VSA Council April 27, 2014

Welcome to the last VSA Council meeting! Let’s get started

7:00// Attendance: VP Ops
Absent: Ferry
Proxy: Cushing

7:01//Consent Agenda:

Finance: There’s been a recent request for $1500 to purchase Vassar devils for post convocation treat.

Deb: It’s something I’m working on with Vassar activities. We want to encourage more people to come because everyone likes Vassar devils. It’s a nice way to bring the community together and sometimes people need the incentive of food. Campus Activities didn’t have the money for it so that’s why it’s here.

2015: I move to add money for human hamster balls to the consent agenda.

-Motion removed-

7:03//Forum with Terry Hanlon, VSA adviser and fellow 2014 graduate

Hanlon: I’m the outgoing VSA adviser. One precedent we did set which is a very important one is that this is the first time the VSA was actually able to pick its own adviser which I think is something that should continue in the future. I think it echoes some of the areas of shared governance. It’s been something we took very seriously when we were crafting the job description for my position. This person would be a liaison to, not necessarily the adviser to the VSA. We want them to be available in terms of working on leadership programs and things like that. Certain things still remain at the discretion of the VSA.

TAs: What has been the most challenging part of working with Vassar students?

Hanlon: The fact that Vassar students are always willing to challenge. When new employees, new administrators come in, that’s a real concern for them. But it’s something I’ve really loved about it because it challenges me. Especially working in Res Life in an office where we so often continue to say no. It forces us to evaluate why we say nos so often, and because Vassar students are so intelligent it really helps pointing out our flaws. Being called out when there’s something offensive happening has been a huge learning experience for me.

Finance: Where are you going?

Hanlon: I will be pursuing a PhD in higher education at the University of Virginia.

Student Life: What advice can you give to the incoming council in choosing another adviser?

Hanlon: Look to someone who you can find support from but someone who will also push you and ask VSA to think about decisions and what it could signal. A hard part for VSA is that being collaborative it can be hard to see forest through the trees, this council has gotten back from that but an adviser who can keep big picture in mind without getting bogged down in the day to day is an important thing. Y’all are doing great work for great students.

VP Ops: What projects did you work on during your time here that you want to see continue?

Hanlon: In terms of projects, one is the Brewer House Cup. That sort of coming out of a joking conversation (Who has won has yet to be announced). That’s one that not necessarily an administrator has to take on but a few students could take it and run with it. In terms of Res Life, it’s continuing to strengthen the ties between Res Life and Campus Life. That’s a relationship that didn’t exist in a lot of the training which is odd because there’s a lot of overlap in those areas. I always want administrators especially–I want administrators to remember why they’re doing the work they’re doing and not get bogged down by the minutia of it, but also for students to remember that administrators aren’t in it to say no.

Deb: Thanks for everything you’ve done! It’s been wonderful to work with you. I have personally worked with you for three years and I’ll miss you.

Hanlon: Ya’ll do an incredible amount of work and sometimes you aren’t being thanked enough. Especially being on council–house presidents have at least 10 to 11 hours a week and a lot of you put in way more hours than that. Thank you, seriously. The work that you do is sometimes work that admnistrators should be doing, I think you know that. All of the things that you’ve accomplished this year, even if they seem small to the general populace, they make waves and they’ve made change. On behalf of the administration, thank you. You’re all incredible.

Royal: Just a reminder, all at-large members are invited to speak and if you raise your hand you’ll be put at the top of the speakers list.

7:14//Exec reports

Student Life: We’ve done two events and everyone’s been working around the clock. Monday we had our Munchies study break, which was great. It was a great way to show students that the work they’re doing–even when it’s not finals time–is important. Wednesday we had a forum on Title IX which was very productive. There was a lot of insight in the process and the relevant administrators were in the room to take notes on that. We have documentation of that that we are able to send out and we have a line of accountability. They are planning on reforming the entire process for the fall. There’s a lot of things that fall through the cracks and this was a great way to address that.

Academics: All of you who are in campus with tenured professors will be filling out new CEQs, so that’s exciting. If you have any other thoughts you should definitely let me know. For the capstone project, the VSA has certain reservations about it even though it has potential. There’s a  mural happening this year that will be in the College Center from May 7 to 9 about issues on campus. It’s very meaningful and a lot of students have poured their hearts and souls into it. The newsletter is done and has been completed.

Student Life: Joss still doesn’t have laundry.

TAs: On my way to the pre-council dinner I saw something a little troubling to me–There was a mix up with people in the Pouhgkeepsie community and security. Particularly children of color being stopped by security for trespassing or not feeling safe. I wanted to bring this up because it could potentially be a traumatic experience for preteens in the community. Perhaps future council members should take steps to ensure the safety of not just Vassar students but people of the larger Poughkeepsie community.

Student Life: Vassar security saw the kids trying to leave campus on their own bikes after having a noise complaint called about them and security thought they were stealing the bikes and wouldn’t let them leave.

Joss: I think it says a lot about a young kid understanding the implications of his skin tone in an institution that’s predominantly white. Speaking up, I’ve had my own little incidents of safety with a white student on Friday night. What it comes down to is that for next year’s council to make sure that safety is not only heard for those on campus but also those off campus. We tend to put ourselves in a sense of hierarchy and we don’t always understand the implications of the things we do or say. Keep your eyes open and know when to act and listen. Don’t be ignorant.

2016: I’ve had various complaints throughout the year that people weren’t being treated well by security especially students of color. Student Life Committee: this should be picked up and continue. It’s unacceptable.

Student Life: There’s a security review committee which is an ongoing project. It would be great to follow up because this isn’t something that just happens occasionally. It’s something that happens all the time. It’s a reality for students of color on a predominantly white campus.

TAs: My piece of advice for the incoming council is that just because you’re now on the VSA council doesn’t mean you have to only act through the VSA. You can make change and be active outside of council to get things done.

Ops: I spoke with director of security about this, and she was angry that officers were behaving inappropriately. There is regular sensitivity training, but at this point she said that if a security officer can’t do their job appropriately it’s unacceptable. If you feel comfortable I strongly recommend that you bring up your individual incidents, though I recognize that’s a lot to ask and it’s hard to do.

President: We tried to get them into council this year, but Sunday nights didn’t work for them. Incoming council, please try to bring them in.

Finance: There’s one edit to the Budget Report: ASA’s allocation is $9,000 not $8,000. At this point if anyone has any objections we listen to them because we have to balance this budget. We’ve had two opportunities to meet as a committee with orgs about their allocations. We met with four people to appeal a second time and make small changes, which is why it’s not surprising that people aren’t here tonight to appeal.

2017: Aircapella has no budget?

Fianance: Aircapella won a prize several years ago and so they are now funded through that.

President: All in favor of approving the budget next year?

-This motion passes unanimously-

7:28//Gender neutral bathrooms resolution with Student Life

Student Life: We changed a little bit of the wording so that next council would keep going on this project. It’s been a contentious resolution.

Ops: We discussed this during Ops committee. The biggest complaint brought up at the time was that, whereas resolutions are great in general, just as we can’t resolve administration to do things we can’t resolve all of council to do things. Our suggestion is that we present this to next year’s council as a document they can potentially pass at the first council meeting to provide continuity for the project.

Davison: Three members of my constitutency have expressed increased levels of comfort due to these gender neutral bathroom signs.

2016: I just really wanted to say thank you to Danny and Student Life for doing this. For everyone who’s new: Danny worked so hard on this thorughout the semester.

Joss: Shout out to Danny for #genderneutral bathrooms. I want everyone to keep in mind that while we have accomplished this you still need to be respectful of people’s pronouns.

SoCos: I want to make sure that people realize that voting no to this is not voting no to gender neutral bathrooms, but voting for the idea of committing another body to continue this.

President: The motion on the table is to adopting the resolution.

Ops: I don’t think we should vote down the resolution, but I think it’s a much powerful statement for the incoming council to vote in this resolution.

President: Incoming council, would you like to vote on this next week?

Student Life: I appreciate all of the congratulations, but a lot more people worked on this. It was started by previous Student Life. Judy Jarvis from the LGBTQ/Women’s Center has been working on this as well as a number of trans people. I feel uncomfortable as a cis male taking all of the credit, but I appreciate the gesture.

President: You can abstain, vote to pass this motion or table it to next week.

Joss: What’s the difference between voting this week or next week?

President: It’s a pretty powerful statement for new council to do, which is what resolutions do–make a statement.

-Tabled to next week-

7:35//Traditions co-chair amendment

SoCos: There were a few minor changes made.

Raymond: There were a few semantical changes made.

President: We have a general understanding that the semantical issues will be changed and don’t need to be worked out now.

SoCos: The minor change we did make was the make-up of the Halloween committee. We thought it would be worthwhile for the entire senior class council sit on it. This will help us with communication with the Daisies.

-The motion unanimously passed-

President: A huge congrats to 2014, Strong, Activities and whoever was working on this. You were working on this all year, congrats!

2015: Saturday we met to break the ties for the position of the SoCos President. we had a consensus of seven people recommending, or rather appointing, George Beyer. The discussion that went on had to do with his experience and potential to make his constituents’ voices heard.  For Main Secretary we had a consensus for a recommendation of Serena.

SoCos: While it was a closed appointment, it was an open meeting. All of the constituencies were invited to come in. No one did, but it was an open appointment in that sense.

At-Large: I would like to know why we had a special appointment and not a special election?

2015: Bylaws state that those members should come before council and make a statement and then council votes on it. Essentially we’re adhering to our bylaws, but in a more relaxed way.

Ops: Last council meeting I tried to explain this complex voting theory argument about this. Basically, there are ties that can be broken through rational means, and those that can’t be broken through rational means.

President: We voted that it was the most fair way to do it. I strongly suggest talking to Ops more about it after the meeting. If you would like to contest it, please feel free to do so.

Jewett: I’d like to point out that though there was a majority vote, it wasn’t unanimous.

7:42//Appointment for Board of Elections

Ops: Operations committee met with the four candidates for 2017 and the one candidate for 2016 rep for the Board of Elections. We had a lot of discussion about experience versus new voices, and things like that. For the 2017 rep we appointed Abby Johnson. She really understood the elections process. There’s something specific about winning and losing elections that give you insight into how elections work. We unanimously recommended her to that position. The 2016 rep was Michael Saugstad. What he offered to the position was that he’s a very procedure-focused person and we’re talking about a new body that doesn’t have these processes built into it, so we thought he would do a good job helping build these structures. He also seems really nice.

President: We’ll consider those two people appointed.

7:45//Survey

Ops: We have all of this anecdotal evidence about who is and isn’t on council, but no data. So basically what we’ve created is a survey that asks a lot of demographic questions. The goal of the survey is to ask council to share as much of their demographic information that they’d like to. We’ll send it to the previous council, this year’s council and the incoming council which will create three years of data. Hopefully this will lead us to answer why the VSA council may not be as diverse as it should be. There’s going to be another set of data about who runs and who loses.

Jewett: Is there any way we can see the questions you’ll be asking?

President: They’re in the agenda. We’re not voting on it, but if you want to check it out and provide feedback, that’d be helpful.

Strong: Are you going to look at specific positions?

Ops: Because we are a small council and it will be immediately evident whose data belongs to who. We’re agreeing that we’re not going to look at individual data points because the goal is to examine general questions.

Davison: When and who shall be reviewing this data? Is there a set time?

Ops: The data will never be made available. The way that the data is going to be collected is through Operations as the sole people who have access to the raw data of any given survey. It will be made into graphs which will avoid the individual identification of people.

Student Life: This is a great survey; I just want to point out that the results will be helpful, but–for example, if it shows that a lot of people who are on work study are running or on VSA that will not show that we are completely accessible to work study students.

Ops: That’s a great point. We’re not trying to draw conclusions, but just to get a look at what’s happening so we can better deal with these problems.

2016: We don’t really know what the VSA is. It changes every year and unless we start collecting information we’re not going to know what the problems are. We might not be trying to draw conclusions, but I think the data will show that there’s a disproportionate number of those who are not on work study and this is only anecdotal now.

7:52//Open discussion

2014: There are one day for every person on council plus the assistants plus Terry until graduation. Convocation is Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. Seniors get there at 3 p.m. and line up. It’s a nice little moment for seniors to put on their gowns before the real thing. The senior week schedule is going to be sent out super soon, but I’ll be sending out an email soon with information about the bigger events. Contribute to the student gift, that’d be great! Personally I’d like to thank this council for all you do as well as the members of senior class council for helping me with everything that wouldn’t happen without you. Thanks to the incoming council as well!

Royal: I’d like to give a shout out to all the awesome things that happened this weekend and the people on this council who made them happen.

2017: There’s Freshman 15 at 7 p.m.

2015: Related to convocation on Wednesday–bell ringing for juniors will start at 5 p.m. and go to 8 p.m. Each group of five people will have exactly seven minutes to ring the bell. Juniors will get an email tonight with a Google doc for scheduling. It’s going to happen and we’re all going to be seniors and it’s going to be great. During study week we’re having a picnic for all of the juniors, though everyone’s invited. There’s going to be a lot of potato salad. On a personal note, I’ve been working for council for three years and it’s been a trying experience, though great. I’d like to thank everyone on council and all the seniors who taught me stuff.

2017: Come to Hype’s showcase this Friday in the Villard Room. The first 50 people get free cupcakes from Twisted Soul. I’d just like to say, it’s been real guys.

2016: This year I felt really close to everyone here. Everyone works really hard and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thanks to exec. It’s been a rough year. Especially thank you to Danny for joining us halfway through. Thanks to Ali who’s mentored me over the past two years.

Davison: Thank you to everyone who has expressed that my presence here is important. I grew, I learned, I experienced. New council: I hope you have just as great an experience if not a better one.

TAs: I’ve done this whole council business for two years and people constantly ask me why I do it. Usually I don’t have an answer, but I think it’s just seeing this motley crew of people who get shit done and care about people.

Student Life: Good luck to everyone as you go through finals. Remember your self-care. I did come in at a very difficult time for this school, it was also a very difficult time for me personally, but this job has been a lot, but it’s meant a lot to me. I didn’t come here looking for friends initially but I did find a lot. Thank you for being so welcoming. Wherever you’re off to next, good luck and do big things.

SoCos: I remember sitting out here last year and I remember being scared because council sounded scary and intimidating. Just do it–I’ve gotten more done in this month than I have before. If you want to do something, just do it and make it happen.

Town students: To all the lucky shits who are graduating I have a quote from Foucalt.

Ops: It’s been the greatest council. You’re all super passionate about everything you’ve done and supported each other and me–honestly I think, look around at the people you’ve been working with and think of all the things you did together. You should all be very proud of yourselves. To the incoming council, you’re going to do an amazing job. The thing about these positions is that you go in and you don’t know what you’re doing, which is true of every person. Fake it til you make it. You know more things than everyone else so make it up if you have to. Keep caring.

Raymond: Shout out to this year’s exec. We have enormous shoes to fill–thank you so much. Board of House Presidents. Shout out to Max and Danny for convincing me to run for this position and shout out again to Danny for convincing me to run again. Thanks to Raymond House Team. Shout out to Ruby Pierce–I couldn’t have gotten through this year without her.

Activities: I remember once saying that I would never run for VSA. I’ve really enjoyed this year and it’s been such a wonderful experience and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know all of you and I have so much respect for all of you. I don’t think you realize how much I’ve enjoyed seeing all of you on Sundays. Exec–you’re all wonderful.

Academics: I wouldn’t have done this if Steph wasn’t here. But I just wanted to say thank you to Academics; you were so fabulous. I’m so proud of everything we did this year. That was the one meeting I never dreaded. You had such wonderful opinions and got along and we wouldn’t have gotten all of this done without that. Council was great. Exec, you’re awesome, I like all of you. I didn’t think I would, but I really really love you guys and am so glad we got to do this together.

Noyes: I hope I stay in touch with you all for years to come. Thanks you guys.

Josh: There are a lot of people on these other committees who do a lot. We should reach out to those standing committee members and thank them. Those at-large members offer a lot of valuable perspective.

Davison: Shout out to the Misc!

2015: I’m giving a shout out to myself and the assistants: Thanks for making this happen every year. They do a lot.

Main: Shout out to new council for sitting through these sappy speeches. Shout out to Estello. I’ve been working with him since last year. As frustrating as this process can be, it has been equally or more so, rewarding, which is why I’ve chosen to do it again.

Joss: I just wanted to give a shout out to all queer, trans and students of color on campus who have empowered me. It’s treacherous out there dealing with all the white people. Shout out to us for taking over shit.

2014: I wanted to give a special shout out to Deb Steinberg who has helped make this school a better place and has been one of my best friends.

Strong: I thought it would be incredibly remiss if I didn’t say that last year I thought about only focusing on Strong House and not caring about the VSA. But it wouldn’t be without a lot of people and those in this room that I’ve run again and believe that we can create real change. My advice to the council would be that the most important thing you can do is to be a good person. If you make people feel like their voices matter you’ll do more than any amendment or resolution can do. There are so many people in this room and not in this room who have been so nice to me and I can’t thank them enough.

President: You’ve all said what I’ve wanted to say a lot better than I can say. I’ve done this for three years, and I don’t know why I do it. But it’s obviously because of people like you who care and have done so many amazing things this year and every year. But in all seriousness, this is the first year I’ve done it where I’ve had to sit through this many people talking before me and that was beautiful because I’ve never seen anyone around me care that much and it’s really great. I’m so honored to have worked with you and you’re all going to go on a do amazing things. It’s a really special group of people and you’re in an incredibly special position. If people trust you your peers will come to you. Thank you for empowering me and trusting me to do this with you.

-Adjourned-