VSA Council | October 5, 2014

Hey, everyone! I hope you all had a great weekend. Sit tight, we’ll be getting started shortly.

7:02 p.m.//Call to order
Attendance: President
Proxy: THs

7:04 p.m.//Consensus Agenda

Finance: We decided I’m going to give a short description of each of the items on the fund apps so you all have an understanding of how we’re spending our money. The first one was a capital fund app from The Misc. The $50 is to buy mice, the other money was for a new computer so we can see if CIS can fix it first. The ViCE fund was to buy equipment for film screenings. The cost of the equipment would be paid for after two screenings, so we’re doing that. The CBS app is being postponed until next week. It’s for dresses for the Violets because they have more Violets than last year so they need additional funds to cover those costs. The VPI app was for a cool speaker. The VARC app is also being postponed. They already bought the film, so we can’t reimburse them for those costs. The On Tap funds were for supplemental budgeting because they have more members than last year and need more money to buy costumes and tap shoes. Any questions?

President: Does anyone object to anything? No. The consensus agenda is approved.

Consensus Agenda
a. Miscellany News (Capital) $48/$1197
b. ViCE (Capital) $2165.03/$2165.03
c. Council of Black Seniors (Discretionary) $0/$1000
d. VPI (Speakers) $300/$1200
e. VARC (Capital) $0/$272.19
f. On Tap (Capital) $100/$100
g. On Tap (Discretionary) $225/$225
h. Minutes From 9/28/14

7:07 p.m.// Forum with Cappy’s assistants

Hannah: One of our main jobs is to be a liaison between students and Cappy. We’ve had pretty good attendance with student appointments. We’ll be having those on a biweekly basis.

Briana: One of the main things Cappy’s concerned about is campus climate. Over the summer you all hopefully got an email about a fund to apply for, as an individual or org–it’s a two-page application and it’s to facilitate dialogue around campus climate. One criticism has been that the administration has been trying to plan these things when students have more knowledge about them. Basically it’s free money to talk about whatever you want. No one has applied so we have so much money. So please go back to your constituents and let them know that this is available. The information about it is also on the website.

Hannah: There’s a lot of flexibility on that as well: It could be an art show, a debate, things like that. If there could be an email about that to spread the word about that. It’s a great opportunity to talk about these issues.

Briana: We’ll hold office hours as well to see if there are any students who want to talk to us, especially since we’re meeting with Cappy on a biweekly basis.

2018: What’s the fund called?

Hannah: It’s the Dialogue and Engagement across Differences fund. It was emailed to us in July, but we can email class presidents and get the word out.

2017: Thanks for being here and acquainting us with what you do. Regarding Cappy’s office hours, one concern I’ve heard a lot, is that you have to send an email to one of you describing what you want to talk about. People have expressed concerned that those things will be screened and only certain students will be able to get through to Cappy based on what they want to talk about. Could you just explain what you do with those blurbs and if you think that intimidates or dissuades people from participating in office hours?

Hannah: It’s more to see what the topic is. If we see there are 20 people who want to talk in the hour time slot, if there are three people who want to talk about campus climate we might put those people together. If it’s too full we may direct them to someone else, depending on what the issue is.

Briana: It is generally a first-come-first-serve basis. I haven’t ever thought about that concern, but we will bring it up and talk about it.

Hannah: If you think it would be more effective not to include that, we’ll consider it.

Main: I was just wondering what way besides direct office hours she’s kind of tuned in to student concerns and campus climate? Does she read the Misc or their live tweets?

Briana: I think Cappy reads the Misc every week. We’ve only been in this position for a month and we’re still trying to figure out how to make her more accessible. We’ve been in contact with Luz and Judy, from the ALANA and LGBTQ centers, so we can see how we can offer support to those offices. I’m not sure what else Cappy does besides reading the Misc, visiting the Retreat to get money from the ATM…

Hannah: She’s having 33 meetings with the sophomore class to talk to students.

Student Life: Student Life also meets with her once a month, so that’s a way that student concerns are brought to her.

President: I know that in the past it seemed like office hours weren’t as frequent. Is that up to you guys?

Briana: We have four more throughout the semester, but we’re definitely planning on making them more frequently.

Hannah: Also if it’s something urgent and the scheduling doesn’t work for you, talk to us and we can figure it out.

Briana: And if it’s pressing we can help you schedule an appointment with her outside of office hours.

President: You also talked about having events with Cappy throughout the year. What’s the general mindset behind that idea?

Briana: We talked about the dichotomy between the students and the administrators and how there’s a thick barrier there. I know you guys last week talked about striving for more openness and accessibility. I think other administrators and Cappy are looking to do that too. We’re not sure yet how to best do that, but we’re working on it. Hannah and I are also both in the Class of 2015 and so when we were freshmen she was traveling a lot because it was Vassar’s 150th anniversary. Now she’s a lot more grounded at Vassar so hopefully that’ll help her be more accessible.

Student Life: This is going to sound like a silly question, but what does Cappy do on a daily basis?

Hannah: She’s constantly in meetings, she meets with a lot of different groups.

Briana: She has a PhD in Economics so she’s invested in those issues constantly. She has a conference with the Seven Sisters that’s coming up. The Board of Trustees are coming soon. She has a lot of alumni relations. I mean, what does the President of the United States do? They do a lot of stuff, you don’t know everything, but you know they’re busy. I mean everyone knows Cappy, they don’t call her Catharine Bond Hill. We know where she lives.

Casey Hancock (At-large): How did you get involved working for her?

Hannah: There was an application that got sent out to the Class of 2015. We applied, we got interviewed. And now we’re here.

Briana: It’s pretty cool, I would encourage you all to do it! It’s our campus job. One of us will be at every VSA meeting taking notes and if you have something you want to talk to us about, you can approach us after the meeting.

7:22 p.m.// Exec Board reports

President: We’ve been very busy with our exec board meetings. We’re just waiting to meet with Chris Roellke tomorrow. We meet with all of the senior-level admins at least once a month so if you have something you want us to pass along, email us. We’ll also be reporting back on what we’re working on here. There’s not a ton to report on now, but we’re continuing a lot of projects from last year. There’s some curricular reform stuff that you’ll be hearing about throughout the year. We met with Cappy–there’s a big push this year to talk about how student dialogue can improve on campus. She asked us to encourage people to do that. The senior-level officers are Cappy, Dean Chenette, Dean Roellke, Bob Walton, who we met with on Friday. He’s the VP of Finance. He’ll be back at a future VSA meeting. A lot of the projects come out of his office, like the bookstore. He’s also great because he has a philosophy that everything can be done in less than a year, which is a great mindset to have. He’s great to talk to if you have ideas. Marianne Beggeman also works with Bob and she’s great too if you’re looking for directions to the College. You don’t see her or Bob around that often, but they’re super important. Also I wanted to update everyone on the adjusted timeline for VP for Activities. There was some confusion, so we wanted to clarify somethings. After we approved the timeline, CIS told us that they couldn’t make an election in that time, so it’s getting pushed back two days and then the whole process will be the same. They decided the best way to take care of the two days is to extend the campaigning for two days. The results will be announced Friday instead of Wednesday.

Chris Brown (at-large): So the debate’s going to be happening before filing closes?

President: I believe at this point, I’m not sure if filing is closing tonight, but we’ll grab Casey and have him answer that.

Jewett: He said filing was closing Monday, so I don’t know if he just accidentally left that in the email. But according to the email it’s now closing on Wednesday.

President: It was purely a technological issue that CIS couldn’t make it happen.

Casey Hancock: There’s a theoretical question about whether or not you can have a debate while campaigning is still open. We could close filing earlier and then email a correction. Does anyone care, should we change it?

Joss: Why not just move the debate?

Casey: Because voting happens as soon as filing closes. Instead of making a gap, we’re moving it back two days because CIS needed us to so now we’re having a debate.

Finance: Does this functionally change anything?

Casey: Not really.

2016: When was the debate before?

Casey: There wasn’t one. If we did it this weekend we would have been encroaching on Jewish holidays. We don’t necessarily need a debate, but given our last discussion about voting for the right candidate, it seemed like the appropriate thing to do for the Board of Elections.

Cushing: Can filing just end before the debate? Just for there to be no more discussion on this.

Casey: The difficulty here is that we’re going to be confusing people more.

2017: I’m with in preferring to close filing before the debate, but also the email has already been set out and there comes a point when people get so many emails they stop reading. While ideally I’d like to change it, I don’t know how feasible it is.

Casey: We could just send an underlined statement when we email people about the debate and make it clear that if you’re not at the debate you’ve missed your chance to file, basically. I’m fine with anything.

President: I think for now we’ll leave it as it is.

Student Life: My committee has been talking a lot about Title IX. We’re going to conduct a survey and I think ours is going to be a lot better than those of our peer institutions because we have a consent-based survey. That’s a project that’ll be going on for the rest of the year. This isn’t something that came out of committee, but the resumes are in for the new SAVP director at Vassar. I will be in attendance for those interviews next week. The committee itself is working on a project that’s aiming to demystify the reporting process. There’s an infographic out about it, but it’s slightly outdated now because reporting no longer goes through DB Brown’s office. We’re going to try and make a video about it, really any info we can put out there so they know what the process is like and can choose whether or not they want to go through with it and have all of the info so they can make a clear decision going through with it. We’ve made a kind of sub committee that’s going to be focusing on food. I will be assisting and supporting them in whatever way necessary, but they’re going on a crusade to fix campus dining. Gender-neutral bathrooms updates: When Sanders Physics was getting renovated, they didn’t include gender-neutral bathrooms in the plans, but the departments have decided they want them there. It will be the first academic building with multi-stall gender neutral bathrooms. We’re going to have a meeting with staff so they can ask questions and learn about how it works. Gender-neutral bathrooms in the new bookstore will be happening. We’re working on more transparency with the BIRT team. We’re trying to get a public database about bias incidents that would send everyone an email information whenever someone reports an incident. It would link to the website so people aren’t being bombarded with triggering information. Basically it would say what was reported and how it’s being followed up on. Also in BIRT training, the entire BIRT is going to a four-hour identity training on privilege, power and identities. This past week we went to a two-hour conversation on the difference between anti-antisemitism and anti-Zionism. Those are the things admin are doing to be better.

Town Students: With Aramark, we’re in a contract so we can’t get rid of them. Do you know if for the food sub committee if they’re just trying to improve through Aramark?

Student Life: Aramark as a company does everything from prisons to Goldman Sachs. They obviously have a sliding scale of what they can provide. There was a campus dining survey done in 2012. To be honest, a lot of what this group is going to do is see how much change is possible while working with Aramark. If the answer is not a lot, that will empower future groups and tell them how to move forward.

2017: A lot of what we talked about was how to discuss with admin the policies.

Student Life: Right, so like the policy about not being able to use regular meal swipes on guests.

Finance: Whatever happened to getting coffee?

Town Students: For a while they changed the Retreat coffee because it wasn’t fair trade. But then they changed it back. Aramark sucks, they’re a huge corporation, they try to work with you but they don’t.

Activities: Your sub committee can talk to Bob Walton about what to do together because he wants to have conversation dinners to talk about campus dining. I think that’s the first step.

President: If you’re interested in this issue, definitely talk to Bob Walton.

7:43 p.m.//BoE amendment

Main: It’s the same amendment we had last week. So there you go.

President: The issue with this last week was that people felt like they needed more time. Does anyone want to speak to the amendment. No? I’ll make the motion to vote on this since we’ve seen this three times.

Abstentions: Finance, Student Life, Cushing, THs
In Favor: Main, Jewett, Lathrop, Noyes, 2017, Strong, 2015, Town Students, Activities, Academics, 2018, TAs, Joss, Raymond, Davison

7:45 p.m.//Open Discussion

2018: We’ve been talking a lot about sexual harassment. I’d like to ask every house president to talk to their constituents and student fellows to talk about sexual harassment. I feel like a giant presentation isn’t intimate enough for this serious issue. I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve heard there have been five to six EMS cases for the freshmen every week, so I was thinking we could do a poster campaign or something.

Finance: Student fellows are trained to discuss issues of sexual assault.

Raymond: We’ve had a lot of issues with that particularly in our house. We’re workshopping the idea of getting in touch with Judy to have a workshop series. I’m going to bring this up again at house team this week so we can get this done in smaller groups. It’s not just freshmen, but it’s freshmen especially.

2018: I’ve heard Choice is going around, but a lot of freshmen aren’t going to show up to those meetings. So please, everyone, talk to your student fellows so they can meet with their students.

Susie (At-large, Cares listener, Cares intern): I just wanted to say that it is domestic violence awareness month. Cares usually does study breaks. We’re already reached out to you about hosting study breaks in October. If you have any suggestions about what we can bring to the study breaks and how to make them more information, let us know.

2015: If you guys do do that, do it soon. Halloween is our biggest EMS night and reporting about sexual assault.

Finance: Finance committee has been divided into two groups: one does fund apps and one talks about policies on how fund apps are decided. The second group will meet on Tuesday for the first time and they’re going to talk about having a fund with regards to conferences. Some orgs require students to pay their own way and we’re going to work on how to make conferences more accessible. The other one has to do with capital fund apps. We want to create a better capital loan system. We also are going to be investigating orgs that get budgets of over $20k to make sure how they’re spending their money. I think 2018 brought up a really important point. We should be working on preventing it as well as doing better with dealing with it when it does.

Main: Shoutout to campus about our fall fest. It’ll be on Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. on the quad.

Davison: My dorm has had a spike in EMS cases. We don’t want to just blame the freshmen class, but we’ve had a lot of issues with public spaces, particularly the bathroom. People just smashed eggs in the bathroom for no good reason I can understand. I’m not sure what you want us to do about EMS calls and sexual assault. I wouldn’t feel comfortable facilitating that conversation.

2018: The class council was talking about who would talk to the freshmen. We were thinking that we really want it to come from all classes. Because I’m a freshmen, other freshmen might not look up to me and if it came from upperclassmen it might seem like they’re being talked down to. So I think it should come from everywhere. Specifically, house presidents should ask their student fellows to talk to their fellow groups. Also I liked the idea of a poster campaign because we had the alcohol edu course we had to do over the summer, but people aren’t going to act on those things.

Chris Brown (at-large): House presidents, talk to your HSAs. We meet with Luis Inoa on a weekly basis. One thing we were thinking of is that student fellows host circles with their fellow groups and talk to them about EMS and sexual assault. Talk to your HSAs and house advisers.

Cushing: We’ve had a lot of incidents as well. A Cushing student fellow is sending group texts to their fellowees every Friday and Saturday to check in on them and remind them of the different resources. I think that’s a way to make it seem less like they’re being looked down upon and more like they’re being cared for. A small reminder from student fellows has worked so far and I think that could work in other houses. I’d like to encourage all house presidents to make sure that there’s not only freshmen attendance, but all classes in attendance for the Cares study breaks.

Finance: I think that the campus dining situation contributes in a small way to the number of students getting EMSed because of the dining hall hours. If you have dinner at 5:30 and start drinking at 11 or 12, you’re going to have a more empty stomach than eating at 9. At other schools they have food for freshmen on Friday and Saturday nights and we could look into that. I think students would like it, but more importantly they would have something in their stomachs before drinking.

2015: I think a bigger problem is also the lack of programming on this campus. I lot of activities are held in students’ houses and it revolves around drinking. So let’s stress alternative programming and encourage them to go to events and keep them away from the THs and TAs.

Joss: I just wanted to point out that the biggest thing the admin banks on is the alcohol edu program. It’s not mandatory, it’s only made to seem mandatory. The only threats you get are emails, but nothing ever happens if you don’t complete it.

2017: The reactions of people on the Facebook page–the people who do do it don’t take it seriously because of the format. So I’m not even sure how much information is getting to people.

President: When we meet with Chris Roellke we’ll bring up these concerns.

Student Life: I’d like to give a shout out to 2016 on the “Where Are All of the Juniors” event. I really want to echo all of the things 2015 said. I know that, with Halloween coming up, a lot of destruction happens to Main. I think the Student Life committee and VSA as a whole should be putting pressure on this. The VSA is structured to reach students and we could very successfully run some kind of campaign. Something like, “This is my house. This is where I live. Please don’t destroy it. Please don’t assault people here.” This weekend that always ends in EMS calls especially for freshmen and sexual assaults as well as physical assaults. I love Halloween, it’s my favorite holiday, but we need to be aware of what’s going on and try to stop it.

Tyler (at-large, Cares member): We haven’t picked an SAVP coordinator yet. But the acting coordinator is in charge of health education and alcohol edu. They’re going to be stretched really thin, so whatever we can do to help, please let us know.

Activities: I think what Student Life recommended would be great. Speaking to 2018’s point from earlier–as much as I would hope it would work to tell students to stop drinking, it’s not going to work. EMS or the administration did a survey and they found there were more EMS calls on days when there was no programming. So it’s important to get people out of just the THs and TAs.

Town Students: This is a random point, but every year the freshmen get a ton of EMS calls and it’s kind of a phase. But I think a good talking point is to convey that the volume of EMS calls takes away resources from the community. It’s catering to the idea that we’re this entitled Vassar entity.

2015: Vassar employs an ambulance specifically just for the event. We’re taking up hospital beds in Poughkeepsie. It’s a very big problem.

Activities: Motion to adjourn.

-This motion passes-

8:05 p.m.//Council adjourns.