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  • Chris Gonzalez 12:02 am on December 9, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    VSA Council Meeting Minutes—8 December 2013 

    Hey, everybody, we’re about to start the final VSA Council meeting of the semester.

    7:04 // Call to Order …….President
    Attendance ……………Operations
    Proxy: CUSHING
    Absent: Town Students; ACADEMICS

    7:05 // FlyPeople perform for PRESIDENT

    7:07 // Consent Agenda
    YDS – Prelim……………………………………………………………….($54/$54)
    SJP – Prelim………………………………………………….………….($0/$15)
    Hip Hop 101 – Community………………………………………..($2,000/$7,000)
    Capital to Outing Club ………………………………………………….. $289
    Prelim to Generations…………………………………………………….. $70
    Social Consc to SEASA……………………………………………….. $598
    Capital to Ballroom………………………………………………………… $65
    Speakers to VHP…………………………………………………………………$84
    Minutes from 12/1/2013

    Consent Passes

    7:08 // Executive Board Reports …..Student Life

    STUDENT LIFE: We’re having our final student life meeting tomorrow. I’ve talked to Judy Jarvis about the gender-neutral bathroom issue. We’re talking about what the sign should look like. I’m showing it to the Dean of Academics and Planning tomorrow. We’re also talking about Title IX with Elizabeth Schrock tomorrow. All College Day has a speaker—Janet Mock. Theme is “Unsilencing Voices.” McGhee ’16 is in charge of that. We also talked about student governance. We’re going to be working with Operations on We also discussed VSA Exec board as work-study, why that didn’t happen. I met with Students’ Class Issue Alliance. I’m trying to attend meetins. I really want to know what’s going on in students’ minds. We’re talking about how students are feeling about this, issues with administration, responses to the Privilege Campaign. I’m reaching out and trying to work with the Centers.

    TAs: I saw the gender-neutral bathroom signs over there. Can they do that?

    STUDENT LIFE: I think Jarvis did that. It hasn’t happened on the official level yet but we’re putting them up.

    TAs: How do you define shared governance?

    STUDENT LIFE: That conversation isn’t just with student life. That’s in development. It’s most likely going to be incorporated into the audit.

    The time for the workshop will be on Wednesday from 3-5 in the Faculty parlor.

    2016: There has been talk about gender-neutral bathrooms all semester, can you talk about the pushback?

    PRESIDENT: Faculty support this idea, but they also want single-sex bathrooms. They’re having discussions about which bathrooms will be turned into gender-neutral bathrooms. From what I understood it will be easier to look at buildings being renovated.

    STUDENT LIFE: I talked about that with Jarvis. Jarvis felt this should be coming from the administration, and it shouldn’t be put into the faculty’s hands.

    TAs: I know there’s an unspoken rule that past 5 o’ clock bathrooms become gender neutral, could we have a sign about that? So you talked about sending proxies, how are you choosing proxies?

    STUDENT LIFE: I’m going to look at organizations over break that really pertain to student life. The Centers, RSL, Student Labor Dialogue. I’m going to see which ones it will be realistic for me to go to. If we need to get reps from those orgs on student life, that would be ideal for me. I only have so large a pool to draw from right now. I’m trying to get more student feedback that’s not from the same people.

    7:18 // Executive Board Reports…Academics

    ACADEMICS: We’re looking to get a hundred copies of the New York Times. I talked to Roellke’s office asking for money. But the hope is to get—Hill’s office is also interested. We’re also looking for people from Development—Alumane/i’s, etc.—to pay for it. The other thing for the textbooks with the Students’ Class Issue Alliance, they’re going to put together a spreadsheet of the number of students who are on financial aid and how many students work minimum-wage jobs. Dean Rock will read that on the faculty meeting on Dec. 11. I want to send this to majors’ committees chairs. With the newsletter we’re doing well. The Misc Design Editor Palak is helping with that. You can read it next semester.

    We’re working on a 24-hour student study space for Fridays and Saturdays after the library closes. We’re also looking into archiving student activism on campus. The other thing that came up with the EMS course—it’s a class that there’s a lot of effort and work that goes into it, and there’s a lot of incentive for students to take it. There’s talk to make it 1 credit per semester. CCp will talk to the Registrar and look into how peer institutions handle it.

    The last thing is the Winter Soiree is happening.

    STUDENT LIFE: I forgot an update. We are trying to get some sort of disorientation manual to give to the freshmen next year. That would be an effort to not completely disband the social consciousness thing, but with the faculty resistance it’s not super real that the moment. This would be a small effort to make some kind of social consciousness awareness apart of orientation.

    PRESIDENT: Next we’ll move to election timing amendment.

    7:25 // Election Timing Amendment…Operations

    2016: If anyone has any questions direct them at Abby.

    NOYES: I think this is a nice idea, but I see some issues with this amendment. As a Council one of our goals this year was to be more transparent, but I think in doing so we become less transparent. I think a big part of our election system is the run-off system. While I think it’s important in acknowledging people’s feelings in this, you are running and you are aware you could lose. In positions of leadership there are going to be upsets, and you have to be prepared. Lastly, I think it’s interesting to look at the results of from a public perspective.

    2016: I think people might be confused. All it says now is that results will be released until 3 weeks after. It used to be that they weren’t accesible unless you asked for them, but now they’re delayed.

    STUDENT LIFE: I guess I would echo the sentiment that when you run for something, you understand that you’re running and you have the chance of not winning. And I appreciate the effort behind this, however, I feels that it steps on our efforts of transparency. I think the student body deserves this information. It detracts from us treating the student body as peers and adults.

    DAVISON: When it comes to public shaming, there’s also an event for the elections process when you hear who’s being announced as the winner. You’re already around your running mates. I don’t see how this amendment would not allow people to want to know in a sense, but at the same time it’s kind of like you’re already publicly shamed in a sense.

    2015: So I was just looking through the constitution, it says section 11 something.

    2016: Section 11, subsection f.

    2015: I think we need to reword some of these.

    JEWETT: If you’re going to publish them anyway, might as well send them out the same night results are read. Why three weeks?

    OPERATIONS: The discussion we had was that three weeks is a reasonable time period where a lot of sensitivity around the election isn’t present.

    JEWETT: Wouldn’t that remind them of what happened three weeks? If we don’t want to put them out at all, why are we waiting for a certain amount of time?

    2016: When it was written, I was opposed them being released. This amendment has a typo should have said Section 10. When we first wrote the amendment and we wanted to withhold the results…we considered freshmen running. Sometimes they only get 5 votes, meaning that not even their fellow groups voted for them. I don’t see how this is against increasing transparency. I don’t think we need to release the results at all, because it hides some anonymity. I think it’s important to be aware of people’s feelings. Everyone at this table has won an election. Not everyone knows what it’s like to lose, and lose by 5 votes.

    OPERATIONS: I like to speak briefly to this amendment. On a persona standpoint, the VSA always talks about increasing transparency. Rarely do we ever discuss increasing kindess and the amount of compassion. This amendment may not increase transparency, but I do think it increases compassion. On an Operational standpoint, we want as many people as possible to run in an election. It’s a good sign of a healthy democracy. If we have a chance of increasing the list of people who run, I think that’s fantastic.

    STRONG: I ran for Strong President my freshman year and lost. I know what it’s like to lose, and it’s not fun. I do think the results being available right away allowed me to see that I didn’t lose by that much, which is what led me to apply for secretary and to be here. Being in that room where you announce who won is awkward. I think you bring up a good point of increasing compassion, but I don’t know that this is an area we need to focus on.

    STUDENT LIFE: Some people do need that immediate feed back. This isn’t increasing compassion for people who just lost in those couple of days or that three week period. That’s something I think we’re annoying. Also, I think increasing compassion is a really good idea, but I don’t think this is the best way to do it. Some big issues on this campus and things Operations have done before…efforts could be made in other areas.

    JOSS: Yes, compassion is nice, but the world is not nice. Life is not fair, if you lose you understand that.

    TOWN HOUSES: I think whatever makes people want to run is a good thing.

    OPERATIONS: It will be announced at elections when the results will be released. People will be reminded that if they want to see the results sooner than that day, they can send an email.

    ACADEMICS: More directed towards the author, was there any sort of feedback you had that prompted this? Were people genuinely upset about this? If you wouldn’t mind telling us about things you’ve heard.

    2016: Yeah, so I encouraged this freshman who I knew to run for freshman rep of his house. He ran and got like four votes, which wasn’t enough for his fellow group to have voted for him. He was upset. I understand that this is a hard world, but this was written to protect the people who lose heart.

    AT LARGE: I was one of the authors who ran for it and won. The link was posted on our Facebook page, which was unfortunate. That night I had a friend who came in last, and we spent the night trying to hide the fact they came in last. I agree it’s a tough world, but freshmen year is tough and running in elections is tough. If you can do something to make people feel better, I see that as a good thing.

    OPERATIONS: I got five emails complaining about how the results were public.

    DAVISON: While I am a strong advocate, I think there will always be an impasse.

    OPERATIONS: Um, I moved to adopt amendment 28-5.

    PRESIDENT: If we don’t approve it that doesn’t mean it can’t come back in different form. Now the motion on the table is to vote on that.

    NOYES: For me the bigger concern is only the difference between VP of Operations can release the results from three weeks until the end of the semester. I think it would be better to release the results at a set date.

    2015: Second reason, I don’t think they may request to see the election results, to they can see the results.

    MOTION TO APPROVE AMENDEMENT:

    Motion Fails.

    7:51 //Debt Amendment…… Strong & Operations

    OPERATIONS: This is an amendement from the Academics committee. The original concern of the amendment was the difference between debt and deficit.

    FINANCE: I contributed some language to this amendment and this is not the amendment.

    AT LARGE: So I co-wrote this and we sent it to ACADEMICS.

    OPERATIONS: I motion to table this amendment.

    PRESIDENT: The motion is to table this amendment because no one knows what it says.

    I think the problem is different committee saw different versions, so no one knows what it looks like.

    2016: Perhaps it would be better to create an omnibus amendment that corrects the debt/deficit issue.

    OPERATIONS: I could speak to the idea of a debt vs. a deficit. A deficit is an overdrawing of an account. We can look at orgs that way, but we generally look at orgs who have overdrawn and are spending money that belongs to the VSA. We refer to that as a debt, because we expect them to pay it back to us. And by doing that we take it away from them next year. If want to change the language by putting debt everywhere it says deficit that’s fine, but both pretty much mean the same anyway.

    AT LARGE: I can send you the line. This is literally a one line amendment.

    PRESIDENT: Has it been shown to all the committees? I’m going to move the rest of this conversation to the end of the agenda. All in favor of tabling this amendment?

    We’re going to table this. We’ll just talk about this at our next Council meeting.

    7:59 //Pre-Org Application Approvals……. STRONG

    PRESIDENT: We’re going to approve them as a block, like a consent agenda. Does anyone have something they would like to remove from this block of pre-orgs.

    Abstentions: 2016
    MOTION PASSES.

    8:01 //Organization Certifications …..SoCos

    SOCOs: Archery, VCTV, VassShakers, ComedyNormative…we think they are well-equipped to be full orgs.

    Finance: You still have to apply for an annual budget, and Finance will review all those applications.

    TAs: So is archery treated as a club or a club sport.

    STRONG: Just a club, like frisbee.

    OPERATIONS: If we’re trying to move club sports out of something the VSA does, and is something handled by another group, would it be good to do this?

    AT LARGE: We feel Archery will not become a huge financial burden in the future, instead it’s more of a frisbee-esque scenario.

    2015: From what I understand that discussion has been happening, but we don’t know what’s going to happen with that so it would be unfair for Archery.

    STRONG: Archery functions very much like a club. They’ve existed for a long time on this model, so we fit the description of a club.

    VOTE ON ARCHERY.
    MOTION PASSES.

    COMEDY NORMATIVE.
    MOTION PASSES.

    VASSSHAKERS.
    MOTION PASSES.

    VCTV.
    MOTION PASSES.

    8:06 //Conversation about what we would like to accomplish next semester….PRESIDENT

    PRESIDENT: Tomorrow we will meet with Senior Administration. Is there anything people want to share with Administration? Anything you want to bring up. We’re going to go around the circle.

    RAYMOND: I’ve just heard a lot of concerns about the progress of the new science building. Students want information.

    CUSHING PROXY: Basically our constituency would like the conversation to switch to modes of better communicated between general students and administration. People feel they’ve been kept in the dark. They would like clarity and would like to feel that as students…we don’t want to have to attack anyone. I guess we feel there will be less backlash if there is more knowledge. Just the idea of, and really support things Roellke is doing—having the lunches and conversations goes both ways. Students in Cushing didn’t feel comfortable with the avenues that we have. So many further dissemination of the avenues that exist.

    DAVISON: Members of my constituencies are asking if there is any way to target questions to the VSA. They were asking if there are channels they could contribute discussion topics.

    PRESIDENT: Yeah, email me or any of us.

    JOSS: Basically what has been said, so pass.

    2014: PASS.

    2015: I know individual committees are working on stuff, but this how students perceive things. The current progress of gender-neutral bathrooms, there’s confusion. A request for more counseling services. Mor clarity of the students who withdrew. Making buildings more accesible. Why Women’s Studies, LALS, etc. are not departments.

    2017: General confusion involving students and administration.

    AT LARGE: More resources for counseling services.

    ACADEMICS: Looking to make the campus more affordable for people. There’s more work to be done. Administration needs to recognize that.

    STUDENT LIFE: I would love for the administration to not constantly be defending themselves but admit when they are wrong. I will echo counseling services.

    OPERATIONS: I would like for senior level administrators to have more office hours for campus.

    PRESIDENT: More resources for students—counseling and just recognizing the need to be more receptive to students’ needs.

    SOCOs: Faculty needs to be more receptive to our goals. Any project we work on in Academics get turned down by Faculty. When we requested that they publicize their office hours they said no. When we asked for them to publish their book lists two weeks earlier they said no.

    JEWETT: More shared governane with administration.

    2016: A surprising number of complaints about counseling services. One went to Metcalf and they were told they wouldn’t be able to see them for another two weeks. I think we need to prioritize for what we spend money on and what the students want us to spend money on. The largest problem we have is that we give great financial aid, but then we stop there.

    LATHROP: A lot of them feel that moving forward, they would like to encourage the administration to do concrete and more proactive things, not just be reactive.

    TAs: I liked to hear about responses to the recent pathways vandalism, and I would like to see the 24-hour space available.

    NOYES: Pass.

    PRESIDENT: So now we’ll talk about what we’re passionate about accomplishing next semester.

    TAs: Newsletter published next semester, and moving Council meetings around.

    LATHROP: Disorientation manual.

    2016: 24- hour study space. And the Students’ Assistance fund.

    JEWETT: More accesible with moving meetings around and 24 hour space.

    THs: I think focusing on events that empower students to have better social skills and ones that help students have better mental health.

    SOCOS: How we can restructure committees to make them more effective. I want to come up with a concrete plan to show that counseling services are important to us.

    FINANCE: I would like to see a smooth annual budgeting process.

    PRESIDENT: I would like to see the disorientation process.

    STUDENT LIFE: Disorientation manual, resources for Metcalf, getting this gender-neutral bathroom thing done, more resources for students on financial aid on campus, and SCI. I also want to move my office hours around.

    ACADEMICS: The newspaper, 24-hour space, cheaper text books.

    STRONG: Really committing to helping students where they need to be helped. Making Council more accesible. It’s very intimidating to come to the VSA when you’re not on the VSA. So reducing those stigmas and barriers.

    MAIN: Second VSA mug night or VSA Rave. Academic newsletter. Archive of student activism. Making VSA more accesible.

    2015: Shared governance, getting feedback faster.

    2014: I would like to see progress made with the audit. The current VSA structure.

    JOSS: I would like for those students on financial aid to not be poster children. And i guess if VSA were to find a way to get concrete things done instead of nitpicking on the little details.

    DAVISON: Inclusion of administration, faculty and student body. More access to resources. 24-hour weekend study area.

    CUSHING PROXY: Physically move meetings. Solidifying a students’ Bill of Rights. Gender-neutral bathrooms. Clarity with the audit.

    RAYMOND: VSA Rave. VSARC and the audit. Disorientation manual. Everything Academics committee does. Further conversations about social consciousness requirement…

    NOYES: To learn how programming works and budgetting works. Maybe an info session. Try supporting each other as a team.

    TAs: I think the consisten road block is money, so I wanted to see if we could get a student priority survey.

    8:29 // Discussion with Students’ Class Issue Alliance….. Nguyen ’15 and Schwartz ’15

    Nguyen: There was a booklet called navigating Vassar issued to current students two years ago. We’re working to update that to include broader resources students can access.

    Schwartz: We’ve been working with ACADEMICS in order to move up when the course materials are available for students to potentially help students choose courses if they can afford the material. And to encourage professors to think about whether the newest edition is needed.

    NGUYEN: Hopefully we’ll have lists posted soon for the following semester, if administrators are receptive to student input.

    SCHWARTZ: Last year VSA Council voted for a Class Issue Center on campus. We’ll be working with Student Life on taking concrete steps.

    ACADEMICS: The conversation about the text books wouldn’t have happened if not for them. Everyone should be aware and thankful for this. They’re working hard for the whole campus.

    STUDENT LIFE: This org is a Godsend. I get really frustrated when professors assign 5 books and you only read two, and you spend the money when you’re on financial aid. Financial Aid will tell you that you have funds to tap into for books and travel, and they are extremely valuable for students on financial aid.

    2016: Has here been any progress on a Class Issue center?

    NGUYEN: We worked with Hernandez and talked to Jarvis and López-Burgos to talk about taking necessary steps.

    8:36 //Open Discussion…. President

    PRESIDENT: I am going to send out an email in response to the recent graffiti on campus. I don’t know anything about this graffiti, but clearly people are upset and concerned, so we talked about it a little bit in Exec. We’re going to send an email to talk about our office hours, and I talked to Roellke about getting a venting session in order with a counselor involved. Another thing Finance brought up is reminding people who feel unsafe, you can call security and ask for a ride around campus. So if anyone has anything else to include?

    FERRY: We’re all pretty annoyed about the graffiti on Ferry. It said “Cappytalism is Crisis” which isn’t triggering but it is annoying.

    PRESIDENT: Yeah students often forget that they put this stuff on peoples’ houses.

    STUDENT LIFE: There are students on this campus who don’t feel conformable with security as an option. in terms of the graffiti, I’m looking past the use of comparing the privileged statement of our situation to Apartheid. This was most likely done in the same spirit as other things that have been done. Students feel they won’t be listened to unless they do something radical. I’ll be available during study week. I’m trying to look past the language used to focus on why students on doing this?

    2017: Is this email about taking accountability and responsibility? I’m conflicted about it.

    PRESIDENT: A lot of people feel that way. You want to yell at them, but at the same time you understand that people don’t feel heard otherwise. The email will probably acknowledge that.

    AT LARGE: I think it would be good if you said you don’t have more information about it.

    STRONG: We had a meeting with Luis Inoa, and students expressed that they can’t be heard. I think when we have a student body that will do things that are detrimental to their Vassar education because they feel unheard and frustrated should be noted.

    CUSHING PROXY: I think the tone of the email should emphasize resources and support, focus on everyone’s safety.

    2014: I have lots of thoughts and feelings. One of the things we need to address is the fact that we have spent the past hour focusing on financial things, and the College is going to have to spend money to remove this graffiti.

    JEWETT: Respect of our area and the places that we live in. Yes, they’re saying that we have a problem with this but they didn’t need to put it on the floor. But also, going to ResLife—Inoa is interested in talking to students.

    THs: I know other colleges that have a giant graffiti rock or something students can spray paint on.

    JOSS: This is a question, is Cappy saying anything. Cappy’s name is being used a lot.

    PRESIDENT: I don’t know, I will find out.

    2015: On the idea that we need to make it clear that we care about this and the people in this committee, but I hate when we say things like “it’s really unfortunate…”…I think the tone can be more angry. No kids’ gloves.

    PRESIDENT: I’ll find a happy balance between swearing as much as I’d like to and saying that your peers are upset about this.

    2016: I think there’s a difference between acts of vandalism is cries of help versus acts of vandalism for vandalism’s sake. When I walked past the graffiti this morning, I think that it comparing this culture to apartheid makes me think about how these students are feeling. Apartheid is considered one of the worst things to happen in history, and while this was a privileged statement, we must think about why students feel that they should be making this statement. We need to assess why students feel this way.

    JEWETT: If students don’t feel safe with security, campus control can also escort you anywhere.

    (points of clarification about where the graffiti was found on campus directed towards The Misc)

    8:56 // Open Discussion
    2014: 167 plus days until Commencement. This past Friday we announced the all-student gift. It will be a donation to the internship grant fund with the provision that if you are a graduating senior who is taking an unpaid internship, you will be able to apply to this fund. Fundraising will begin in the spring.

    MAIN: A forum with Cappy would be interesting.

    AT LARGE: For the Activities Fair, it would be great for the VSA to have a table at the event.

    FINANCE: Friday 13th is the last day for reimbursements to be submitted. This is a hard deadline.

    RAYMOND: My house is having a stress-buster, which is laser-tag in Walker. Please come.

    THs: Thank you NOYES and your house team for your great event.

    JEWETT: Just want to give a shout-out to SESA for the wonderful dinner.

    2017: Tuesday in UPC the freshman class council will be holding an event!

    ACADEMICS: Strong came to my subcommittee, and requested a shout-out, so shout-out to STRONG.

    STRONG: I didn’t ask for one, you said you would give me one.

    MOTION TO ADJOURN: Unanimous approval!
    See you in January!

     
  • Chris Gonzalez 12:01 am on December 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    VSA Council Meeting—1 December 2013 

    Hey, everyone, we’re off to a slow start today. Hope everyone had a wonderful break. Happy first of December!

    7:03 // Call to Order….President
    Attendance…Operations

    OPERATIONS: We’re going to go around and everyone will say what their favorite food they eat this past week was.

    Absent: Cushing, 2016

    7:06 // Consent Agenda…President
    Minutes, November 24, 2013

    Consent Agenda Passes

    7:07 // Forum with Chris Roellke, Dean of the College

    ROELLKE: Thank you very much, Deb, for having me involved. As you know president Hill and i sent out an email last week discussing two students withdrawing from the college. Some rumors are swirling around and I hope to dispel some of those rumors. People have wanted to know why we couldn’t name these students and why wasn’t a process involved. In this case, students chose to wtihdraw after admitting to egregious violations of College regulations.

    PRESIDENT: I was hoping you could speak to what kind of information is allowed to be communicated to students?

    ROELLKE: We felt that it was in these students’ best interest not to reveal their names. The College never reveals the names of students

    FINANCE: Is it standard to email the entire student body in these instances?

    ROELLKE: I think so because the community has been greatly affected by the bias incidents so we wanted the community to know that some of them were self-inflicted.

    MAIN: Any specific reason why administration chose to reveal the cause behind the bias incidents until after the town hall meeting?

    ROELLKE: It was a timing factor. Decision with students was made at 6:30pm and the town hall took place at 7pm.

    STUDENT LIFE: I’ve been hearing now that administration have found the two students, they think the problem is solved. Can you speak to that?

    ROELLKE: The College believes very strongly that these incidents go back to April with these two students. But that doesn’t account for all 17 bias incidents that have occurred on campus. We have to keep our feet to the fire.

    2015: I’ve seen a few things on some blogs, are you confirming if what they’re saying and also do you have insights into how they got that information? Also, if you could talk to the process behind the bias incidents email sent?

    ROELLKE: The College did not reveal the names, so I don’t know how they received that information. BIRT sent out that message so that would be a questions better suited for them, but I think they’ve been doing a good job.

    FINANCE: A lot of us are student leaders—how can we support student fellows, etc. who have to be there for there community?

    ROELLKE: A lot of folks feel betrayed, sad. I think the resources are on campus, I would encourage those who are in student leader postions to take advantage of those. These upcoming lunches will help with the recourse centers. Talking to the senior council level, a larger venue for us to discuss this. I’m interested in listening to any ideas you may have.

    ACADEMICS: How do you think an incident like this impacts the process of having a social conscientiousness requirement?

    ROELLKE: As you probably heard at the town hall meeting that the curriculum is under the domain of the faculty. It’s the Committee on Curricular Policies that have the vote. I don’t think I can make a prediction on how the faculty may fall on the discussion.

    TAs: You said negotiations with students ended AT 6:30, can you speak

    ROELLKE: We have gathered information that we felt suggested these two students hhad played a role in this. We called the students in separately. Julian Williams charged them with 6 or 7 violations. They had the opportunity to choose to admiti to committing them or not. We gave them the opportunity to either withdraw or to face a College Regulations Panel. One of the students filed a false police report, which is a serious crime, and the police were willing to interview them and move forward on a criminal perspective. The police agreed to let the College take care of it. We wanted to see these students to be able to move forward. So the police were called off.

    JOSS: I’m curious how the investigation process goes, knowing that a lot of the bias incidents you receive you can’t go about solving.

    ROELLKE: In this case we had handwriting analyses and logs for rooms students checked out. And they took responsibility. We interview folks, photos were taken. We’re not police officers but we try out best and we were right.

    STRONG: Can you talk about why the email was sent in this way and didn’t provide much information on how students chose

    ROELLKE: Our conclusion was that it would make more sense to have meetings where we can talk freely to one another. Another email message would have fallen short.

    2014: Can you talk about how faculty has been involved?

    ROELLKE: Steve Rock will be talking about it in the next faculty meeting on the 11th.

    FINANCE: How did the police get involved?

    ROELLKE: In this case the students got them involved. But generally, if we ever feel like we’re in over our heads we like to engage other experts, like we did back when WBC came. But in this case, the student filed the report with the police.

    PRESIDENT: Are all students offered the same option?

    ROELLKE: No always. I chose to say this was an emergency situation. The students chose not to go to the panel, and in that case my decision was final. I would have to say it was an emergency situation because the police were banging on our doors. I did not make this decision in isolation.

    OPERATIONS: I want to talk about police involvement. The crime that they would have been punished with is vandalism?

    ROELLKE: And filing a false police report.

    OPERATIONS: I guess it seemed like the action was very strong from every direction. I guess, you tell me the police are knocking on our door, but are they going to knock on our door every time there is a misdemeanor?

    ROELLKE: They had been on campus to investigate these bias incidents and they told us we’re interviewing these students and we’re going to arrest them.

    TOWNHOUSES: Have you guys looked at other ways of communicating with students, maybe like a website—emails can be a lot at once.

    ROELLKE: Communication is always tricky. BIRT is working on having a separate website you can choose to read over yourself. These are hard emails to write, they are always incomplete. Students want more information. We have to balance them out with confidentiality.

    STUDENTLIFE: I wonder if you could speak about protecting anonymity going forward, especially since there have been other incidents this year where students were able to leave from campus with reputations in tact, though they didn’t necessarily leave on good terms. I think that, for example, the communication between VSA Exec board and administration in terms of how the emails were sent out became an issue.

    ROELLKE: Our policy is the best we can do, to not name students. I honestly don’t know what we can do to prevent some conservative blogger from printing information when they didn’t speak to us.

    TAs: I got an email from “Free Cappy”—is this being considered a prank or is is cyber terrorism?

    ROELLKE: I don’t think Cappy was concerned about it. It was unfortunate, but a short-lived scenario.

    2015: Do you know which bias incidents these two students were responsible for? Do you know of any bias incidents that have happened since these two students have withdrawn?

    ROELLKE: BIRT reported a total of 17 since last year. We’re going through them to determine

    FINANCE: Downstairs it’s posted what the College Regulations panel determined. How come you can’t answer Casey’s questions?

    ROELLKE: We haven’t finished the investigation. I can’t answer it at time.

    OPERATIONS: Can you tell us what they admitted to?

    ROELLKE: No, because the investigation is still going? If the students withdrew the point is mute. We know they committed egregious violations.

    FINANCE: I would like to pinpoint the exact violation we’re talking about.

    ROELLKE: They took responsibility for the most recent bias incidents reported by BIRT, that’s all I can say.

    7:39 // Forum with Robert Walton, Chief Finance Officer

    PRESIDENT: If you would like, introduce yourself and how you engage with students on campus.

    WALTON: Went to University of Texas, Austin. Then went into the software business for 25 years. Was CEO in Cambridge, MA and then did a start up with a friend in Berkley, CA. Everything you use in the Library was our software. I thought working on higher ed was the way to go. I worked as the CFO of a liberal arts school in Ohio…

    Vassar contacted me when they were looking for a CFO. So I moved backed here to the East Coast and I’ve been at the job since Oct. 1. I came because I have a lot of admiration for Cappy and what she’s done, I want to be able to interact with students and faculty, and use my next five or six years to move the ball down the field. And I prefer that people call me Bob, please.

    TAs: What does you day-to-day look like?

    WALTON: I spend time on the endowment, risk management, all of buildings and grouns, all the purchasing that goes on, all the benefits for students and staff, and all the contractual stuff. Most of my time, now that I’m here, I spend half of my week managing people who manage areas of responsibility. One of my due diligence points was to make sure I wasn’t coming in to a turn-around. The other half is working with the Board. A lot of my time is spent doing Board governance.

    2015: I was curious, I was told that you’re the point person for Student Labor Dialoge to communicate with for their goals. I was wondering if you could speak to a summary of them.

    WALTON: So Student Labor Dialoge, originally SLD, I don’t know their organizational structure, but they met with President Hill. All the unionized employees fall under my jurisdiction, plus benefits, etc. So I met with the three students. Their desire was for the student body to have a direct interface with the staff and the administration in a forum. They felt the students have a seat at the table. I told the students I respect what they were doing, but I didn’t agree with them. That didn’t mean that we shouldn’t have a dialogue. I recommended we invite those students to the forum. They think they, to quote, “need to protect” the employees. But our employees are really tough. A point came up, why do these three students get to go, so I suggested one or more from VSA come to be observers. I would be happy to meet with any member of the student body to discuss their concerns. The forum will be in late December. It will be a meeting with all of our union employees. It’s unfortunate that we put our employees in categories here.

    The forum shouldn’t be a show-and-tell. It will to some extent because we need to give them the facts that everyone else has. But there will be room for a dialogue.

    JEWETT: At this meeting, are there going to be notes taken that will be made public to the students?

    WALTON: I don’t have any problem with that. Probably not minutes, but we can certainly have a summary.

    STUDENT LIFE: I guess a concern is that at the last meeting Cappy walked out because it went overtime. You said in the years we haven’t had one it’s because the last one didn’t go well, but it seems like the administration doesn’t want to talk about these issues.

    WALTON: I wasn’t there and you weren’t there. I think the reason Cappy left wasn’t because of the time, but because she was being yelled down by a dozen people at the same time. That’s one version of the truth. She wanted these to resume. I believe they need to happen, more often than less often. I’ve always done these meetings the day after a board meeting. I would go to a board meeting and then the next day I would have the same presentation with the staff and a Q/A. I never been in a public meeting with Cappy where people may be perhaps angry, so I don’t know how she’ll respond. I’m not gonna walk out, I can assure you of that. This is also not a meeting between Cappy and the Staff, it’s between a bunch of people. Cappy is our leader, but she delegates and expects a lot from many people.

    We also need to turn the tensions down a little bit. I suggested to CWA we have a meeting, and they said once a semester, I said once a month.

    I’m not a difficult person to understand and I’m pretty informal.

    OPERATIONS: I’m speaking as a student. I’m interested in how students as a group can be supportive of the employees of the College. We should be thinking about that a lot more. If we want to support these unions, one way we can do it is by not making their jobs harder.

    SOCOs: You said you did budgeting, I was wondering how you prioritize the way money is spent. What’s a top priority?

    WALTON: II would suggest at some point we have another discussion and really talk more, where I can prepare this is the way that it’s done. If you want to think about a college budget: there’s three things you spend money on: financial aid, people—faculty and staff, benefits, etc., the campus itself. Those three things are about 90 percent of the budget. I picked Vassar because Vassar has actually figured this out. The most important thing is financial aid for students. The second priority is faculty salaries. We aren’t all equal here. The faculty are more important than me and other employees, because we are a college. Then we have the benefits. Then, unfortunately, we have to fund the facilities. One of the things I presented to the Board of Trustees, but one of the things I pointed out is we should spend 12 million dollars a year to maintain Vassar, and we spent three and a half. I’m not shifting that priority because financial aid is the top priority.

    In the next five or six years I will figure out how we’re going to fund the facilities, discretionary spending, things that are frustrating to the academic programs as well.

    ACADEMICS: Because you just expressed your appreciation for the financial aid, what exactly, if you could outline the efforts Vassar makes to make it more affordable for students here after the initial financial package is made?

    WALTON: The College I worked at when I first went into higher ed. was second-tier. In comparison to that school and the five undergraduate schools in Southern California, I think Vassar does a really good job. I think that the recognition of including transportation in the calculation of your family’s contribution in the FASFA process—that’s something that’s not always done. The way it works here is pretty aggressive; is it everything we can do, probably not. There are only 12 schools I’m aware of that has the same support for its students that Vassar does

    TOWNHOUSES: Something I love about VC’s financial aid and need-blind admissions, I was wondering if you could speak about that.

    WALTON: I’m not going to let that go away. Three of the schools I worked for were need-aware, and that’s because they didn’t have the resources. The problem with Vassar is that we do not have an endowment as large as some other schools. One of the things they said, was that people are afraid that their job might go away. That’s good because it might. The reality is we have a three-year plan that was approved before I got here, talking about the fact that we’re going to have to eliminate thirty jobs over the next three years. I understand why people are concerned, but those are the times we live in. We still have to prioritize financial aid.

    2017: How does the budget work? Is it established at the beginning of each academic year or are there other factors as the year goes on?

    WALTON: Right now, assuming I can find a way to get into NYC, I have a meeting with the Investment committee. We’re trying to model what the budget will look like for the 2014-2015 school year. We’re trying to predict the tuition, but we don’t know how many students in the incoming class will be on contributing to that. We also deal with the endowment and donations. Can I guarantee that we’re going to get 10 million, no. There’s a lot of contingency planning. Budgetting for colleges and universities is as much of an art as it is a science; it’s made me religious man.

    2015: Is it getting cheaper for the incoming class, more expensive, is it all over the place?

    WALTON: If you have a 1-2 percent shift between each incoming class, that’s about a million dollars. When the market crashed six years ago, a lot of colleges stopped need-blind. Vassar didn’t do that. There was a cost. There were decisions made basically to hold a course for students on financial aid. If you saw these two publications from the Student dialogue, there are a lot of anecdotes. Some of it’s true. My hope is even if the class comes in weak in terms of paying, I think we have some strategies. Ultimately we need the endowment to grow.

    JEWETT: What are you and your office, are you guys working on some kind of financial plan where our staff and employees don’t have to be not top priority—a way everyone can benefit?

    WALTON: At any point we can cap financial aid, for example, and take it buy lowering the reward. You could be need-blind and only fund 95 percent of 90 percent. The reality is, our biggest commitment is to the students. Right now we haven’t taken it out on the staff as much as we have taken it out on the facilities. We’ve had a huge investment in facilities for a long time, but that time is over. If you ask me today, I’m gonna put financial aid above all. If we had the same amount of endowment per student as other institutions. I think it’s always going to be a little bit of a struggle. We actually pay our staff very well and we have high benefits, my concern is that under the new Obama care law we’ll be subjected to pay the Cadillac tax.

    NOYES: The current structure is beneficial in the short term, but thinking in the long term, if facilities are less of a priority, can this result in a decrease in alumnae/i funding?

    WALTON: I like the fact that you focus on it strategically. A lot that has been happening has been tactical. We need to get back into the strategic financial planning. If you look 10 years our or 15 years out it gets better. We have these campaigns—Vassar just ran a successful campaign. Those pay for the buildings. I think we need a plan that’s not tactical and not reacting, but I think we can get there. I’m an optimist, I think this can actually all be fixed. So, hang in there.

    OPERATIONS: I just ask you how in your position you include student involvement?

    WALTON: I’m here, I can come as many times as you want me. So rather than talk about what we could do, I’ll talk about what i have done. You need the opportunity to have a seat at the table. The other thing is as we get into student projects, we need to have student dialogue with students more informally. Communication is tough. My experience has been that if you have 2,000 students at a college and invite them to a meeting, you might get fifty, you might get five. This is probably the safest place to get a student point of view. But my door is open any time.

    PRESIDENT: I want to champion something that you said during one of our Exec meetings. You said the first step is to recognize everything that we do well. Even in this meeting you did a good job of doing that. The fact that we have need-blind admissions and full-aid is incredible.

    COUNCIL TAKES A FIVE-MINUTE BREAK.

    8:31 // Exec Board Reports

    PRESIDENT: I went to a lot of meetings while Student Life wasn’t here, but we’re excited to have our new VP here. I’m going to be working mainly with Student Life with a lot of things that were on the table when things went down. We’re really going to be pushing for Administration and students to take action on a lot of the things we’re pushing for. We’re really pushing this gender-neutral bathroom thing, put a time line on that. And we want to make sure security and campus patrol have training in racial sensitivity…

    For next semester I want to plan an event that will be at the end of the year that will be a celebration for everything we’ve accomplished. Not just us, but all of our orgs. That would allow us to come together in a different way. One of the things that does unite us is that we’re all passionate about the things that we do. It seems like a fun project.

    MAIN: Good job, Deb, you’re doing great.

    8:36 // OPERATIONS Report

    OPERATIONS: I’m just going to abuse this moment to be the first to welcome to Council new Student Life Danny. The election process went fairly well. A number of people brought concerns, I’ve heard others from other people. Those will be addressed by OPERATIONS committee and the Board of Elections. We’re looking to create a new committee that would tie together the current BOE with the appointment process we have now. You should be looking forward to some amendments in the next couple of weeks and new semester.

    MAIN: Do you have to overlook the new committee?

    OPERATIONS: I’m going to try to include as much information as possible so we understand what’s actually getting changed. Nothing is set in stone.

    2014: Special Election could not have happened without your tireless effort. Having someone who knew the bylaws by heart with me was good.

    8:40 // Event Requirement Alteration Amendment

    ACTIVITIES: The previous bylaw had said that the general body meetings count as the event, but the Activities committee didn’t agree with that, so we adjusted the wording on the event.

    OPERATIONS: There is a comma missing. Don’t worry about it, it’ll be added later.

    SOCOS: We talked about in Activities—there’s some flexibility that should be exercised.

    JOSS: Does that mean that a prelim org has to hold an event that follows this?

    ACTIVITIES: It follows the same thing to prepare them for being a real org.

    ALL IN FAVOR. Motion Passes.

    8:43 // Open Discussion…

    2014: This has been the only math I’ve done since my QA requirement. Average Thanksgiving dinner is 4,500 calories. I could burn off 495.5 Thanksgiving dinners between now and graduation.

    STUDENT LIFE: We will be meeting in the LGBTQ center. My office hours are Tuesday and Thursday from 3-5, with extended office hours this week including Mon, 6-7. I can absolutely be available by appointment. I’m passionate about this position.

    ACADEMICS: You can still send me the name of publications you want to see. I just want to take a minute to knock for Main because he’s always supportive and appreciative.

    STRONG: As the official spreader of good cheer on this committee, I just want to give knocks to everyone. I know it’s stressful at this time of year, but I’m glad everyone shows up and shares their opinons.

    RAYMOND: My house is having an all-house meeting about bias incidents and campus climates. Wish us luck. It’s mandatory for the house.

    JEWETT: To go back to fun stuff, when do we find out about Founder’s Day Theme?

    ACTIVITIES: I’m the unofficial co-chair. So Founder’s Day are due on Tuesday as are committee chair applications. We will notify everyone Tuesday evening or Wednesday afternoon.

    NOYES: This Wednesday, Noyes is hosting our second all-campus event. It’s the first reality tv contestant to come to Vassar as a speaker.

    PRESIDENT: Next week is our last Council meeting.

    MAIN: We’re selling sweatpants for 25 dollars.

    FINANCE: Finance Committee’s meeting is Wednesday.

    OPERATIONS: Motion to adjourn?

    MOTION PASSES. MEETING ADJOURNS.

     
  • Chris Gonzalez 12:00 am on December 2, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Tag it   

    Hey everyone we’re off to a slow start… 

    Hey everyone, we’re off to a slow start today. Hope everyone had a wonderful break! Happy first day of December!

     
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