VSA Council Meeting—23 March 2014
Hey everyone, welcome back from break! Let’s get started.
7:04 // Call to Order
Absences: Cushing, Joss, Operations.
7:05 // Consent Agenda
MBSA (Social Conciousness)$2000/$2300
Fernando Braga (Discretionary)$0/$350
Run Vassar (Discretionary)$0/$1100
Pro Health (Conference)$980/$980
Vastards (A Capella Recording)$750/$750
Christian Fellowship (Conference)$800/$800
Night Owls (Discretionary)$350/$350
Consent Agenda Passes.
7:06 // Forum with Luis Inoa
PRESIDENT: Three weeks ago we brought up a lot of concerns about Reslife, so Luis is here to talk about those things.
INOA: I’m the Director of ResLife and Assistant Dean of Students, and I’ve been here for nine years. I’m trying to approach this summer as if I’m coming in new, trying to think through the Department and our relationship with students. House Team: Contextually, and historically, the term ‘house team’ hasn’t always been a part of Vassar vernacular. Training: student fellows and advisors were trained first and then presidents later. Training, I think, developed through the lens of what is it that a student fellow/advisor needs. And what are the transferable skills. Talking about next year is important because we havent figured out what to do with officers. I’ve encouraged the VSA not to think about house team in the same way they think about other orgs. I think each year we haven’t done the kind of work around office training that we needed to; I think we do good things about the global issues—fire safety, identity, etc. And with QPR, if you’re seen as a leader in your house there’s a chance a student in your house will come to you.
2016: Hi, thank you for coming. I’m just curious about our specific structure for student fellows as compared to other schools. I know other schools, their student fellows are more punitive positions or they’re seniors or upperclassmen? Can you speak to why we have this system and what are it’s benefits?
INOA: When the RA system developed around the country, Vassar didn’t follow. I’m not sure if that was due to the all-women structure, not sure about the rational, I haven’t encouraged this because we don’t want one person responsible for the students. We want the community to be responsible. We recently adopted language around responsibility and consciousness: House Team members need to develop a sense of ‘little a’ authority. For a student smoking in their room, if nobody approaches, students assume that it’s okay to behave this way; we’re struggling because we need Vassar students to start stepping up and say this is why we don’t have RA system, all our students should be empowered to act when students don’t behave this way; RA system makes the officer system redundant. I like that we have this Venn diagram community development with HFI and social development. The Floor Fellow program has also been worth it for students who have reached out. We’re working on some things.
MAIN: Hi, can you talk a little bit about the selection process for student fellows and student advisors?
INOA: They just wrapped up interviews; I feel like I should have a more ready response. The first word that comes to mind when thinking about student fellows is snowflakes. Yes, we need some extroverts. Yes, we need some introverts. Yes, we need students involved with a variety of things. Student fellows: I’m looking for someone who likes Vassar with the capacity to love Vassar, that can be critical. When I got here house advisors had to be student fellows first. Now we incorporate house officers, the same things apply, you have to like working because they put in so many hours—it’s an individual that can be an effective role model. In nine years I haven’t had a student advisor documented so they don’t bring that kind of drama and I appreciate it.
STRONG: I wanted to ask about the relationships between house officers and the rest of house team. Sometimes it can become a little like West Side Story.
INOA: I think that house teams that are successful are the ones that continue to check in with each other about those expectations. A few years ago student fellows were concerned about the amount of work they were putting into programming. It should not be an expectation—that’s where the friction is coming from.
STRONG: Can we clarify what those expectations are?
INOA: Yes, maybe sitting down with the board of house presidents and start being very clear with student fellows.
STRONG: Houses expect different stuff with student fellows so they might be seeing their friends in other houses doing other stuff.
INOA: It’s tough because some houses just operate year to year on what Student Fellows do. They need to have those conversations about do you agree to this kind of commitment. This would be helpful; we need to be mindful of house traditions and house culture. Maybe the board of house presidents with student advisors and HFI’s. The class reps were formed after the VSA decided they could be a resource for upperclassmen.
STRONG: Great, I have some ideas.
INOA: Yea, we can work something out.
STRONG: We’ll call you.
STUDENT LIFE: Since RAs at other schools are paid, can you explain why a student fellow position is not paid?
INOA: To think about the scope of RAs, they are doing personal social development and security, though that is not to provide a reason for why student fellows aren’t being compensated. This question came up a few years ago and I surveyed current and past SF’s and they weren’t comfortable getting paid because they were worried there might be higher expectations, like they would do more authoritative things. When the student fellow program started in the ’70s, it started with student fellows getting $250 a semester. It was about half of room and board. It’s something the College could look at. Five years ago student fellows said $1000 would be most because the positions feels closer to being volunteer than not. It’s worth another look 5 years later especially in light of the school going need bind.
STUDENT LIFE: I saw some things about rooms changes happening and people getting roommates they weren’t told about—how does communication with students through Res life?
INOA: We were trying to work before room freeze over break; we allowed decisions but not having students move during midterms, because the move wasn’t happening. They heard they got approved before they were supposed to and where they were going; we have to think about that for next year. Right now, in general communication we’re working on a new website. I would encourage anyone here to sit down and see what would be useful. There’s a lot of info but it’s not easy to navigate it. We’ve switched systems to Residence, which has been a bit of a headache. The transition has meant that we haven’t quite known how things are going to be played out until later, so communication between us and students hasn’t been that great.
2015: I’ve known in past that house advisors think they should tell house president how to vote. I think it should be more about advice, but the president should have autonomy. Also, relating to 4- and 5- person draw, 15-min time slots for each group but have no draw numbers, how will this actually work?
INOA: This is part of that new system because it produces its own numbers. We use what system gave us for example first person who draws is 43, we could look at the entire list—can we look at that.
2015: That would be nice to have an idea of where we are in the time slot.
INOA: The idea is to look at where the time slot is and figure out where you would fit.
RAYMOND: I wanted to say that I really like having a floor fellow—do you think the program will be expanding and what changes could be made to other house teams?
INOA: This will be the third year, and with the way the budget gets approved I would need to look at budget needed by this November. We’re currently based on the Haverford model: they have “customs people” like student fellows and the team freshmen introduced to are a collection of people, such as multicultural educator. If we implement this we would have key conversations around identity. We’re not sure if this should be the floor fellow to encourage upperclassmen to join in and share perspective; we’re thinking about a multicultural awareness ambassador to lead conversations we seem to avoid in residential spaces. I’m looking at restorative justice circles and conferences as a way of dealing with microagressions on campus. We have failed in some of those cases, we have failed some of our students who have come to us and said they were hurt by the language used on campus. We don’t have a system in place to say where our role is; we would like to implement that as a resource next year. We’re definitely thinking about some things.
TAs: I remember during winter break we were given a survey about our student fellows. Who sees that and what actions come from it?
INOA: It goes to the house advisor who should bring it up to house team during winter training. It provides perspectives on alcohol policy and such are shared. Student fellows also get feedback: how they are available to students, and every year feedback is positive. House teams get a chance to give feedback on house advisors. I work to encourage them to do the things they’re doing and also areas where students have concerns.
STRONG: The topic of roommate and housemate training came up. And I remember being thrown into this situation in the early stages. Stuff gets written down and people aren’t always comfortable with it. We do a lot of emergency and important kinds of training, but there isn’t a focus on the realistic small issues that then become big issues that lead to room changes.
INOA: What would encourage a roommate to revisit a conversation that they had earlier? Is it about this first roommate conversations or is about a series of roommate conversations that are needed to develop a working, living relationship. Culturally our students don’t revisit those until they become problematic. If we could do this early they might be better when they’re seniors, when cleanliness is not just limited to the room but the bathroom and kitchen. We’ve had more apartment changes than room changes. We sent out things to think about when picking housemates; I think of apartment spaces as cooperative spaces and the students would be more receptive to that if they did it, too. We need to be better beyond roommate-to-roommate scenarios. How do we move beyond that so students are ready when they move into the apartment areas?
MAIN: Last week before spring break it was Eating Diorder Awareness week and the Health Office had awareness programming, and only one student fellow showed up. Could there be more encouragement by Res Life to attend these events. The week of training is condensed and not refreshed upon.
INOA: The position right now is to talk about leadership curriculum that is more sustained. That’s for house team and professionals. It’s about taking advantage of opportunities the College has, and I’m working with Rene Pabst about better incorporating peer educators with house team.
MAIN: Going back to the student fellow/office divide. I think we could talk with Finance and Student Life and Activities, as House Team priority should be on house itself. Some conversations could be had to even things out.
ACTIVITIES: It’s not mandatory, it’s more about traditions passing down. Houses are run differently than orgs, it’s not mandatory.
PRESIDENT: We could talk about setting better standards for houses to focus on different things each year.
SoCos: One of the residents of SoCOs was concerned about protocol for B&G entering houses—would it be possible to email when everyone is doing that, let people know that ahead of time?
INOA: Sometimes students read emails and sometimes they don’t, but we could be upfront about that. We are a liaison for B&G to communicate to students so if they don’t give us the information there will be an issue. We are communicating that we have to know so that students can know. We will take issues back to B&G; sometimes we don’t spell it out for students to understand such as over spring break.
NOYES: Is there a reason why students who live in housing have to leave at 9 a.m. the day after classes end?
INOA: I think every now and then we think we can extend it; if we say 12, they will leave at 5. So we say 9 to allow some extra time for stragglers. For a campus who prides itself on students who make making good decisions. Extending the time might be bad: what would a weekend look like without having to worry about Monday classes? That’s the reason we shut down on Saturdays. There is a concern that in staying open we become the spring break destination. We can work on adding a few more hours.
PRESIDENT: I know some students’ parents have to drive 5 or 6 hours overnight to pick up their student and they have to leave in the middle of the night, so a few more hours would be helpful.
NOYES: Regarding demographic of student fellows has there been research into students accepted? Would that be worthwhile?
INOA: I don’t have a strong sense of it; I think these things balance themselves out. There are probably more white females who make up student fellows. The committee on inclusion and excellence looked to see if students of color weren’t taking up these responsibilities: they might be taking on other responsibilities. It feels like we could do better on the student fellow end. We’ve never gone to the Centers to talk about the house team experience.
2016: Do you feel certain students don’t apply to be student fellows because they might not be able to handle the position along with a work-study position?
INOA: I don’t know. If I had to make an assumption, probably. I will tell you this: The reason we have a bit more access now with the student advisors, is because they are paid positions. There’s concern a little bit about burnout now, but six years ago they were ready to revolt. I know that’s part of the experience of house presidents, and I imagine that’s part of the experience with student fellows. Really the crux of that position is that one-on-one relationship with freshmen.
2016: If you could just explain under what conditions will someone enter your room?
INOA: You fill out a work request, you’re giving someone permission to enter your room. During a fire alarm, when the houses close. One of the things happening, we have a growing number of students who won’t tolerate folks who are trying to be Scarface, you know a drug dealer on campus. We get word that someone is stealing drugs, someone is entering your room. If there’s a reason to believe that a safety or health violation happening behind closed doors, someone can enter. If it sounds like there’s a party, someone will knock on your door?
2016: Is there a protocol for that? Are they supposed to knock or can they just enter?
INOA: I believe it’s in the handbook, but that would be a common courtesy. It’s also expected the student open the door at some point. There’s a room entry policy in the handbook.
8:02 // Activities Report
ACTIVITIES: All preorgs are in good standing: pre orgs reps update us every week, activities committee has been talking to orgs we had questions for, we will have end of semester pre org review in coming weeks. We’ve been collecting constitutions. We hope to have them before annual budgeting, so April 1. The storage space project is good and almost done; we cleaned out the Vassarion office. Orgs who would be sharing spaces have been contacted; we’ve been working with the ROC to do coordinating. We still have yearbooks if you want any, orders are on Wednesday, 6:30-9:30 p.m. House presidents, let me know if you have books in your houses. The Leadership Conference Committee will be starting, we hope to have more org leaders. Traditions Committee is still being figured out. Terry Quinn and I had been talking about expectations for houses and programming. That blurb will be sent out.
JEWETT: How much are the yearbooks?
ACTIVITIES: Last year is 15, 2009-2010 are 10, and everything else is 5.
DAVISON: Some people have asked when is next time for students to apply to be student orgs?
ACTIVITIES: That would be next round.
2017: Helicon and Squirm share a space, how regulated are the spaces with org leadership notified?
ACTIVITIES: Anything that has to do with houses go to the ROC, otherwise talk to campus activities. We notified orgs that had spaces. Almost all of them knew where spaces were, I get notifications about fire and safety.
TAs: Are wireless VCash machines still a thing?
FINANCE: I can look into it. I heard they did the system update needed over break.
2016: I heard they did not. Also, the money we make from selling these yearbooks goes where?
ACTIVITIES: It goes to the budget.
8:10 // Finance Report
FINANCE: Annual budgeting applications are out, tell your friends?
TOWN HOUSES: For annual budgeting do you need to meet with people?
FINANCE: You will be approached and a conversation will happen. We’re making an offer to some orgs.
8:11 // Constituent Concerns
2016: Lots of administrators say they feel this works. When an student is EMS’d students have to pay for ambulance and this may be a disincentive. Healthcare should pay for it, and the ambulance not covered by Vassar insurance. We need to change this, students may not ever call EMS if this is the case. When the life of a student is in danger this in unacceptable; students should not feel as though they are putting financial strain on themselves.
PRESIDENT: I’ll reach out and see what we can do about it.
DAVISON: At the last meeting I mentioned Davison’s backdoor is having issues, and it hasn’t been addressed.
ACTIVITIES: If any other houses have concerns with faulty locks they should see me. I can email Annabelle. I send out lots of emails so we have a relationship built.
TAs: Can you explain the structure of the preorgs because it’s very confusing.
ACTIVITIES: There are different levels based on semester they started.
2015: A lot of orgs that get accepted at first level fizzle out before they reach the next step; the number of orgs we used to have has decreased. The preorgs cycle out and so the total will be manageable.
SOCOs: It’s important to keep in mind that at other schools all you need is a signed petition, we have a strict policy already so it would only be more discouraging to make it stricter.
TOWN HOUSE PROXY: Usually when orgs fizzle out they’re not taking anything from us, so we can’t necessarily add another org, we aren’t gaining money back.
PRESIDENT: This is the trial period for preorgs, so there isn’t an assumption that you’ll automatically become an org. This is to provide you with resources to see if it will work out, it’s much more about spaces and organizing and getting VSA support.
2015: The conversations Activities has about these orgs is very detailed because we think about this a lot.
8:18 // Student Life Amendment
MOTION PASSES UNANIMOUSLY.
8:19 // Open Discussion
2014: 62 days, 13 hours, 39 minutes, and 15 seconds. And there isn’t a speaker yet. In approximately 12 days until 50 nights. There will be emails, there will be advertisements. Seniors please check your email and do that survey. I know it’s annoying, but the more people that do the survey, the more money the senior class gets, which is cool.
PRESIDENT: I’ve been at Trustee meetings where they actually use that data to make decisions.
STRONG: Do you know when we will have a speaker?
2014: No one has told me anything. I’m sure the Misc finds out before anyone else.
RAYMOND: Student bill of rights is a thing; Cushing will bring it to council next week.
LATHROP: An art/ student products weekend, anyone interested in selling goods email [email protected]. It’s on April 5.
STUDENT LIFE: So we talked a little before break about updates on the paid VSA thing. Then I realized the last time it didn’t pass is because it was sent out before break. If anyone would like to see that letter, I’m sending it to all your emails anyway.
ACADEMICS: I need one friend from each of you for the CEQs.
2017: Freshmen 15 is April 30. Just tell your constituents.
2015: What’s the free item?
2017: We haven’t figured that out year. Oh, wait, free shirts.
DAVISON: Main’s event is on Friday.
MAIN: Classy Hollywood is Friday in the Villard Room.
2016: Thank you Student Life for writing the letter, and I just want us to make sure we’re thinking about positions and whether they are equitable.
PRESIDENT: Elections filing starts this week, BOE will send email, April 27 will be the last meeting. About the discussion about Palestine/Israel, Cappy and Cheanette are open to having another meeting. They do not want to close it off. Motion to adjourn.
8:30 // Meeting Adjourns.