VSA Council | October 12, 2014

Hey, everyone! Welcome to the last VSA meeting before October Break. We’ll be getting started shortly, so sit tight.

7:02 p.m.// Call to Order and Attendance
Proxy: Activities
Absences: Finance

7:03 p.m.// Consensus Agenda:

a. Devils (Discretionary) $2000/$5000
b. French Club (Social Consciousness) $1200/$1200
c. Equestrian (Discretionary) $840/$1200
d. VARC (Discretionary) $175/$175
e. Outing Club (Discretionary) $500/$500
f. GAAP (Speakers) $1000/$1000
g. MEChA (Conference) $750/$1020
h. NSO (Community) $2500/$2500
i. Quest Scholars (PreOrg) $0/$200
j. Wordsmiths (Speakers) $2100/$2100
k. Class of 2015 (Discretionary) $2000/$2000
l. VC Sound System (Capital) $20/$20
m. Aikido Club (Speakers) $0/$350
n. Minutes From 10/5/14

All is in favor. The agenda is consented to.

7:04 p.m.//Forum with Michael Cato, Chief Information Office
Cato: Good evening, everyone. My name is Michael Cato, I really appreciate the invitation. I don’t like giving speeches so this will hopefully turn more into a conversation. If you have a laptop or phone with you take it out because I’m going to try to pick your brain and see if we can use those things to help. I’ve always been told that the best way to start a conversation is to tell you a bit about myself first. I came to Vassar in September of 2013. I had previously been at the University of Chapel Hill in Charlotte. My most recent institution had almost 27,000 students so coming to this environment has a very different feel. The scale is very different. So I was hoping to be able to talk to staff and students more directly. I love to cook, I love to eat and I used to run marathons. I didn’t have fun in the last one though, so about a year ago I picked up a habit doing CrossFit. There are a few Vassar students I run into there. Here’s the indulgence: I’ve been doing an informal poll in the last few years and I’ve gotten some interesting results. How many wireless, able devices do you have on you right now? If you have at least one, raise your hand. If you’ve got at least two keep your hand up. Three, four? This is the first time I’ve stopped at four. The highest number I’ve ever been told is five. For some reason that particular student had a couple laptops, a couple phones on her at the same time. Think about what that does for us, the people who are responsible for the WiFi. Now we’re discovering that people have more devices and that changes everything. We have to have a sense of how many devices people have on you and how many you use. If you have your laptop, you can go to PollEv.com/mcato to find the poll. If you have your phone, you can text KEYWORD to 37607. Here are a few interesting questions: What technologies at Vassar do you find helpful? For this, text 865580 and your message to 37607 for your answer.
-Responses include “I guess email,” “Google calendar,” “DMZ Yessssss,” “F’real smoothie machine”-
What are you finding useful about DMZ? The space, the equipment, the people?

Cushing: The computers are way faster. If I downloaded those applications to my computer, it wouldn’t be as fast.

Joss: I think the fact that we have Gmail–a lot of other universities don’t. I think it streamlines things.

Cato: Have you used Hangouts? Do you use the calendars? Here’s a more informative question: What technologies at Vassar get in the way and how?
-Responses include “printers, Network Bandwith, START HERE,” “Having to reconnect to student secure every time I open my laptop”-

Cato: I think the first 15 or so responses were about WiFi. Tell me about that?

Main: It takes me as many as 20 minutes to connect to the WiFi.

Davison: Getting connected as a freshman took about three days. It took a really long time.

Briana Pedroni (At-large): I have a hard time Skyping. There’s a lot of lag, something’s not working.

Cato: Is it mostly in the residence halls?

Pedroni: It’s been three different residence halls around campus and it’s poor every time.

Casey Hancock (At-large): If I move in different spots in Main it’s find moving between routers. But if I close my laptop and move away from Main it gets confused and takes a while to reconnect.

Cato: I’m going to switch to a couple of graphs. Here’s what we’ve been doing for the last nine or 10 years. The College has two connections to the commercial Internet. You can think of network bandwidth as a pipe: How big the pipe is changes how much information you can put into it at one time. If there are 100 students watching a Netflix show at the same time, you’re all competing for the bandwidth. Right now we’re completely replacing how they’re being connected. The net effect is that we’ll end up with either twice–in July we stepped up to 1000. By the end of spring semester we’ll have doubled where we are right now. When we made that change in July we doubled the network bandwidth each of you get. When it’s not working well, are you contacting the Help Desk? (No) That’s a fair answer, I just want a critique. If you tell us when it’s happening we might be able to start understanding what’s going on. By the end of the semester, we’ll be in a completely different place.

Student Life: I think one of the problems we have in terms of the Vassar website is that it’s not very useful for students getting info about the College. How to report an assault, how to figure out what those abbreviations are, etc. Most people I know, when they have a question you’ll Google it. But if you Google these Vassar-specific things, they don’t come up. My major request would be a more user-friendly website for students to get more relevant information.

Cato: So you’re finding it difficult to navigate or find what you’re looking for?

Hancock: I think web design is changing on campus, so that’s good. But students don’t know where to go. If on the AskBanner side of things, if there was a thing that told you how to navigate resources, I think students would find it easier to find things.

President: My main problem is when I file tickets to CIS no one ever responds to them. For example, I’ve been trying to change the VSA password since the summer.

Cato: The system is supposed to send you a number. Have you called us with that number?

President: No, but I’ve clicked it.

Cato: It’s less the system, more how we’re using it. If you have that number, it’s much easier for us to track it down. The system is supposed to tell you when we’re doing something about that ticket. But we’ll definitely work on that. I’ve got one more question for you–two more. These are a bit more broad: What should CIS stop doing? I’m always conscious that we might be doing things that aren’t helpful for you at all, or they’re just getting in the way. Does anything need attention?
-Responses include, “Stop labling everything as IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM CIS,” “Stop with the phishing emails,” “Provide more support for PC users.”-

Cato: We had a really bad situation with phishing previously. So we’re trying to help students be conscious because hackers have gotten really good. But fair enough. The last question is the reverse: What should CIS start doing?
-Responses include, “LET US HOTSPOT,” “Maybe more school-wide forums like this?” “Make it clearer what services CIS provides,” “Vprint printers in academic buildings and the deece.”

Cato: We will be replacing the number of WiFi networks we have. We’re hoping to reduce them down to three: Student Secure, Faculty-Staff Secure and Guest. We’re going to watch a short clip and then we’ll do questions. One of the things we’re excited about is that all of your questions will be answered at the end of the spring semester and everything will be in place by July. By the time you come next year, it’ll be a very different experience.

7:29 p.m.//Filling of VP for Activities Position

Casey Hancock: Last time we decided we were going to fill this by election. Ultimately, two candidates tied with 200 votes per candidate. After we ave a tie, our bylaws say that the tie goes to council with an interview with the candidates and then a vote on council floor. In the past it hasn’t been the best way of doing things because it’s very public. We decided to have the interviews and conversations within our group of people and give you the notes so you feel good about voting on this issue. We invited a number of council members who didn’t know the candidates. Zoey, Calvin–so they could move the discussion long. After a pretty lengthy discussion of 30 to 40 minutes, it was very difficult to come to a conclusion. If you haven’t read the minutes, please do. We weren’t unanimous in our decision, but we recommend Lauren Garcia for this position.

President: We wanted BoEA to look at this first, but by no means do we have to take their recommendation. We can discuss now and both candidates are here so we can ask them questions. We’ll discuss this and then vote on the candidates. Someone wanted to know why the candidates are here. By the bylaws it says that we have to bring them in and interview them on the council floor, but it’s been incredibly upsetting for everyone involved. So we wanted to bring them in just in case people have additional questions. It’s awkward, it’s not ideal, but I would encourage everyone to keep in mind that this isn’t about people in general, it’s about the position. Since there was an exact tie they are both incredibly qualified for this position.

Hancock: We should fix that bylaw for the future.

President: So does anyone have any questions or want to bring up any points?

Student Life: I personally feel weird voting in the full view of the candidates. I don’t want whoever gets voted in to think that some people didn’t want them here. So I move to suspend the bylaws that say that we have to vote in public view.

Hancock: You should make it one vote. Suspend the bylaw and move to close the session in one vote.

Student Life: That’s what I move to do.

President: Right now we’re going to vote to close the session and then we’ll vote on the candidates. We’ll put a time limit on the session.

Ferry: Should we have an open session to talk about it first?

2016: Along the same lines, can we excuse themselves?

Hancock: This is the issue we always run into. We want to discuss what’s going to happen openly because we want to be transparent. We could close the session, discuss it closed and vote there. But asking questions now openly and then closing it would be a good compromise.

Student Life: I rescind it.

Operations: Is there anything else you want to add that you didn’t say in your interview or candidate statement?

Lauren Garcia: I welcome anyone to ask any questions and I’d be happy to answer them, but we talked for a long time and we both wrote a candidate statement.

Josh Tempro: Everything I have to say has been said in the process.

Student Life: I wanted to thank both of you for stepping up. It’s really important and I really appreciate that, on very little notice, you were willing to drop things and put this first. Thank you both.

President: Jumping off of that, you’re both more than qualified for the position and it’s unfortunate there’s only one position. I know it’s not easy to come into this forum for such a pesky issue, so props to you both.

Student Life: I’m going to remake the motion I made earlier.

President: The motion on the table is to go into a closed session and vote. We’re suspending the bylaw. We need a 3/4 majority. It’s 18.

-All in favor of this motion-
This motion passes.

President: We’re going into a closed session. The time limit is 10 minutes.

7:44 p.m.// Recess.

8:02 p.m.//End Recess

President: We came to a decision. Lauren Garcia will be our new VP for Activities. You can come sit up here now!

8:03 p.m.//Executive Reports

Ops: The VSA bulletin board will be up in the next few days. It’s in the hallway with the swirly sculpture. I also picked up a project Reuben had been working on: There will be an activities calendar next to that bulletin board for orgs to advertise. In Ops committee we’ve been discussing campus communications, the relationship between reslife and the VSA. We’ve also been talking about the audit. I’m meeting with Drew and Ruby Pierce at 7 tomorrow. We’ll be hashing out the final plan for this external review. We’re going to hash out some details about that, go to committee on Tuesday and exec on Wednesday. The Seven Sisters Conference is going to be at Wellsely this year. I had four people sign up. We can have a few more people also if anyone has any interest. It’ll be November 7 through 9. Our departure schedule will depend on everyone’s personal schedule.

Joss: Can you be a little more detailed about what it is? What will happen?

Ops: It varies a lot from year to year. Last year they all came on Friday, we had dinner. Saturday we did some activities to start the day off–

President: There’s a lot of sharing between schools about how student government functions, what projects we’re working on. It’s like comparing notes. We also talk about collaboration and share things so we can figure out how we can improve.

Ops: For example, Bryn Mawr has been working on gender neutral bathrooms, so that’s something we can talk to them about. One minor update, the BoEA no longer has a chair, so I’m the interim chair.

2017: Is there a precedent on how to fill the BoEA chair position?

Ops: No?

Academics: We’re working on the new director of the libraries. Right now we’re discussing what the libraries mean to Vassar now and how they could be doing better and how that could relate to a search for a new director. We had a forum a couple weeks ago to gauge what people are looking for. We did that in committee last week and it was fruitful. We’re now going to do a forum with students to see what the campus values about libraries. We’re also going to do it with major committee chairs. Updates on the newsletter: It’s doing well. We’re currently in submission season. The deadline is currently November 10. People have submitted things, but in terms of getting more submissions we’re going to reach out to courses working on the Arts across Discipline initiative. We’re also thrown around ideas to extend it to a year-long project, but have an excerpted part come out this semester and then have a more polished thing come in the spring since “vision” is such an all-encompassing thing. If any of you are having problems with peer advising, tell me and we’ll fix that. We have first-year students talk to their peer advisers over dinner and we want to have peer advisers from different disciplines and majors so everyone should sign up. Sophomores cannot register to be peer advisers. You have to be a junior or a senior.

Maddy (At-large): How do you submit things to the newsletter?

Academics: [email protected]. For peer advising you can access the application through the VSA website and I’ll approve you! Peer advisers from last year roll over.

8:12 p.m.//Halloween Pizza
Student Life: Basically two really great things happened at the same time: The senior class council got permission to sell pizza outside the Halloween dance. Independently of this, Student Life decided it would be great to bring pizza to dorms on Halloween nights so people have food in their stomach before drinking. Chris Roellke offered us $1000 to do this. We all want the same thing so people have food in their stomachs so there’s less destructive behavior and drunkenness. Options we talked about for spending this money was to buy alternate food for the dorms that’s not pizza. When dorm food happens people don’t eat as much as they would in the Deece because there’s a limited supple, so we want this to happen around 8 p.m. so people are having full dinners. We could also subsidize the pizza outside the Villard Room so people can buy pizza for cheaper, but people pointed out people might already be drunk by this time.

2018: The money doesn’t technically have to be for pizza, it can be for anything we want to do.

2015: We talked about seeing if we could talk to the houses about what would be best. In terms of using the money for the event–though I’m sure we would never say no, we did just get some supplementary funding from the VSA to supplement some costs. Dessert would definitely be good. Sandwiches could be cool.

Jewett: I’m definitely in favor of doing things in the dorms. Pizza is tricky because some people think of it as dinner and might wait for that. If there’s only pizza they might skip dinner for it.

Activities: I agree because I’m always thinking about pizza. It’s all I think about. At that period of the night I would probably wait. Maybe Nutella dessert pizza–any carbs are good.

Cushing: Do Campus Activities provide water? One really important thing is to keep hydrated. Sometimes they bring the water containers and that’s better than going to the bathroom. Especially for there to be cups. Water may be even more important than food sometimes.

2015: Water and food will both be provided at the Villard Room party. I’m not sure where a water location would be.

THs: In terms of getting food before, we shouldn’t forget about the THs and the TAs because we’re drinking legally and we deserve it too!

Student Life: One thing we discussed briefly is that it could be pancakes. I don’t know if certain orgs would be interesting in doing this because it’s a huge burden for house team to make pancakes for everyone. Maybe there are orgs that want to fundraise and want to make pancakes in Jewett for two hours and make $100. Breakfast foods. I’m into breakfast late at night.

2015: Ice cream could be good too.

President: I believe there are also outside places like EverReady that could cater a brinner.

Strong: I’m a big proponent of having several places where food is. There are a bunch of people I know who won’t go to the Villard Room but will still be drinking.

2017: It seems like even with the suggestion of having it in houses–I would caution against making all of the food something you have to pay for. I know I would not pay real money for food because I don’t have real money to throw around. So I think we should be careful about offering thing for a price.

Student Life: The money from Roellke would go to orgs for making the pancakes. Students wouldn’t have to pay. $1000 isn’t enough to pay for lots of food for lots of people, so this is programming that would have to partly come from house budgets.

Ops: Is the pizza going to be before the event?

2015: It’s going to be at 1 a.m. It’s something we thought of as a fundraiser for us and get people food after and to motivate people to get out of the party and start ending their night. This is a post-party thing.

Town Students: Have you thought about putting up flyers with statistics with EMS numbers or a sign saying “Don’t” with your face or something?

2018: The freshman class council with health services is doing a poster campaign. On the posters will be data from last year. Basically we’re just trying to clarify the perspectives freshmen have, like “Seniors drink four times a week.” So it’s kind of debunking Vassar myths and making people aware of where they should draw the line with their drinking.

Kathleen: The preventative flyer initiative–could we send something out about responsible party hosting? I’ve seen a lot of parties get out of hand because the hosts aren’t responsible. I went to the party class, but not every senior has to go to that. So I think everyone should have that information.

2018: The posters will go out to every student fellow and house presidents.

Davison: This morning my house team put together a breakfast thing to talk to freshmen about Halloween and drinking. My concern is about sophomores because it’s hard to reach them in the same way and talk to them about responsible drinking and not to break windows and stuff like that. At this point in their Vassar career they’re a little more apathetic about going to events like this, so I’m not sure what effect the poster campaign will have on sophomores. They have their own stuff going on and it’s not easy to reach them.

2017: I think it would be better accomplished if there wasn’t such a strong prohibition on student fellows being able to drink. I think being able to connect with the freshmen would be more effective than posters.

TAs: I think having house reps hold talks could be a good way to reach sophomores.

Student Life: I think what I’m hearing is that we all want to do something, which is cool. My thoughts are just to distribute the money to houses with the understanding that it will be used for programming for food in the evening. It might be used differently in each dorm, but I think we resolved the general issue. Being mindful of 2015 is good, but we all have the same goals. And I hope this has been a productive brainstorming session for how you and your constituents can work together. We’ll work out the logistics later. All of the ideas I hear sound really good and Student Life is happy to help you accomplish them.

8:30 p.m.//Open Discussion

Main: Fall Fest happened on Friday. It was a great success. Thanks to everyone who planned it and showed up.

Cushing: Apart from me speaking for Cushing, but I want to shamelessly talk about–Cares is having a speakout this Tuesday. Please be there. One important thing about the speak out is that it’s before Halloween and it’s important to listen to people’s experiences if we’re talking about sexual assault. And also of course to voice your own experiences. It’s a space for survivors and anyone affected by personal violence. I hope to see you all there. It’s in the Mug from 6 to 8 p.m.

Ops: I wanted to give a warm welcome to Lauren. Welcome to VSA! It’s going to be a good year.

President: I want to remind everyone to sign up for the Privilege Campaign if you haven’t. It’s really important with our goals of accessibility and awareness. I know it’s an hour and a half, but everyone should be there. Sign up!

Ops: I move to adjourn.

All in favor.

8:33 p.m.// Council adjourned.