VSA Council Meeting—16 February 2014

Happy Sunday, everyone. We should be starting in a bit. The Council members are still getting situated.

7:02// Call to Order
Attendance ……………PRESIDENT


7:06 // Consent Agenda

1. ASA – Discretionary….. $400
2. Minutes from 2/9/14


7:09 // Forum with Ed Pittman, Director of Campus Life and Diversity

PITTMAN: First I’d like to say thank you for inviting me tonight, and thank you for co=sponsoring Janet Mock for All College Day. I coordinate with the Vassar first-year program. I try to bring sense of community and bring diverse perspectives. I also help with spring orientation, work with other offices to do the first-year program, collaborative initiative. The office I oversee is the ALANA center and international services and LGBTQ and Women’s center, Religious and Spiritual Life: these four areas encompass a range of diversity and inclusion that affects all students on campus, not just those communities but what we do to bring others to see that community and be part of discussion, encourage discussion to have a more inclusive campus. Our work is never done because new students are coming each year and we want to have a campus where every student feels affirmed and like they have a say. A lot of the work comes from crises and our responses. I am coordinator of the crisis response team; VP of Student Life sits on that group when meeting is required—only when seen as a threat to individual or campus. Example: All College Day as sustained initiative that came from students after racial incident in 2000 using n-word at comedy sketch. Students wanted to sustain conversation not just respond to events of January 2001 with committee to bring together campus not solely when incident happens. We plan 4-5 conversation dinners each year around topic generated by students and faculty. All College Day has history, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s not reactionary, throughout the year we plan dialogues. Alejandro McGee ’16 is out intern and works to include students voices; student energy is so crucial to that dialogue and we want to build that more, and we hope All College Day gives us the impetus to do that. Sessions beginning at 1 and closing dialogue in College Center, how does that dialogue touch upon all students at Vassar? Sometimes people think that when you’re white and straight diversity doesn’t fit into that discussion, and our goal is to make sure everyone on campus sees it and talks about it. We talk a lot about intersectionality, not just working on one community but seeing where they intersect.

STUDENT LIFE: The last event of All College Day is the informational Gender Neutral Bathroom forum in Rocky 300 at 5:30 p.m. I just want to say that I’m not an expert on trans politics, but I’m here to get info out and represent the VSA. I just wanted to acknowledge my privilege on speaking about this as a cisgender male.

TAs: Are there talks about having a Students’ Class Issue Center?

PITTMAN: I’m not aware of any specific ideas. The Students’ Class Alliance has talked to some admins. Transitions works with race but I’m not aware of any specific proposal.

PRESIDENT: I was wondering if you could speak to the other successful things you’ve seen students do in response to bias incidents? Anything we can do better?

PITTMAN: I think the active student voice ready to take ownership on campus climate is good—any time students come together with one voice and collaborate with administration is good; challenge each other not just from students, because biases can happen from off campus. But the voice of students is critical in how we respond, students rep is good; we talk a lot about education on campus, but it has to be intentional, either through organizations or houses or classes that contribute to dialogue.

PRESIDENT: Can you give us an update on the status of the Privilege Campaign started last semester?

PITTMAN: We are going to do lots of planning this semester and launch it in the fall. We talked to Luis Inoa and wanted to take time to plan it and connect it to other projects like the new student orientation, social justice dialogues and spring orientation; we want to look at connected pieces.

SOCOs: Is this the first year that BIRT has been around in the form that it’s in?

PITTMAN: No, this year we wanted to make it visible. It has been there for 5 years, and we’re looking at how it functions. Visibility is important, and we want to look at how to make the website interactive.

RAYMOND: Is the Dialogue Center out of your office?

PITTMAN: No, it’s out of the Education Office/Department, like pedagogy of difference classes, comes out of that: we have the social justice inclusion fund thanks to the Westboro event, funded dialogue center to get space in Jewett, it’s one more vehicle through which dialogue takes place. Now there are multiple venues which is great, it needs to happen in more spaces. Hope you all come to All College Day.

7:24 // Activities Report

ACTIVITIES: We had the activities fair yesterday and it was successful: 100 orgs were there. Two weeks ago the leadership conference was fairly successful. 400 orgs there including preorgs, overall this semester 12 preliminary orgs approved. Founder’s day co-chairs have been selected. If you are interested please contact us. TGIV (Thank Goodness It’s Vassar) is coming up, if you or your org would be interested email me your org concerns and statements ahead of time.

2017: I went to ALANA center leadership conference and some orgs said they weren’t invited.

ACTIVITIES: Not true. Any org under the ALANA center has a contact, and they were sent an email.

7:27 // Finance Reports

FINANCE: We’ve busy this week, next week will suck. We’re working on annual budgeting timeline, plant the seed in people’s minds; working on structure, now working on language. It’s similar to last year’s, come to me with questions; fund levels are more or less the same as ast time we talked about them, but the bylaws tell us what to do with etra funds and now we have $3500 extra. Bring your applications to us: Finance Committee is DTF (Down to Fund).

7:28 // Approval of Pre-Organizations….. Activities

ACTIVITIES: 2 preliminary orgs; students for space and escalating registers, feel comfortable with 2.

FINANCE: Preliminaries must apply for $100 first semester and $300 second semester.


7:30 // Amendements

PRESIDENT: look at 28-8 amendment it was presented last week.

STUDENT LIFE: The wording just moves from house officers can’t and now it’s Res Life positions, so only officers can’t run.

RAYMOND: We talked to Luis Inoa and he is good with it.

MAIN: You can’t be on class council and run?

2015: To clarify, it’s more that you can’t be a student fellow and hold an elected position.

STRONG: How does this affect people running while holding a ResLife position?

STUDENT LIFE: I was able to hold position until elected, but this means that I would have had to resign before I could have run which is an incentive not to run.

2016: Did they discuss this amongst res life people, because student fellows are on class council, was that brought up?

RAYMOND: I talked to my house advisor and she was in favor but I don’t know if it has been brought up to others

2014: From an elections perspective: we can decide who’s eligible and if Luis Inoa says it’s fine, I’m satisfied. What happens now currently?

Ray: we can’t retroactively do anything, we could edit it to be before spring elections.

Strong: Can you elaborate on why you’re bringing up this amendment now?

RAYMOND: The special elections policies weren’t clear.

PRESIDENT: In the case where they are committed, is there a concern?

RAYMOND: We just don’t want the same people being elected to positions.

FINANCE: If someone is appointed to class council, that’s OK?

RAYMOND: Specifically VSA positions, no, should be OK.

FINANCE: Is appointed the same as elected?

PRESIDENT: It’s still an elected position?

2016: I don’t think we should vote on this because we need more discussion, because we shouldn’t be limiting who should run for what if there’s no conflict of interest; we shouldn’t say people can’t, it’s unfair to do that in student government. This doesn’t apply to other orgs where students can hold multiple presidencies in orgs. I would like to talk to students, like my VP and others because there is a big change and we need more student discourse.

STUDENT LIFE: I believe Res life wants this because it’s similar to what has been put through in the past. I think that’s a good point: there’s a time management concern but class council positions and student fellow isn’t really conflict of interest, it’s an arbitrary thing. Focus on time management because that’s the reason I resigned.

2014: One of the most important things is impairing a person’s ability to do one or more jobs. We can’t regulate who is president of organizations, one person who is president shouldn’t be a student fellow.

RAYMOND: This was an attempt to clarify policies. I move to table it to board of elections and Operations.


PRESIDENT: Now for the amendment on budget restrictions.

2015: There was problem that pre-orgs don’t have budget, some have them and we should manage out of VSA not on their own. This makes sense to make language consistent to manage preorgs; we want preorgs to be preorgs with budget numbers because Activities works with them and still want that relationship, but with ability to manage resources effectively.

PRESIDENT: This will come up next week. Any thoughts?

FINANCE: We talked to Activities and it’s a good plan, but exceptions should be made. Preorgs should not be expecting this, it only applies to preorgs with funds.

2015: One main caveat for no funds for preorgs because changing budget numbers is really confusing.

PRESIDENT: This will be tabled until next week. Consult your constituents. Now we will discuss the amendment concerning Exec Board distribution.

CUSHING: Before we start it, it would be good to lay out what’s happening and why, this is not set in stone. We have been throwing this around, the discussion not necessarily happening, we looked at list of things VSA is in charge of and the distribution is weird. We took a list of everything and made new categories, and we ended up with splitting Student Life and Activities: we had to change names, but VP for Student Life is Student Life and Diversity and VP for Campus Resources. Activities is split between VP for Programming and VP for Orgs, so that way one person focuses on orgs and the other on Founder’s Day and the shuttle and Tasty Tuesday (which shouldn’t be under Operations). It’s pretty self-explanatory.

PRESIDENT: Instead of making changes on floor we’ll have a discussion and make a list, will be discussed in Student Life, Operations and Activities, if changes made we’ll give it another week to reach out to people, earliest voting will be in two weeks.

MAIN: This is for which election cycle?

PRESIDENT: This one coming up in a month.

2015: In terms of redistribution, with big changes we need to talk to lots of people. Best to have students vote on it. Certain sections focused on Centers or Res Life, should be more like a scaffolding. The language restricts the positions: a big issue is VP of Student Life and Diversity wording would mean they are not allowed to represent straight white males. The focus should be on something but don’t vote them out. I could be wrong, but this should not be for this election cycle. It seems to be moving fast on something that needs thought.

2016: I want to commend the writers because we’ve talked a lot on restructuring; there’s lots of good stuff. I’m a big fan of redistribution as a socialist, so that’s good. I have issues with how to move forward. I think we shouldn’t set sights on this election cycle—I don’t want to rush major changes that need more time. I’m in favor of a referendum, because it might look like we’re trying to create positions for ourselves right before an election. Perhaps best way is with forum shouldn’t focus on proposal specifically but focus on issues and see if students have ideas. Like, maybe a Senate system like proposed in 2011. I talked to the student reps at Williams about getting invited to a conference to look at other schools.

PRESIDENT: In creating 2 new committees you need people to sit on them. That should fit in with maybe which positions should be committee vs. liaison, like a co-chair. 2 Student Life’s equivalent are doing different things but could co-chair Student Life’s committee. I don’t want to make everyone sit on 3 committees. I like the idea of splitting up stuff, I like making sure students have voices. We talked about having a poll associated with election which means couldn’t do it now, could get widespread student feedback, change from within is not always effective.

AT LARGE—JOSHUA SHERMAN ’16: I want to remind VSA the review committee happened last year and it sputtered out. The goal was to talk to orgs and students, and it has been put in backseat. There is more to talk about but it’s important that VSA talk about ideas like VSARC. Remind Council that it feels rushed now but it’s been discussed since last May, push for progress.

SOCOs: I expressed concern about committees. We should combine Student Life, but I don’t know what campus resources does. If we don’t combine, we need to figure out responsibilities. I had the same concern as 2015; might be able to reword to ‘pay particular attention to students who have been traditionally disadvantage.’

2014: This is awesome. Thanks for your work. As someone on Board of Election, I would love to have this enacted by this cycle but to have referendum which I would recommend, we would have to go through CIS and that timeline is uncertain. We would have to advertise it, and it’s a time crunch and we would have to decide, like, now for referendum; under section 2, Operations you struck things about appointments and where did they go?

CUSHING: We’re working with board of elections and Operations to put all appointments in board of elections, they got put there.

2014: Even if this doesn’t pass this elections cycle, something we’ve been concerned about is working with specific committees so if it doesn’t pass, those two committees should still exist, use them next year.

CUSHING: Part of the reason to put in action sooner rather than later was that in our experience things that get brought up sometimes disappear, so putting impetus under this amendment would make it happen. I’ve hadconcerns about publicity and student input, meeting in Rose Parlor 3pm Friday. I made posters and I’ve paid for them with my own money, so I just want to take credit for that for a moment. I want your help in advertising this, it’s important, we were thinking that we could get more at large members at committees so we’re not filling in our own committees.

2016: I started last year to solidify restructuring class council. The house reps sit on a committees and and freshmen already do.

DAVISON: I love this, I feel like it’s an effort to streamline what we want to achieve but can’t because Vice Presidents do lots of things at once. It would be effective to have a forum but don’t just define rules, we have to analyze how positions could achieve what we put out.

2015: in terms of committees, we talked about people who sit on joint committees like CCL could have more importance and transparency augmented. Juniors don’t have time to sit on committees according to their calendars. Work-study for Exec positions might be jeopardized. I also suggest that the two new positions could be elected in the fall, so we can jumpstart it, but we have time this year to figure it out.

Student Life: Work study thing—we’re trying to get a promise that if there is a change in exec positions, work study can still happen, but realistically not every exec position might be on work study.; there’s lots to be logistically worked out but this is great way to respond to concerns I hear from staff and admins, like the alcohol task force assembled several years ago but then nothing happened because the new VP didn’t want to handle it. Things can keep moving forward and not stop for years at a time, this is a great way to split stuff. I don’t see harm in doing a trial and error thing, it’s not bad to say we tried and then make adjustments, sometimes we get afraid of things becoming permanent.

FINANCE: One of the most interesting parts of this, is what do two extra votes mean on exec? That’s something I don’t see addressed in this, but can be. What is the role of exec in admin meetings, which might not be realistic. Do they need to go?

2017: If you need help distributing posters, I can help. A lot of students don’t know about the existing structures.

2014: A few years ago we had a referendum with lots of turnout, but it didn’t pass because people didn’t know what it meant.

STUDENT LIFE: A lot of the meeting on Friday will be explaining what positions do specifically for those people who don’t know. Some people don’t care. It could be iffy because part of VSARC committee was made to address why students aren’t interacting, will they interact for a referendum? Should we count on their lack of interest and would that change if it went through, the council that students may not be crazy about in terms of structure may not reflect opinions of students next time.

RAYMOND: We considered getting rid of exec board voting power, it’s like that at other schools, but that’s for later. We’re looking at changes, they look big but to vast majority it wouldn’t be so drastic, most people don’t know what the VSA is doing. This could solve internal issues. I understand the concerns with the timeline, but I have to say that we always do so much talking and we need to pursue something, I encourage us to vote on this in 2 weeks.

PRESIDENT: like trial and error idea but I’m concerned that getting rid of positions by trial would eliminate people who get elected, writing as we go could clarify what those positions do. I’m concerned with programming committee, like what it’s doing—Tasty Tuesday and the Shuttle. I don’t think those people necessarily need to be in this room, it could be a group of people who love programming. For the forum, I like bringing up this proposal but first question could be what do you want VSA to do; start from the bottom as opposed to telling them directly; I like idea of specifying who sits on these committees and making class council do it, we need to say who is going to, I’m worried a committee won’t be filled, make elected reps as reps for these committees rather than making more people here do it.

DAVISON: I believe if something can be done in a minute, you should do it in a minute. My girlfriend doesn’t like that. My view on trial and error: shouldn’t just be a try it thing, making it a really well-defined idea; some of these positions don’t need a VP but they could be a separate entity.

TAs: Why did you choose to switch success of powers with VP of Student life? How would financing work with the programming board, considering Finance funds events? And are these standing ad hoc committees or do you expect them to continuing doing their thing the entire year? Why are they not open to others interested?

ACTIVITIES: I currently approve requests with ARC twice a week, would be a new position’s job. There’s nothing new. These committees would be open to everyone. The traditions committee I brought up a few weeks ago is kind of like that, a subcommittee of a programming committee.

RAYMOND: The shift in succession: We’re thinking that the VP of Operations is literally the VP of the Student Government, so it made sense that they would fill in as a temporary leader.

SOCOs: I think the athletics would be more for campus resources. It should be one rep from hour or house team, either elected people or constituency. I think we could have fall elections for freshmen reps on all committees. How would the committee work as an individual committee?

ACTIVITIES: I’ve discussed this with all of Campus Activities, the fact that there’s too much programming on the Campus Calendar, and too many people trying to do the same programming. Instead of going through SARC they could go through this committee for approval.

2016: A referendum is pivotal importance, structure shouldn’t be changed by the government itself. We don’t have a referendum process, we make changes without constitutional rules. I appreciate the discussion of timeline but this is not a simple change and I don’t want to be done by next election cycle. It will come up that we are trying to create new positions that are discussed by and in our Council. There are a lot of liberal arts colleges we can look at. We are the only liberal arts college that is based on residential life. We would have the largest exec board with these changes. We should not make these changes ourselves. We need student input.

2015: Can Exec Board ask Administrators what their thoughts are? And we can dancing around the audit question. Personally, I think Council needs to do this; there needs to be a strong commitment to finding someone from the outside to look at how we run things.

2014: I think having a bare-bones committee structure to plan these events would be interesting. But if Serenading and Halloween are taken out of the hands of Senior Council, this changes funding. Ticket prices would increase. Just from personal experience, having a budget for Halloween by the first day of classes is unreasonable. It’s a good idea to keep fall elections as a backdoor, approve what we can now and then do it later, lots of amendment can be effected now. On the forum, it is essential but we need to have series of forums to accomodate more people than Rose Parlor if not referendum nothing suggests that student interested now would not be interested later. The referendum could have biased data.

STUDENT LIFE: Just remember that no one in this room is better than anyone just because of the privilege of the postions they carry.

FINANCE: Finance things are being left out of the conversation. I think what 2014 was saying was great. Serenading is written in but we always complain, do we want to create a scaffold where certain things have to be done.

ACTIVITIES: It’s at the discretion of the committee and VP.

FINANCE: By putting it in the constitution, we’re giving precedence to these events.

2014: There will be a time when we can’t do Halloween and serenading in their current forms. I think we should have a barebones structure, might be helpful to have standing committee structure to apply to VP programming, not stuck with one thing but with what students what.

RAYMOND: We’re going to have forum at 3 in UpC, Saturday, if you’re not on Student Life or Activities contact us because we will be talking about it.

PRESIDENT: Thanks for doing this, people have lots of ideas, I look forward to seeing where it goes. It will be discussed in forums—Operations, Activities, Finance and Student Life.


2014: Shout out to the Daisies and Violets for helping out with 100 Nights and the VC sound system. 50 Nights will take place on April 5th. We’re still working on senior week planning. I sent an email to org leaders with application for events during senior week, need to know exactly how many non-seniors would stay; we’re hosting an art show for seniors not just in the Art Department in Palmer Gallery during Senior Week, and start thinking about submitting.

ACADEMICS: I sent you the application for student seminars, changes in student seminar due soon.

STUDENT LIFE: Thank you for all you do. If you represent a house, do you have your SAVP posters? If we could have those posted in common areas. The last thing is a note about the office as a shared space: we had these posters on our desk, but there were a lot of posters, they were printed by Elizabeth Shrock in SAVP, and we found a lot of them covered in coffee. They were not ours, they were supposed to go back to her. Now they are unusable. Just be mindful of the space.

DAVISON: This is my plug for Jewett: Seven Deadly Sins, Saturday at 10 p.m. I’m Djing, come by and enjoy yourself.

PRESIDENT: I got an email from Wendy Freedman, they are in the process of hiring 2 new counselors. It was unclear whether they are additions. We were invited to those interviews for those positions, please respond if interested next week. We got a lot of positive response for our letter. Eve Dunbar responded that she submitted an official proposal to get a Post-Doc fellow. I’ll keep you guys posted.

STRONG: I just wanted to thank Cushing and Raymond for all that you do, and especially Activities. To all the rest of you who never get shout outs.

RAYMOND: So I’m going to send out a blurb to everyone with a constituency, because we want students to come to the student forum.

2015: The class council sold 63 orange crushes.

8:38 // PRESIDENT: Motion to adjourn.