishing its newsletter.

    9:35 | Committee on College Life Update with President Jason Rubin ’13

    The issue of a smoking ban has been on the committee’s agenda, and Rubin will have more information in the next few weeks.

    Dean of Students DB Brown has proposed that exceptions be made to the usual student disciplinary hearing process to make it easier to hold hearings at the end of academic years instead of waiting until the beginning of the next academic year.

    CCL has also been considering a proposal to prevent alumnae/i to come to campus on the day of the WBC protest for safety concerns.

    9:39 | Smoking Ban Committee (START) Update with Terrace Apartments President Devin Griffin ’13

    The Committee is moving forward with collecting student input as the Committee on College Life vote approaches in March.

    9:42 | Spring Elections Timeline with Terrace Apartments President Devin Griffin ’13

    Filing will begin after spring break.

    It is expected that the composition of some joint committees will be changed by the Board of Trustees in the coming weeks. More information on this to come.

    9:46 | Open Discussion

    There are 97 days until Commencement.

    The Seven Sisters’ Coordinating Board has adopted a constitution. It will be on Council’s agenda for approval next week.

    9:49 | Council Adjourns

  • 1:55 am on February 12, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Live Blogging | All-campus Westboro Baptist Church Reaction Meeting, February 11, 2013 

    9:55pm | UpC is beginning to fill up; there appear to be roughly 150 people in attendance at this time. Assistant Director for Campus Life Judy Jarvis is in the room.

    10:01  | Attendance has grown to at least 200 people, mostly students. Attendees have formed a semi-circle on the floor in UpC’s lower atrium.

    10:10 | “I feel like Barack Obama has just been re-elected,” joked Cory Epstein ’12, remarking on the meeting’s great attendance. He hopes that Vassar can be proactive in its efforts to counter the Church’s protest.

    10:15 | Representatives of CARES are reminding students that they are available to students who may be feeling emotional distress as a result of WBC’s planned protest.

    10:17 | Organizers are outlining the rules for the meeting, which include “be concise”, “speak from the heart”, and “assume best intent”.

    10:25 | The VSA Vice President for Operations Deb Steinberg ’14 announces that the meeting will move into small groups managed by facilitators.

    10:29 | The groups of twenty to thirty students are discussing their reactions, and ideas for how the Vassar community should react. One student has suggested that Vassar should take this opportunity to raise awareness beyond Vassar by fundraising.

    11:04 | The room is coming back together. Each group has prepared some highlights from their conversations to present the the full audience.

    11:07 | A recurring theme is inclusion; attendees hope that the message from Vassar is not anti-religious, but a unifying message for the entire community.

    11:13 | Several students were also concerned with the risk of legal repercussions. Presenters urge students to remain peaceful and organized.

    11:20 | The Vassar fundraiser at the Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to suicide prevention among members of the LGBTQ community, has just reached $9000.

    11:25 | The meeting is adjourned.

  • 11:59 pm on February 10, 2013 Permalink
    Tags: Live Blog, VSA Council   

    Live Blogging | VSA Council February 10, 2013 

    Hello everyone! I hope you all had a fun weekend in the snow. It’s going to be another exciting Council with the appointment of a new VSA VP for Academics!


    7:00pm | Attendance

    All representatives are in attendance but VP for Finance Alex Koren ’13.

    7:02pm | Consent Agenda

    1. $5000 from Discretionary to ViCE Music
    2. $1,221 from Discretionary to Fem Alliance
    3. $764 from Capital to Class of 2013
    4. $5,600 from Speakers, Lectures and Panels to VSA
    5. $0 from Conference to Pro Health
    6. Minutes from 2/3 meeting

    All items are adopted without discussion.

    7:04 | Executive Board Report from VSA President Jason Rubin ’13

    The Board of Trustees will discuss the possibility of moving the bookstore to the former-Juliet Cafe space this March. Rubin comments that, given the College’s financial situation, it is unlikely that the Board will decide to move the bookstore off-campus.

    Tim Wise, an American anti-racism advocate and writer, will come to campus for a lecture on February 18.

    7:06 | Executive Board Report from VSA Vice President for Operations Deb Steinberg ’14

    The Operations Committee has been interviewing applicants for various residential and Class year VSA positions.

    7:07 | Women’s Center Resolution with Deb Steinberg ’14 and Sitara Mahtani ’14

    Steinberg and Mahtani present a resolution for Council endorsement to increase the physical size of the Women’s Center. They argue that the space is difficult for students to find, difficult for students to use, and limits the Center’s ability to fulfill its role on campus.

    Lathrop President Sophia Wallach ’15 asks if Steinberg or Mahtani have a new space in mind. They do not, but they say that a larger space would be used by the Women’s Center, and other student organizations dedicated to gender issues.

    Council adopts the resolution.

    7:14 | Fossil Fuel Divestment Resolution with Noah Bogdonoff ’14 and Gabe Dunsmith ’14

    (Full disclosure: Gabe Dunsmith is an Assistant Opinions editor for The Miscellany News)

    Dunsmith and Bogdonoff represent the Vassar College Divestment Campaign, and ask that Council endorse their fossil fuel divestment proposal. They argue that climate change is of “overriding social concern,” and ask that the Campus Investor Responsibility Committee work with the Board of Trustees to fully divest.

    Bogdonoff addresses concerns that divestment would damage the College’s finances, citing a report from California research organization which says that the the fossil fuel industry is statistically insignificant.

    Rubin recommends that Council tables the resolution to the Student Life Committee. Dean Begemann will be holding a forum with Council at next week’s meeting.

    Ferry House Representative Lanbo Yang says that this resolution must carry the voice of the student body to the upper echelons of the administration, and that issues of the environment are just as important as, for example, issues of gender related to the Women’s Center.

    Council tables the resolution, with eight representatives in opposition.

    7:39 | Appointment of Class of 2014 Judicial Board Representatives with Steinberg

    The Operations Committee recommends Evan Seltzer ’14 and Caroline Winkeller ’14. Council appoints both.

    7:43 | Appointment of Davison House Junior Representative with Steinberg

    The Operations Committee recommends Luis Cantor ’14. Council appoints Cantor.

    7:44 | Appointment of Strong House Junior Representative with Steinberg

    The Operations Committee recommends Emily Salshutz ’14. Council appoints Salshutz.

    7:45 | Appointment of VSA VP for Academics with Steinberg

    The Operations Committee recommends Amanda Zeligs ’13, citing her varied resume with organizations and programs at Vassar College. Council appoints Zeligs without discussion.

    7:48 | Open Discussion

    There are 104 days until Commencement. Class of 2013 President Vincent Marchetta reports that planning for Senior Day is moving full speed ahead.

    Class of 2016 President Max Moran expresses discomfort with the House Team appointment process. He says that Council is not necessarily aware of what House Team jobs entail, and that such appointments would be better handled within the respective Houses. Steinberg agrees, saying that the system is not ideal, but argues that the applications, and collaboration with relevant House Presidents, helps make it easier.

    Council appoints Carlos Hernandez as the Town Students Representative.

    7:56 | Council adjourns.

  • The Miscellany News 10:55 pm on February 3, 2013 Permalink  

    Live Blogging | VSA Council, February 3, 2013 

    Hello everyone! Happy Super Bowl Sunday.

    6:04 | Attendance

    Class of 2015 President Alison Ehrlich ’15 is not in attendance.

    6:05 | Consent Agenda

    1. $10,000 from Discretionary to Hip Hop 101
    2. $5,000 from Speakers to NSO
    3. $1,500 from Collaboration to Punx/Sound System
    4. $1,650 from Discretionary to Habitat for Humanity
    5. $$1,500 from Community to Barefoot Monkeys
    6. $2,169 from Discretionary to Debate
    7. $300 from Conference Fund to Democracy Matters
    8. $390 from Conference Fund to GAAP

    All items are approved without debate.

    6:06 | Executive Board Report with VSA VP for Activities Doug Greer ’14

    Meet Me in Manhattan has been cancelled due to limited funding.

    6:07 | Executive Board Report with VSA VP for Finance Alex Koren ’13

    All funds but Speakers are healthy.

    6:08 | Declaration of Open Positions with VSA VP for Operations Deb Steinberg ’14

    Two Class of 2014 Judicial Board Representatives are needed. Strong and Davison Junior Representatives are also needed.

    Ehrlich arrives.

    6:09 | Appointment of Vice President for Student Life with VP for Operations Deb Steinberg ’14

    The Operations Committee recommends Dallas Robinson ’14 for the position. Steinberg mentions that Robinson’s involvement during last semester’s MEChA controversy was a positive factor in the decision. Class of 2013 President Vincent Marchetta adds that her participation in Vassar Athletics would also be helpful for fulfilling the responsibilities of the position.

    The committee did not choose Robinson unanimously. Of seven possible votes, she only received five.

    The VSA Council unanimously appoints Dallas Robinson.

    6:15 | Open Discussion

    There are 111 days until Commencement.

    This year’s student gift to the scholarship fund has been renamed the Andrei Buryachenko Scholarship Fund.

    “Fifty Nights” will occur at The Chance Theater this April.

    Members of Council are collaborating with students at Barnard College on creating a Seven Sisters Coordinating Board.

    Social Conscience Day Dialogues will occur next Sunday afternoon.

    6:21 | Council Adjourns

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