VSA Council Meeting—2 March 2014
All right, everyone, get pumped for the final VSA Council meeting. Sports Editor tried playing “Timber” by Ke$ha to get the crowd riled up.
1 Call to Order
2 Attendance ……………PRESIDENT
OPERATIONS is running late. Proxies: Raymond, 2017, THs; Absences: 2016, Cushing, Ferry, Town Students.
7:03 // Consent Agenda
a. Chess Club (Pre Org).…………….………………………………..($98.29/$98.29)
b. ViCE/SoundSystem (Capital)..………………………($1260/$1260;$240/$240)
c. Fem Alliance (Discretionary)…………..………………………….…………($1200/$1800)
d. Improv (Speakers)……………………………………….……………($400/$4000)
e. Slow Food (Conference)………………………………………………….….…($495/$495)
f. Britomartis (Discretionary)……………………………………………………………….$520
g. Minutes from 2/23/14
FINANCE: Adds 1500 to Vassar Prison Initiative.
CONSENT AGENDA PASSES.
7:04 // Forum with Eve Dunbar, Acting Dean of the College
DUNBAR: I’m here because I was asked by the VSA exec board. This charts process notes from last December’s group dialogue, this was a dialogue chaired by Counseling Services and VSA was part of planning. It came on the heels of a campus climate meltdown—that’s probably the best way to describe it—students were feeling confused and concerned about safety on campus, processing bias and hate speech. We decided to hold the forum to process feelings; the document came at the end (about 70-80 students, administration and faculty), everybody was given the option to put down on a card some concerns we had and we broke those into categories and bulleted point of each concern. I’ve taken this to Dean of College area to go over it, I’ve asked Deans and directors to go over it to see if they’ve addressed these and see if they can address some in a low or no cost way, which ones need long term strategic attention.
PRESIDENT: We wanted to address this here so that we could voice their concerns and if they want to take action on these things, if you see anything important please add if it’s missing you can bring it to an administrator.
DUNBAR: I went through and highlighted what’s important—change resources: gender neutral bathrooms is in progress, restorative adjustment model to address bias incident response, small intermittent conversations with administration and Campus Life and Diversity office used to hold dinner. Ed Pittman plans to bring those back and encourage thinking about how we can “construct ourselves from within bounds of law.” CIE is addressing this.
MAIN: Under section “etc” it says change Vassar culture, what does that mean?
DUNBAR: I didn’t write it so it came from someone that reflects desire among many to change campus culture.
PRESIDENT: I noticed changing Metcalf funding, I was wondering if you could speak to where it is.
DUNBAR: In terms of progress made this year we were able to secure permanent lines in counseling services so there will be 5 permanent starting in fall. I have put in request for a post doc position, but I don’t know how that will fare. I think there is some progress being made.
TA’s: What are your goals for this semester?
DUNBAR: To keep the wheels on the bus. I am interested in supporting the bystander intervention training, working with SAVP—working with Elizabeth Shrock—to bring the bystander training; hopefully that will happen late April/ early May. I’m really hoping to solidify that on campus. I am invested in campus-climate issues and creating spaces for dialogue—this Friday I will be holding small focus group luncheon, and in April I will have general call to student body to have another lunch meeting with me to see what people are thinking about Vassar.
2015: In the past you’ve worked in the Dean of Faculty office and in coming to the Dean of College position do you have anything you see that might be interested or advice for us? Now that you’re overseeing so many people?
DUNBAR: In the six to eight weeks that I’ve been in this position something that was a revelation for me—after being in the house fellow position, I know that student lives are richer than the classroom. I see that they have lives in the dorm. Going to Dean of College I saw a wide range of experiences students have, from interpersonal to institutional is clear now, relationships to one another—difficulties and greatness.
ACADEMICS: I have a question about the social justice requirement, what would you like to see what do you think it will look like?
DUNBAR: It depends on when you ask me, when I was co-chair of CIE, 3 years ago we were given a proposal that entailed specific courses all students would take called “social justice” and that did not seem like the right model. I don’t think a single course taught by one or two faculty would be effective. If one were to imagine social justice requirement I would want it to be diverse so that students have choice of classes to take; they would all be different that would allow students to pick and choose. The data from the Registrar suggests 90 percent of students take something that would fill social justice requirement. I’m not sure we aren’t addressing that, what we need is a new way to talk about what work students are doing, a different way to acknowledge that great majority of students at Vassar are invested in this. My ideal is that we develop a discourse—this might mean something from people looking in to talk about it; it would have to go through faculty, requirement isn’t up to the students, again because vast majority are meeting it we need to think in ways that aren’t based in the curriculum, more social.
SoCos: I wanted to talk about the Metcalf funding. I’m hesitant to hire more counselors when data was what we had at the current moment, I’ve had strangers tell me that Metcalf needs more resources, and people are upset that we didn’t act. I’ve seen few things VSA has done that all students can get behind, how can we make it a priority?
DUNBAR: I think the VSA has made it clear that it supports this, I think that you can keep being vocal about it and I will keep trying to push this, I’m going to say that this is something I’m invested in, there are a variety of priorities the institution is invested in.
PRESIDENT: I do want to thank you for the work you’ve been doing. I know that to get something new, we have to give something else up.
TOWN HOUSES PROXY: I’m curious to know if there are any conversations between Metcalf and administration in context of communication with student body. From the Reslife perspective the way student leaders are trained Metcalf becomes the last advice given. This serves as catchall that feels like a beuqacratic channel rather than long term resources; my biggest concern is how do you understand the role of Metcalf? It seems like what Vassar is as a space is the main question, and how does it relate to the College.
DUNBAR: I think that question is a little leading, so why don’t you tell me where you’re leading me, so that I can answer it.
TOWN HOUSES PROXY: Where do you see Metcalf as a space?
DUNBAR: Wendy could answer better than I: from what I can tell the way counseling services work as a resource for students in distress, on campus to get the care they need at that moment, that’s probably the primary use. I’m not sure it is meant to be sole site of counseling for any individual. One might need to find long term counseling if they have the resources. I see it as a site where you can process when you’re most distressed with the hope of moving to a person who can give you weekly or more frequent care. We’re not a full-service counseling center—not sure if many institutions have that.
TOWN HOUSES PROXY: What then is the goal of funding resources into Metcalf?
PRESIDENT: From my experience I find that it is an initial attempt to get through a rough patch, sometimes you need long-term counseling, other times you need to figure out what resources are available, in recognizing it is a short-term solution many students are unable to get appointment for 2 weeks. Over 50 percent of students use Metclaf; if student has to wait and it is an emergency this is not doing the function it should.
JEWETT: Where it mentions students reporting to other students how they feel, what does that mean?
DUNBAR: This was all anonymous, this was one I highlighted, it seems like this restorative justice model for dealing with microagressions. It sounds like SSN, can’t tell if people want to report their peers if they feel there has been a microagression and want to report it anonymously, the vagueness of it.
JEWETT: It seems like it would be another form of SayAnything.
DUNBAR: My sense is that I hope it’s not like an official SayAnything and that it does address microagressions in a more systematic way. I may be wrong because I wasn’t the writer.
STUDENT LIFE: Seems like a SayAnything that requires a sort of accountability, the site doesn’t do enough.
2017 PROXY: There’s an entire column for orientation. I just wanted to know what the administration feels like would be a good orientation considering many people think there needs to be more and balanced with the fact that it is optional.
DUNBAR: The two categories that confound me: orientation and mandatory; there’s a lot of desire in this group to make things mandatory yet there’s a desire in this institution to not have mandatory things. Orientation in susceptible to change. I don’t know that you can ever get orientation right, I think the First-Year Program group is open to feedback; you need people who are flexible to assess what worked from year to year. A lot of it comes from Campus Life and Diversity. Hearing what the students want and need is spring orientation, hearing that and responding to it. I don’t know how you create a mandatory orientation without saying it is mandatory; I don’t know how you penalize people who don’t do it. I’m interested in what students think about making students come to these things what is a suitable penalties.
2015: Penalty wise it is supposed to be a community so maybe you should have a lower draw number so you have less of a choice if you engage less in house issues.
AT LARGE: Is there a penalty in place for not completing Alcohol Edu? Maybe make it the same penalty if it exists, giving people another option in case people want to stay at home over the break.
PRESIDENT: Motivations for doing something is a friendlier way to look at it, having more fun parts would be effective. I just watched an episode of Parks and Rec, you laugh but I learn a lot from that show…I think bringing youth together might be cool—getting freshman together would be helpful, like a focus group. I’m a proponent of chocolate fountains wherever someone is at any given time, but I understand that’s not feasible.
STUDENT LIFE: Orientation Committee has one last meeting, only thing changed was giving more time for lunch. I would encourage more than just reps there to push it a little; they are more likely to listen if it’s coming from more people, it would help earlier in the year, they have asked VSA to plan fun events. so it could be a good way to introduce more social component when only times to be social are when people are falling asleep.
TOWN HOUSES PROXY: After going through orientation thrice, it seems like the only thing that drives orientation is the novelty of space, because you don’t know anyone, so you try to find something. My main concern is to rethink the ResLife model and house team section on this chart—have there been conversations about any proposed changes, do you have a sense of current ResLife situation?
DUNBAR: I would love to know which parts—what it is that’s broken—that students are displeased with?
TOWN HOUSES PROXY: I think there’s a strong relation between physical appearance with the space and what happens in interior, the relation to students’ understanding of space relates to underfunding of B&G and their ability to respond to damages, if there’s already broken things you don’t have to respect the interior. The physical space initiates your understanding of your relationship to the house and your relationship to the students. Each house has its own culture and some of those ideas begin with space, though that’s not necessarily problematic.
AT LARGE: It would be interesting to have a discussion of how to share personal space with someone. As someone who switched roommates, it was hard to talk to someone when my roommate didn’t want to. More realistically what does compromise look like. Some things don’t come up until they come up especially when you come from different backgrounds.
DUNBAR: So training of student fellows or new students?
AT LARGE: Perhaps more involved with the roommate contract.
PRESIDENT: Lots of issues come up with senior housing, so some sort of that repeated before senior housing, like a panel of other students presenting successful ways they have navigated delegating chores and having house meetings. Something that shows good examples of people before you. Some popele talk to friends others, don’t know what to expect.
JOSS: In terms of ResLife, it would be beneficial if ResLife was more responsive and respective of people’s genders in terms of who people can room with.
AT LARGE—JOSHUA SHERMAN ’15: There’s no system of mutual communication, it’s one way communication. If I have concerns and I want to talk to ResLife and it’s put into structure. There’s no ticket system where I’m responded to in an orderly fashion, there’s no way for me to track my issues, no sense of me talking to human beings, whether it’s personal or housing. I also have some issues of honesty with ResLife—this hasn’t been clear, if there was more honesty in terms of resources or budgets it would be better. Honestly about why certain things aren’t done.
2015: After this semester, where is you future?
DUNBAR:The future lies in my past, I’m going back to Associate Dean of Faculty. I love teaching and my own research, so I always tell people that the worst thing that could happen to me as a tenured professor is that I have to go back to the English Department and teach the classes I love, read the books I love and write about it. And I’m happy with that.
FINANCE: There’s been pressure from Campus Activities to have house teams do programming, house team does double duties. I think the strong part of Vassar is that programming is student led. We don’t need to rely on house teams.
PRESIDENT: Student orgs have missions to do these events and houses might not want to do that, so in some ways it’s like houses are taking away their agency.
FINANCE: There is value in letting house team focus on the dorm.
7:53 // Regular Reports and Constituent Concerns
SCIA: We’re hoping to foster dialogue around class issues to accommodate diversity of socioeconomic backgrounds. We’re hoping to make textbooks and course materials more accessible, our proposed solutions surround getting course material to students earlier and we’re hoping that faculty can develop an internal policy so that students can find cheaper options, the info isn’t as public as it could be, and this puts students in a bind, so that they feel an obligation to buy course materials, whether materials are required or optional, if you’ll actually need the textbooks, if you need the edition listed, we saw progress in our meetings with the Acting Dean of Faculty.
ACADEMICS: The point of the letter is just to say that the student body supports this, not just for small selection of students, sense of accountability with faculty.
PRESIDENT: We meet with all these people on a regular basis and have talked about it, but seeing it in writing will have benefits, we haven’t been ignoring this.
FINANCE: Can I motion to approve this letter.
7:57 // Student Life Reports
STUDENT LIFE: The Gender Neutral Bathroom Forum was on Wednesday. The turnout was acceptable but would have been nice to see faculty and staff; students gave helpful feedback, and we’re going to be regrouping to talk about student input. Tomorrow as a small group we’re working on getting student exec positions paid. The proposal was pushed before but then died over the summer. It’s now circulating as widely as possible. Cappy requested to write the letter, what makes it different from heads of other orgs.
TAs: What are the barriers keeping us from implementing gender neutral bathrooms?
STUDENT LIFE: There are issues with putting it in every building—some needed to be renovated. There are issues over whether you have to take out urinals, under building codes. Students aren’t worried about using a urinal, but we have to keep in mind that this pushback is coming from staff and faculty who aren’t used to this, because of a lack of education, which we’re working on. So we’re explaining why it’s a basic need and why we need to have option for everybody. We’re not taking gender bathrooms away.
JEWETT: Is there going to be a decision made before this year in regard to exec positions getting paid?
STUDENT LIFE: I’m trying to push it through this week, ideally it would be pushed through before filing but we can’t help that.
NOYES: Does this apply only to student on work-study jobs?
STUDENT LIFE: The intent is not to make exec positions paid, but to make students who would otherwise be spending hours working. It’s not a conflict of interest because I can’t do my job when I have commitment elsewhere; making it work-study eligible so that people working have the choice to be paid, and it will be a choice.
PRESIDENT: And some people may choose to keep their work-study jobs. For example, I would keep working at the art museum, it’s my happy place.
STUDENT LIFE: I sit on SAVP committee, student committee is video project to make reporting process more transparent. The filming/production phase gives people the chance to see more about what they would enter into in reporting process, there is room on subcommittee. 2016 reached out to me on a budget project, and a security investigation project. We’re trying to address racial profiling incidents and figure out what the issues are. We encourage students to go on security website to report problems. Lastly, I’ve been talking to centers about better representing them.
8:08 // Academics Reports
ACADEMICS: We’re done with most interviews for student seminars, people are teaching interesting things. CEQ’s course evaluations are new, there’s a new design/pilot. We’re looking for a focus groups to take SCE, a new way to evaluate courses and professors. Finally we have a timeline for the 24-hour room. It will be open always after spring break, and a newsletter will happen.
8:10 // Constituents Reports (as a concept)
PRESIDENT: I got emails from feedback for Late Night at the Deece. It’s been overwhelmingly positive. There have been some concerns from student employers about being understaffed, and hopefully that will be remedied in future. This weekend was the Board of Trustees weekend: I stressed that we want more Metcalf counselors and we talked about bookstore moving; they approved the budget and will be moving bookstore into juliet. They’re breaking ground monday. We talked about how we assess learning and online learning in the future.
JEWETT: I saw something about B&G clearing paths, is there a way to talk to someone about that? Workers are going out of their way, why are they being penalized?
PRESIDENT: There are some Union issues with regard to what they can and cannot do. I can bring in Bob Walton to adress these issues in the future.
DAVISON: Last week during the blackout, Davison was vandalized. Somebody was writing their name, or alias, on the Quad-side entrance. We reported it to security. It’s still there, nothing’s changed. Also, early this semester, one of my student fellows was followed into Davision by two men she said were not from Vassar. There’s an issue with our back door, it doesn’t lock properly. We reported it again, and nothing changed at all. I don’t know if it’s an issue with B&G or the ROC, but this has been the second time this year where my house doesn’t feel comfortable. We have tried to get in contact with so many people.
STUDENT LIFE: I’m sensing this more overwhelming sentiment. I’m a little troubled by the fact that the College doesn’t see students as a priority. With the snow: nothing for pathways, and things like that.
PRESIDENT: I think it sounds like a ROC issue. Typically the secretary is supposed to be the liaison between the ROC and the House. Perhaps you can put pressure on the team or the advisor to contact the Roc.
AT LARGE: There are multiple things in my room that are’t functioning like they should. I put the ticket through. Generally there are a lot of things the ROC is not getting to.
MAIN: Something that my house wants to know about more—what’s going on with the student space. Small side at the Deece is now Late Night, and we’re confused about what the purpose of Late Night at the Deece?
PRESIDENT: The purpose was a response to the student space reports. Students wanted a space they could go that wasn’t just a dance party space, but somewhere they could hang out and have food option. There’s a committee meeting to address these concerns. I think there’s a whole team of people looking at what are student needs, and how we can delegate them around campus.
SoCos: There have been 5 candidates for the 2 new Metcalf permanent positions.
TOWN HOUSES PROXY: B&G is understaffed, so I do want us to be careful about expressing these concerns while being aware of this problem. For example, there are only 2 painters that are required to cover the entire campus.
STUDENT LIFE: I’m talking about from an administration level. I’m not demonizing B&G.
PRESIDENT: Thank you for sharing, if there are additional things, feel free to email me.
8:24 // Joint Committee Reps Amendment
2014: This amendment tightens up how many people we need on those committees in respect to ours, and builds a little more oversight on those joint committees.
PRESIDENT: Just, I think one of my concerns is that I think even though the reporting changes. That doesn’t necessarily make it a priority for the VPs. I think there needs to be more language in our policies for each of our committees to address the problems within the committees. For instance, a couple of these are going to relate to the Student Life committee, so maybe Student Life should create policies. Another concern was if there are too many people sitting on the committee, maybe it would be beneficial to say “serve as” instead of “sit on.”
OPERATIONS: It’s talk about at the discretion primarily for the purpose of it’s more than a policy. It’s part of their job description, and people should be aware of that.
PRESIDENT: I’m worried about the VP perspective.
OPERATION: I agree. This has to be followed up with policy changes. It fixes a different problem.
NOYES, TAs abstain. AMENDEMENT PASSES.
8:30 // Board of Elections and Appointments Amendment
OPERATIONS: There’s a disconnect between the people who should be in charge of elections and appointments and the process going on in Operations. This remedies that by taking the Board of Elections and making it more independent. It would have elected members which would be a good way of keeping a distance between having VSA people picking our own. The biggest concern brought up last week was the idea of rank ordering candidates. That language has been rewritten. The policy will be that the BoE presents their recommendations at the Council meeting. It will be a Consent Agenda item, but not on the finance consent agenda. BoE will provide an explanation for why. Copies of the application will still be made available with the Council Agenda; this will be at the discretion for the VP of Operations. The follow-up process: if the VSA Council consents, we decided.
TAs: Can you explain who serves on this Council, and can you explain the role of VP of operations?
OPERATIONS: The VP serves a supervisory role. A second Co -hair elected member at large will be responsible for this committee, and 2 members from each class will sit on it. 2 members of VSA Council will sit and rotate based on type of appointment.
2015: The reason it was supposed to be a senior on Council, because a senior can’t run for another position. But typically VP of Operations runs for another position. I think that needs to be revisited before we can vote on it.
OPERATIONS: That has been addressed. It is typically written that if you have a conflict of interest, you will not be allowed to run in that election. It will be a fairly large committee, and policies will be laid out.
2015: It will also diminish the number of people responding to candidate statements online.
PRESIDENT: I like that this is consented to rather than voting. Our official documents don’t say that Finance agenda is on the consent agenda, those are on our special meeting rules.
OPERATIONS: I think we would still have a clear enough policy. So, I motion to amend the amendment concerning the BoE appointments, to strike section 14, subpoint B, subsections 1-50.
PRESIDENT: It wouldn’t get rid of it, it would just be moving it to special meeting rules.
2015: Can we table it until after Spring break?
OPERATIONS: Because it involved electing 7 new people, publicity is a major problem. I would like to see us do it earlier rather than later. If there are small changes we can amend on the floor, I don’t see why we can’t get this done now.
8:40 // Vacancies Amendment
2017 PROXY: Basically it’s laying out the procedure we already fallow but technically weren’t allowed to.
STRONG: I move to call this to question.
8:41 // STUDENT LIFE Amendment
STUDENT LIFE: This amendment seeks to making the position less vague by including an obligation to represent Campus Life and Diversity and all related centers, and all issues of campus climate.
FINANCE: I wanted to suspend the bylaws.
OPERATION: I don’t want to set the precedent of suspending bylaws.
TOWN HOUSES PROXY: My question refers to section 2, part b, could you speak to how it typically acts as a resource?
STUDENT LIFE: We have to battle house advisors for attention, not a common part of job description but not something that would add or take anything away.
JEWETT REQUESTS SOME CLARITY TO THE RECENT EVENTS.
PRESIDENT: FINANCE requested that we suspend the bylaw saying we wait a week.
DAVISON: We talked about restructuring the representation issue. I don’t know how much of an issue that could be, or is, or would be, that’s just something.
STUDENT LIFE: I agree. We can’t stop anybody from getting the position. I agree that there are certain people who can represent these Centers better than people.
PRESIDENT: I think we’re going to have to trust that somebody running for this position is committed to these issues. And when we say represent we don’t mean somebody who is physically diverse and special.
STUDENT LIFE: I just want to make it clear that if you aren’t socially conscious, you shouldn’t be running for this job.
SOCOS: Purpose is to make people aware if we don’t vote now will it be before filing ends?
OPERATIONS: It would happen before filing begins.
NOYES: This should be better advertised.
OPERATIONS: This is the job of the position, so when we publicize the position it will be there.
PRESIDENT: Motion on table is to suspend the bylaw so we can vote on it today.
SIMPLE MAJORITY FAILS. MOTION FAILS. WILL BE VOTED ON AFTER BREAK.
8:51 // OPEN DISCUSSION
2014: Three weeks to prior to filing, we have to release a publicity plan. President will send out blurbs and all campus emails in dorm campaigning events to tell people about positions debate among exec board email at beginning and middle of voting period Wednesday April 9 UpC.
STUDENT LIFE: The set up is good, but the space isn’t working well.
2017 proxy: We could make the presenter more comfortable letting them sit at tables.
ROYAL: It wouldn’t be the best idea to have a meeting in a dorm, students might not want to have VSA there on a Sunday night.
STRONG: If you have comments take them to your committees. A subcommittee of activities met to talk about incident several weeks ago, we want to encourage SJP to continue as a pre-org.
2015: Vassar has really bad rumor issues.
TH PROXY: With respect to larger discussion about Metcalf we should have conversations with Reslife to talk to student leaders about how students are being deferred. This depends on the nature of the issue and how the space is contextualized.