VSA Council Meeting Minutes- 17 November 2013

Council is meeting in a different room this week so listen
7:04 // Call to Order…PRESIDENT
7:05 // Attendance…OPERATIONS
Absent: NONE
Proxy: NONE

7:07 // Consent Agenda
Hunger Action – Collab…………………………………………………..($400/$400)
MEChA – Community……………………………………………………($500/$500)
Quidditch – Collab……………………………………………………….($800/$900)
Poder Latino – Soc Consc…………………………………………($1100/$1300)
vCash machines – Capital………………………………………………..($9000/$9000)
Preorg to Generation …………………………………………………………………… $30
Minutes from 11/10/2013

7:07// Executive Board Reports
We finished our data collections for the gender neutral bathroom situation. We found that even some buildings have gender neutral bathrooms located in closets or other, far off places.
Students of high financial need are in some places not able to get home. Students in these situations work over break and even during the summer. Sometimes students who work over the summer and into the school year cannot meet their contribution.
In regards to the bias incidents email, this time we included the language used in some of the situations.

JEWETT: Sanders Physics is being renovated, so maybe we could use this as an experiment in favor of gender neutral bathrooms.

Shout out to the committee for all of its hard work on the peer advising event.
120 underclassmen showed up, and we had over 50 peer advisors.
In the coming weeks we are working on the newsletter, which is focused on “food.” People from various departments and jobs are contributing.
We are working on getting the textbook list earlier so that students can find less expensive options for books. We are meeting with Dean Rock and we will bring a proposal to him.
We are working on a subscriptions for The New York Times for the campus. This subscription has been an issue for our peer institutions as well. Both the President and Dean Roellke have pledged money to the project.

7:15 // Discussion of the Bias Incident Response Team…STUDENT LIFE
I am the only student who sits on BIRT. One of BIRT’s main goals is transparency, which is why I am bringing .
After an incident is reported, a meeting is called within 24 hours.
As most incidents take place in the dorms, on occasion house presidents are called
There are monthly meetings, and there is a meeting on Wednesday.

JEWETT: Some of my constituents were confused as to the locations of a bias incidents. Context for where or when an incident takes place may

TAs: Are there any discussions of having more students on BIRT?
STUDENT LIFE: This has not been discussed, but I think it would be possible and I agree with the idea of adding more student representatives.

DAVISON: I second JEWETT’s statement. I felt somewhat unprepared on how to address my constituencies.

2016: I think more needs to be done in terms of reaching out the entire campus. Bias incidents don’t just affect the house
Our public spaces are public to everyone. Also, the community needs to address these issues as a whole.

CUSHING: I think they should consider sending an email after every time a bias incident is committed.

STUDENT LIFE: One of the concerns with that idea was that doing so would give a lot of power and attention if they were individually reported.

2014: What about bias incidents on SayAnything?
STUDENT LIFE: BIRT can’t respond or react to SayAnything until a student reports it.

2017: What happens if an incident is targeted against one individual?
STUDENT LIFE: Typically the individual is encouraged to come to a meeting or have a representative attend in the stead. The student can then ask that an all-campus email can be sent out.

PRESIDENT: What happens when hate-speech is targeted against a specific community?
STUDENT LIFE: If it is targeted against a community, for instance a racial slur is used, then the Director of the ALANA Center is consulted.

AT LARGE: Can you speak out against the pros and cons about sending an email?
STUDENT LIFE: We do try to be transparent, which is a reason why we are sending out emails. A con we have encountered is that not everyone wants to know about every incident.

RAYMOND: We have been trying to bring up this issue in the past, but we haven’t been able to without an email until right now. We, as student leaders, should be made aware of these things, as we can set the atmosphere in our houses.

2015: With this question of transparency, at Student Life Committee or at council, we could acknowledge that something has happened.
STUDENT LIFE: I would just have to negotiate how much of a BIRT meeting is confidential.

2016: My class council has been . This is a conversation we should be having in our council meetings; people were unaware. Main’s response to an incident in their house was amazing.

2017: How does BIRT handle accountability?
STUDENT LIFE: Instead of focusing on an individual event, in which it is very hard to find the perpetrators, we want to behave proactively and focus on preventing these incidents in the future and how do we move forward.

TAs: How do people address and investigate these events?
PRESIDENT: Recently the Poughkeepsie police has been involved, and Security has been involved as well.

MAIN: In our house we had a racial slur written on one of our sofas. We invited members of BIRT, Luis Inoa, the Director of the ALANA Center, and our House Advisors. We had a discussion about the nature of the bias incident, how it affects our house and community, and we had small group discussions.

STRONG: We called a mandatory house meeting. We talked about the stigma of living in Strong, what gendered vandalism does to a community of students and in general.

2017: I think that Strong’s discussion was very needed. A general sentiment among freshman, even with the Main event, is that they don’t understand how effective or how serious these incidents are.

STRONG: We heard these complaints but we felt that it is more important to hold the event.

MAIN: A lot of freshmen felt that way, but we believed that by holding the event we send a message that we don’t tolerate racism in our house.

RAYMOND: Thus far, we haven’t had many, or any as far as I know, incidents this year. Are there ways that we can have proactive discussions?
STUDENT LIFE: In Jewett they had a conversation in the past and are planning to have another in the future. The Privilege campaign is also a great means of conversations.
CUSHING: Our response was to hold a house meeting talking about the history of bias incidents in Cushing. This was interpreted positively.

2016: I think that it is important for us, as student leaders, to give people resources to talk with.

FINANCE: The Social Consciousness Fund works to help communities proactively and retroactively address bias. If something happens in your dorms, please consider the fund; we helped Main, for example.

7:41 // Smoking Ban…OPERATIONS
The timeline for the implementation is moving forward; July 2015 the ban will be fully enforced.
The implementation group is called the Smoke Free Tobacco Free Task Force. There are a number of student representative in this committee, as well as staff and faculty representatives. I sit on the committee, as well as representatives
We want to make sure the student voice does remain strong in this committee.

2015: I find the passing of this ban as a failure of shared governance. I want to make sure that this aspect of student voice is heard.

OPERATIONS: I acknowledge that opinion and have brought this up to the committee. However, that is not really what the purpose of this discussion is.

DAVISON: Is this an open task force?
OPERATIONS: Basically it is closed but if you wanted to present something specific, they may invite you to speak.

SOUTH COMMONS: I think we need to be really clear about the enforcement of this ban. I think it needs to be clear what Security’s role in enforcing this ban is. I think we should also be pointing out the resources we have to help students.

JEWETT: What does this actually mean, in terms of enforcement?
OPERATIONS: We mean that in the entire area of senior housing and main campus, there will be no smoking of cigarettes.

JEWETT: how do we accommodate students who do smoke? Will there be a question on applications that asks about smoking? We are supposed to be all-inclusive.
PRESIDENT: In terms of other schools, students are allowed to go off campus to smoke. There would not be a question on any applications.

FINANCE: I would like to continue having cigarette butt recepticals on campus because people may not stop smoking right away.

2016: Would it be more helpful for us to inform people about what we have done thus far.
We have a number of phases:
We are educating people of the current rules and what the end-game of the campaign is, as well as intermediary steps.
We are discussion cessation options such as classes or nicotine patches. We are still deciding what to do here, so we are looking for feed-back.

OPERATIONS: E-cigarrettes would be allowed, but not other forms of tobacco such as chewing tobacco or cigars.

2014: I think we should be addressing why students start smoking, ie stress, is really important. I also think asking students to pay for classes when they may not want to quit smoking is not fair.

TOWN HOUSES: I think we need to make sure there is no schism between smokers and non-smokers.

TOWN STUDENTS: We should think about how we are dividing up Poughkeepsie would be interpreted. We don’t want it to turn Vassar into smoke-free space and then ashtrays right outside our brick walls.

STUDENT LIFE: Have there been discussions with workers about how this we
OPERATIONS: There is a representative from HR who is there to represent workers. Many of the people who are on the committee would be classified as staff versus administrators.

STUDENT LIFE: If or when marijuana is made legal in New York, will students be asked to go off campus to take a medication?
OPERATIONS: It has not been brought up in committee yet but I will bring it up in the future.

8:02 // Amendment Regarding Motions…OPERATIONS
Last week we voted to allow students at large should not
Then RAYMOND noted that we also have the regulation in our bylaws so we need to amend our bylaws. I recommend that we vote on this amendment today, thus suspending a bylaw to do so for only this conversation (the bylaw that mandates an amendment must be voted on one week after they are brought before council)
Absentions: None
Opposed: 2015

Abstentions: None
Opposed: None

8:07 // Amendment Regarding Debt…ACTIVITIES
ACTIVITIES: Currently if a student organization is in debt, they must fundraise it back within two semesters, otherwise their recognition can be revoked.
FINANCE: I am not thrilled with this language in general. Also I think that we should also note that the term should be changed from ‘debt’ to ‘deficit.’
MAIN: I think that more specific language is necessary. There are some organizations are always in deficit, such as ViCE or the Vassarian.
FINANCE: Also we have to take into account that some student organizations do take on some financial risk but are important parts of our student life.
STRONG: We are doing this not to hurt organizations, but we are trying to avoid decertifying organization.
2016: For future reference, could you quote it on the paper so that it is readily available.
OPERATIONS: We can hammer out language in committee.
(tabled to next week)

8:14 // Amendment Regarding Preliminary Organization Event Requirements…ACTIVITIES
NOYES: We are drafting this bylaw, which requires that preliminary organizations must hold one open-to-campus event each semester, to help grow the student involvement or interest.
STRONG: We not expecting them to hold events of the same size, but the pre-organizations need to hold an event that is more than a general body meeting.
JEWETT: I think the language should be cleared up with regards to ‘events of a similar nature.’
MAIN: How are pre-organizations expected to find spaces and funds without any great assistance?
NOYES: Activities committee has divided itself up so that every preliminary organization has a representative to help them plan events.

8:20 // Open Discussion
2014: December 6 will be 99 Nights in the Aula. We will announce the student gift there.

2016: Congratulations to JEWETT
I want to make it clear that we have the right to abstain not only for conflicts of interest but really for any reason we want to.
I would also like to talk about Don Marsala’s email. The email made me very upset because the school should do everything in our power to keep hunters off our land. There should never be any threat of danger to students. If that is an issue, then more needs to be done to prevent this.

STRONG: Strong’s fall event is this Saturday from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. It is called “The Blacklight Ball.” It will be held in the Aula.

CUSHING: It was my boyfriend who caught the hunter on camera.

2015: Classes of 2015 and 2017 are hosting our traditional Mug night this Saturday. The theme is “chrome.”

JOSSELYN: I just want to congratulate myself this weekend for Four Pillars. Good for those who went to the event.

OPERATIONS: Motion to adjourn.
Opposed: MAIN
Abstain: None

End of the meeting!!