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