VSA Council | November 16, 2014

Hey, everyone! This will be my last week liveblogging as your Editor-in-Chief. This week we will be conducting our Exec Board interviews and we’ll be voting in a new EiC. On a different note, there are no tables in the CCMPR today, so give us some time to adjust! We’ll be getting started shortly.

7:03 p.m.//Call to Order and Attendance
Proxy: Ferry, SoCos

7:04 p.m.// Consensus Agenda
a. VSA Operating (Discretionary) $3554/$3554
b. Outing Club (Conference) $0/$750
c. Miscellany News (Capital) $309.90/$309.90
d. Vassar Haiti Project (Capital) $1190/$1190
e. UNICEF (Collaboration) $0/$50
f. Contrast (Collaboration) $190.50/$190.50
g. Challah (Capital) $67.95/$67.95
h. Act Out (Conference) $2055/$2500
i. Crafts Not Bombs (Discretionary) Tabled
j. Minutes From 11/9/14

President: VSA Operating applied for money for the external review. Outing Club didn’t get any money because the people who want to do it are seniors and we want everyone who’s going out into the wilderness are properly trained to do so. The Misc applied for money for heaters and rugs. Their office is kind of horrible right now, no offense to The Misc. VHP wanted money for bins to transport their art around because it’s annoying to carry them back and forth individually. UNICEF did get the $50, it’s for a lunch they’re hosting where they eat the amount of food you get if you had to survive off the amount of aid you get from the UN. Contrast wanted to collaborate with Focus. Challah needed money for baking supplies, forks and knives. Act Out applied with Fem Alliance and Transmission to go to a big LGBTQ conference in Denver. Crafts Not Bombs applied for money to make crafts…not bombs. They didn’t get the money because they need to provide us with an itemized list.

7:07 p.m.//Forum with Community Works

Community Works: About ten years ago, Vassar withdrew from the United Way because they were associated with the Boyscouts of America who were against members of the LGBTQ community. Each year we raise money through payroll reductions with employees and events with students and we distribute it to 10 or 11 agencies. I’m here today to invite you all to consider whether you would like to organize some kind of event to raise money for Community Works. You might want to join with other houses to do it, but it’s a great way to contribute to the community. We have hunger, homelessness, domestic violence in our community. In the City of Poughkeepsie School District over 85 percent of the students come from family below the poverty line. Fortunately, there are a lot of people in our community trying to solve this: Brian Ridell. Tree Arrington who works on empowering youth. There are also some Vassar alumnae/i who help undocumented workers in New York State. This year we’re supporting the John Flowers Family Partnership, Dutchess County SPCA, Dutchess Outreach, The Family Partnership Center, Glisten, Grace Smith House, The REAL Skills Network and Sustainable Hudson Valley. These were chosen from a larger number that were solicited from the Vassar community. It was hard to decide who to fund, but we try to alternate each year to cover all of them eventually. I want to ask you to think about how you can contribute: A party with a cover fee, for example. A raffle. The most important thing is that I and other members of the community are willing to help you with this process. We’re willing to step in and help you as much as we can. We can arrange for you to collect money for this event using VCash.

President: You mentioned VCash. Is that a new thing?

Community Works: I probably shouldn’t promise it. I talked to Jeff Kosmacher about it. But if we had a number of student voices who said that they could use this, it would help push it through.

Finance: Do you think you could give a couple examples of what houses have done in the past? A lot of house presidents haven’t been on house team before.

Jewett: We played a game of assassins. We’ve already done that again this year, so we’ll already be donating some money.

Joss: We do an auction in the first semester and we combine it with dorm dinners. We also have students submit something to be raffled off–sometimes they’re abstract.

Briana (at-large): Cushing did an ice cream bar in the spring and we bought it with our house money and we ended up making way more than we spent on the ice cream. Hundreds of students came to it.

Community Works: The spring can be a great time too, because we operate on academic years.

SoCos: One of the things that’s extremely popular is auctioning off a North Lot parking space. That alone went for $200. You can work with Security to do this.

Cushing: We had the caramel apple sale and made a lot of money from that. It’s really easy to go and buy things in bulk and sell them. We made a lot of money, so we can donate some of it to Community Works.

Community Works: Thank you for suggesting that people share what they’ve done in the past. One last thing is that if you want to know more about our agencies, you can go to Vassar’s homepage and type in Community Works. There are links there to all of these orgs and it’s really inspiring to read about all of them. Thanks for listening and good luck with the rest of your semester.

7:18 p.m.//Forum with CIRC

Adam: We’re in charge of divestment policies, proxy holding–we see what kind of use we can get out of the proxy-holding system. It remains to be seen exactly how we’ll do that, but that’s where we stand. We’ve only had one meeting so far, but we’re thinking about creating an institutional legacy. We’re thinking about how to negotiate divestment within CIRC and reach out to other students who are concerned about guidelines. Some students have said that guidelines for CIRC are too restrictive, but some people are for it. When should we divest? When shouldn’t we divest? We’re looking at other schools right now for a template. We’re having a meeting on Tuesday, so we may have more to say after that. We welcome any kind of feedback.

President: I know a lot of the actual divestment comes out of the Board of Trustees. Do you just make recommendations?

Adam: Essentially we’re an advisory board. We can say, “As representatives of the student body…” But also we are the only two student representatives. There are faculty representatives, two alums. We’re only one-fourth of the voting membership. We do hope that people take our recommendations into consideration when it goes to the Trustees.

SoCos: If a guideline document is produced, would that be made public?

Adam: It remains to be seen. I guess yes. In our previous conversations, we’ve talked about it being something we want to put forth for opinion, at least in VSA. I would like to get more student feedback on it then not. I don’t think it will be controversial.

Finance: A lot of the calls for divestment we’ve gotten in the past have been impossible to implement. For example, one called for us to divest in the next five years. But people didn’t know that because they weren’t given that information and CIRC is pretty closed-off. We need to give students the tools to make informed proposals. There was an article in Boilerplate about it that talked more about this.

Adam: We really are taking a much more practical approach. If we should receive a proposal from a group–which we will, probably on Tuesday–we want to make sure that we’re taking those seriously and working with the groups, depending on how feasible they are.

Student Life: How transparent do you think the endowment is?

Finance: Because the school is a 501 (c)(3) organization, we have to release certain information. However, that information isn’t that understandable for people who don’t understand endowment and investment. The names of individual holdings and comingled funds aren’t very accessible.

Strong: How is it accessible if it’s not understandable to the majority of students?

Finance: Well it’s available. It’s not locked into some vault. A student has to seek out how to understand it. You have pages and pages online. We can’t expect the school to dedicate a ton of resources to making it understandable, especially since most students don’t really want it.

Adam: As a representative, I will try to make it more accessible for you. In the process of going over this stuff, I think that’s a valid concern and it’s something that I will work on and if anyone wants to meet with me, we can go over it together.

President: It sounds like people want to know, so if you have ways to explain the info, that’d be ideal.

TAs: I heard a rumor that CIRC or some other body is pushing toward there being more comingled funds as a means of perhaps making it harder for students to try and divest from something. Have you talked about that?

Adam: The push for comingled funds is a rumor. Where did you hear it from?

TAs: VTC–the Vassar Transparency Coalition.

Adam: That’s always an option. You can move divestment holdings into comingled funds, but that has not been something we’ve been talking about within CIRC seriously.

7:30 p.m.//Forum with Masterplanning

Masterplanning student rep: We had our meeting last week and we talked about how the campus is in a transitional phase right now. We’re trying to get a feeling for the efficiency of the College. We’re trying to get data so we can think about what priorities the school really needs to focus on. We’ve talked about this year’s class gift, which is going to be an outdoor seating space for hanging out or studying. The masterplanning committee has given us the go-ahead for that. Next, they’ll be designing signs because Vassar is going smoke-free in 2015. That will be implemented in the future. We talked about parking: how to make it more efficient and better for students and faculty as well as not have a campus full of parking spaces. Trash: We’re trying to figure out how to deal with the trash issue. In the mornings, there’s an excess of trash bags everywhere. We talked about installing dumpsters in those areas, but we were kind of split on how to deal with it. More speed bumps, especially around the THs and the nursery area.

2015: Class gift is costing half a million dollars so it’s not happening. The new plan the committee is working on is making the library courtyard a better study space for students and making solar-powered tables with outlets.

Ferry: How do you decide what the student gift is going to be?

Student rep: There was a proposal and everyone was for it.

Finance: It’s a collaboration between the senior class and the Development Office.

Student Life: To what degree are you working with the people who are redesigning the College Center?

Student rep: It’s a little complicated. We’re not directly involved, but we will be meeting with those people to talk about it.

7:36 p.m.//Exec Board reports

Activities: We’ve been setting up pre-orgs and we’ve also asked representatives from the established pre-orgs to come to our Activities meetings. Some may be approved for orgs next semester. We’re also working on assessment forms for organizations. All of our Activities members are going to five meetings of different orgs on campus to make sure that they’re working as they should be and if they’re having problems we can address them. We also talked about doing a pre-org fair next semester since they usually get pushed aside in the regular Activities Fair. We’re also talking to Campus Activities about doing a casino night.

Finance: All of our fund levels are on track, which is good. We’re dipping in a little more with our Discretionary Fund, but it might be because in the last few weeks we’ve had very large allocations from there. The Discretionary Fund is a little complicated because we never know how much will be in it until January because it works on a semesterly basis. But I’m predicting 99 percent of students will come back in January, so it should be about the same. The WVKR audit might even be done. If not, it’ll be done by the end of next week. We’ll also be kicking up The Misc audit this week and ViCE’s next semester. The people conducting these audits will produce a one-page document to evaluate what they do and how they’re spending money. Our capital loan system is being worked on by Maddy. We’re still working on the students’ assistants fund project. We’re trying to create a fund for students who can’t afford to participate in certain activities on campus. It’s unfair, so we’re working to redistribute our funds to fix that. We also are trying to target weekends where things aren’t going on so we can program on those weekends. Campus Activities has a much larger understanding of how programming works across the board and they’ll help us put events up. The majority of you have still not given me receipts from Halloween and I need those to transfer the money into your accounts. Please send your treasures to my office hours. Thanks for organizing that.

7:42 p.m.//BIRT letter

Student Life: If you checked your email on Friday, you may have noticed that Ed Pittman sent out an email summary of the bias incidents that have been reported to BIRT so far. I think this is fantastic. I still don’t think it’s enough because there’s no guarantee that an email like that will ever be sent out again. The language of tat email was written before Halloween and he asked Cappy and Roellke if he could send it out and they said they were uncomfortable with it. While the tone of the letter says, “We need something,” we still need to put pressure on the administration to create something lasting. It’s not sustainable to put this all on one administrator who has other things to do. In many ways I’m preaching to the choir, but we need to go over this if this is something we want to move forward with. BIRT as a body cannot actually do anything. Individual members can do things–Kim Squillance, Luis Inoa–but BIRT as an entity has no power. That’s something that has frustrated not just me, but the other members of the committee as well. This would be a responsible step so that we can hold administration accountable for responding for incidents of bias.

Ops: My committee reviewed this letter and we thought it was awesome. If we have a letter, the motion on the table is to endorse or not endorse. We just need a simple majority.

Finance: I know it’s very easy to look at it and say, “Something the VSA is doing.” But everyone should be aware of the time and stress Hannah has put into this. The final product is very good and it’s very important to her. It can be extremely difficult to work with administrators so I think she deserves a lot of credit.

All in favor: All.

-This motion passes-

7:47 p.m.//VSA-ResLife Amendment

Ops: We’re going to follow our special meeting rules that say you can only speak twice. Think carefully about what you’re going to say. At-large members will go right to the top of the speakers list. The first thing we’re looking at an amendment regarding the VSA’s relationship with Residential Life. We wrote up that house officers will abide by the rules of Residential Life in the section about house teams. We added another point under the bylaws stating that if they win they have to abide by them. If they lose they don’t have to, obviously. Luis Inoa also submitted a proposal to us that details why this is happening now. Another supplement is a document the HSA’s wrote. The last thing is the proposed agreement Luis Inoa drew up for us. Those should be all of the documents.

Student Life: I want to give people time to read all of the documents because that might clear up any questions because any questions even happen.

President: So we’ll take a minute to read through everything.

Student Life: We met with the HSAs, Freshman Class Council and dorm house presidents. Rami and I met with different groups and I want to commend them all for the respect they showed in those rooms. I know this has made a lot of people feel angry and disempowered, but despite all of that we had productive conversations. The HSAs letter  is attached so you can see how they feel. They’re very pro-amendment. Next, we met with the Freshman Class Council. We’re assuming that those people will be interested in house team in the future. They, with the exception of one or two members, were for the amendment. They didn’t get to see the amendment itself, but we explained the philosophy behind it. Finally, we met with the house presidents and I want to give them a huge shout out because we asked them to speak from two perspectives: for themselves and for their house and house teams at-large. I have a huge amount of respect for those who expressed the opinions of their house that were different from their own. The consensus that came from that was that, with the exception of a few houses, everyone was in favor of the amendment. Other concerns I want to acknowledge: “Fuck ResLife, fuck this ultimatum.” This was handled very poorly and ResLife sprung this on everyone with short notice and the timeline was very strict. Having to make a decision before Thanksgiving was unfair and tying room privileges to all of this is coercive. I think this is an intentionally crafted amendment we’ve talked about a lot. I really appreciate all of you.

Academics: I’m in agreement with what’s going on here. I was a house president last year and the largest point of stress was the whole three B’s conversation and taxed me more than many things in my life have taxed me. The current proposed contract does use gendered language, just to move on with that in mind.

Student Life: I think we can also expect another amendment like this in the future. If we believe in treating house officers like we treat student fellows–student fellows get $200 in VCash. Some kind of shift that acknowledges what other house officers do would be good.

SoCos: Since elections happened in the spring, I wanted to know why the expectations and responsibilities continue up until the end of the school year even though there will be new house officers in place by that time. They will be under contract after spring convocation.

Ops: Typically house teams don’t flip over completely. But I can ask Luis Inoa about that.

TAs: Personally speaking, I see no reason why any student leader should be…I fully support what’s being said here about house officers being expected to live to the same standards as Res Life people. That should be a given.

Adam (at-large): Speaking as someone who was a house officer for two years, I support this. There’s no reason why house officers shouldn’t be held to the same standards. If these rules were in place my freshman year, it would have been very different. People need to be responsible with their leadership. I abided by these rules without the contract.

Cushing: Firstly, I want to talk about the term “three Bs.” The last one is incredibly derogatory and not okay to use. I don’t like using that term and because it’s an acronym now we like using it but we shouldn’t. Secondly, I want to talk about how much stress house presidents went through. It’s not all about us, but a lot of it is. Thanks to the HSAs for being here and writing this. I know that it’s been hard for all of us, but when voting for this I want you all to think about how much this will affect house teams next year if we don’t vote for this amendment. Dividing it up won’t be nice. Please think about houses and house teams.

President: As someone on a house team for two years, this was very much the culture in Strong. We fell in line with what this amendment specified. And I appreciated having that vibe and being able to look up to leaders. This is crucial.

Davison: If an officer talked to a student about drug use is that a violation of the contract? Or is it only engaging in drug use? Just to use that as an example.

Student Life: You can’t engage. You can discuss.

Joss: House teams are a great concept for a freshman. To come in and look up to what at least seems like a group of pals getting along. The current house team structure is very beneficial to first-year students and I’d hate to see that go.

Sophie (at-large): There is one specification. You cannot sext or engage in talk that is explicit in an interpersonal sense, I consider that a sexual relationship. Please don’t sext the freshmen.

Student Life: What’s on the table is all three Bs, even though Luis Inoa only mentioned the first two [booze, blaze].

Ops: If a consensual relationship does develop, that’s fine so long as it’s disclosed.

Joss: I don’t think following these expectations is that much to ask for.

Cushing: Anders, who is the Cushing and Noyes house adviser, named this relationship thing as “amorous relationships.” It’s a vague term and I don’t know how to approach it, but that’s what it is. Sexting falls within that.

Hannah (at-large): We as the HSAs have been getting updated on the language of the agreement. It’s not set in stone. We would appreciate your feedback so we can pass it on to ResLife.

2018: Section 2F–if we word it that way it almost sounds like there’s no expectation or the future. Maybe we should word that more specifically.

2017: I think it was a little bit in bad taste for ResLife to try to do everything and not allow us to examine student fellows’ requirements. The only way they thought there could be equality between house officers and student fellows was to bring the same standards to house officers.

Finance: I think we need to discuss what’s an appropriate expectation for a volunteer position and how they should be compensated. These are packaged as leadership roles when they’re necessary and the school would have to employ people if we didn’t run for them. Oftentimes, hiring security is expensive, so we’re going to let students volunteer for these positions. Thank you all for all that you do.

Hannah (at-large): We’ve been talking about HSAs being the first responders for HSAs. So if something happens you would talk to your HSA and depending on severity it would go to your house adviser. ResLife is aware of student leaders not being recognized for what they do. We remind them every week. Thank you all. You’re all amazing.

President: So since we’re seeing this for the first time we have to wait a week to vote on it.

8:18 p.m.//Constitution amendment

Ops: Many members of my committee met yesterday to write up some amendments to bring our constitution and bylaws inline with the current practice. We wrote the amendments by article. In article 7 we condensed everything because there were points about separating the Freshman Class Council from the other class councils. We just made it briefer. We added that a two-thirds majority is required to change bylaws. It’s been practiced but not clarified. We also clarified some of the VP positions. We added that Academics is a liaison to other offices. We struck that the VP for Activities is a liaison to the community because that was in reference to Meet Me in Poughkeepsie, which is under the Traditions Committee now. The President can now be the sole person who excuses absences, not the entire council. We edited the Finance section since they went under some changes this year.

Finance: Why did you strike the required attendance?

Ops: Each committee has internal attendance policy. We also eliminated some areas about disciplinary action because it exists all in one place. We fixed things about the BoEA that they should have had the power to do but were left to council. We made it so that pre-orbs can apply to other non-pre-org funds.

Finance: We should make those funds more specific.

Ops: We tried to make the language of the conference fund clearer, but we need to talk about it more. We added the Seven Sisters reps to the committee section.

Jewett: The amendments that Cushing and I wrote are not here. Article 8 is all about orgs. We didn’t change it a ton, but some things about pre-orgs.

Cushing: It said that pre-orgs couldn’t reserve spaces. But we changed it because now they can.

Finance: Can you talk about why you detracted The Chronicle from this amendment?

Ops: Because The Chronicle is not a news source, I believe.

Finance: I’m curious because we added it in over the last two years because someone from The Chronicle was upset they weren’t included.

Ops: We added some clarifying language about orgs having to renew their status after three semesters. We specified what pre-orgs can and can’t do. They can reserve spaces, they can use VCash machines. They added a point about how exceptions can be made to pre-orgs with a budget number. Each pre-org must have a contact person who’s not necessarily the president. We made it so that pre-orgs are approved via consensus, which we do. If pre-orgs incur debt, their certification may be revoked. We took out some gendered language. We changed some “mays” to “musts.” There’s no audit committee, so we took that out wherever it appeared.

2016: Why did you take out where it says that the president of the previous freshman class should serve as a proxy until the new one is elected?

Ops: Because that never happens and it functionally never serves a purpose. At the moment pre-orgs can only have a budget number at the discretion of Activities and Finance.

8:31 p.m.//Open Discussion

Jewett: We’ll be having Dormal Formal. There’ll be DJs Steak and Cake. 10 to 12 in the Rose Parlor.

Ops: Now that the audit has officially been funded, I just wanted to give everyone an update. The student government review company is coming on December 3 and 4. He’s going to be interviewing students—at least everyone on council—but they won’t all be solo interviews. He’s also going to be interviewing various student leaders and student groups. The Misc, ViCE. We’ll be talking about that more on Tuesday. He’ll also be meeting with all of the deans and there will be a lot of interviews. We’ll be having a student forum on December 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the Villard Room. Operations Committee is spending the next three weeks on this. Thanks in advance to everyone.

Student Life: A series of shout outs to all of the people who put in a lot of time for things that we talked about today. I expected today to be terrible, but it was fine. I appreciate you all. There’s a fantastic poetry event happening this Saturday at 8:30 in Sanders. It’s hosted by the Asian Students Alliance and Wordsmiths. There will also be a workshop that follows that you can RSVP for. If you want to befriend him, it’s going to be fantastic. There will be a cool opening act as well and that’s a surprise.

2018: I wanted to encourage everyone to come to ergathon in the College Center. I’ll be doing in from 1 to 2 on Friday.

-Council adjourned-