VSA Council 2.21.16

7:02//Call to Order and Attendance

Absent: Strong (proxy), Town Students

7:04//Consensus agenda

a. Preliminary to Toastmasters (180/180)

b. Social Consciousness to JVP (1500/1500)

c. Capital to Miscellany News (1232.17/1232.17)

d. Capital to VCTV (999/999)

e. Minutes from 2/14

7:06//Forum with Christopher Roellke regarding the Dean of Students Search

Chris Roellke: Thanks for having me. Ramy and the VSA Exec asked me to update you on the Dean of Students search. I can answer any questions you have. DB Brown has announced his retirement after three decades at the College. He’s served us well. The search committee is made up of two faculty members whose roles are affiliate with Student Life. We have Jamie Kelly and Sophia Harvey. There is also Michelle Ransom and Matthew Schultz. Then we have the two VSA dream team members: Chris Brown and Ramy Abbady. The job has been posted and is out there. We hope to have applications being accepted through March 15. Semifinalists by April. Finalist interviews will take place April 11-26. I am not on the committee, but the committee makes a recommendation to me and to Cappy. We will also celebrate DB’s accomplishments after Spring Break.

Lathrop: DB was originally a professor?

Roellke: He came as a counselor actually. There might be internal candidates though.

SoCos: I’m a current member of CAFA. It was very frustrating because we didn’t meet with anyone. I’m hoping it will be different this time. Can the general campus body meet with the candidates? And what are you doing to look introspectively with the office?

Roellke: I couldn’t agree with you more about student input is vital in this search. I want to shout-out to the two co-chairs. They’ve already met with the Deans and Directors for their feedback and suggestions for the kind of candidates that they would like to see come. For the finalist interviews…we had the finalists have open public forums. They made public presentations. I see something quite similar happening here. We have worked on internal structure. We also want to leave some of the restructuring to the candidate. The main offices that report to the Dean of Students is ResLife, health…Safety and Security has come under my office now.

J: Is there any priority given to internal candidates?

Roellke: There is no advantage for internal candidates.

J: For finding student feedback…is there any structure in place whereby students can talk to the committee itself or a town hall for general communication?

Roellke: I think that’s a very good suggestion. I have to say that I think they are really interested in getting as much student feedback as possible.

TAs: How much flexibility will be given to the new candidate? And how much will change?

Roellke: I’ve heard about the problems with consistency. Something has already changed within the Dean of Students office, which is the moving of the Title IX offier to EOAA. There is already a committee looking at a Chief Diversity Officer at Vassar. That will be happening around April.

THs: This is to focus in on the SSN. Are we dealing with that after we have a person, or separately?

Roellke: I think if there are concerns with the SSN, I would encourage voices to be heard right away. It might help the committee. There are no plans afoot to change the network.

Lathrop: One common critique that I’ve heard has been the response to a lot of cases with students is to send students home. I think it is important for a candidate to look at the circumstances of the students. Sending a student home could be doing more damage to them. That is one of the largest critiques and outcries.

Roellke: I know that we struggle with those decisions. It’s a constant balancing act.

Sam (at -large): I’m wondering how we can think about the Dean of Students concerning the all-gender bathroom initiative.

Roellke: I think we made progress concerning the all-gender bathroom initiative. I think a better person is to speak with Marianne Begemann. Part of the renovation of the new Bridge building included adding gender neutral bathrooms to Olmsted. There is only one set of bathrooms in the Bridge Building, though.

Sam: Hypothetically, if the Vassar Queer Health Initiative did all of the work, provided the signage, and gave enough info about it, what would be stopping it?

Roellke: It would still go to Begemann and the Master Planning committee. I encourage you to continue to keep moving forward.

Sam: But what about the lives of trans students right now?

Roellke: I will push back a little here and say we are making progress.

Cushing: When do you expect the LGBTQ/Women’s Center director position to be filled? Or increase funding to the ALANA center?

Roellke: The LGBTQ/Women’s Center job has already been posted. We have hired a Post-Bacc for that area, Dallas Robinson, who will be starting soon. The search for the Director is ongoing, but we are hoping to have somebody on board by May. I do agree that we need to have a larger budget for our programming centers.

Sam: I was wondering why the College hasn’t made a public response to the Islamophobia on campus?

Roellke: I can’t speak for Cappy. I believe the message that was co-authored by your president, Ramy, included a phrasing about Islamophobia. Needless to say, BIRT and a number of other offices have been quite busy concerning the speech on campus.

Lathrop: Do you have any steps in place to combat any of these issues?

Roellke: We are looking at a geo-fence, but we aren’t fans of this idea. We have consulted with CIS on this. We have gone to the step of going to Yik Yak directly for any personal attacks online. We’ve engaged with local police and law enforcement. We are somewhat limited in our ability to fight back against this. It takes the whole community.

Alexia: I’ve noticed that there are a lot of differences in groups being able to get funding from the President’s office.

Roellke: I’m very sorry to hear that. We can track where funding has gone anywhere on this campus. We should have a factual basis for these assertions. There were restrictions for how the funding could be distributed, because it was funded by an anonymous donor.

Roellke: I really love this place and I love working with these students. I do have your best interest at heart, even though we do disagree on things.


Pres: The Board of Trustees is coming! City Committee will be meeting. I’m working on a new project, which is the creation of a VSA endowment.

Ops: We restructured. Ku-Yah retired and moved to Florida. And Janice’s Jerk doesn’t have a kitchen so all of the Jamaican food is gone. Saturday Shuttle drama needs to calm down. The Saturday Shuttle actually costs more.

Pres: Talk to CSA about the Jamaican food.

StuLife: Meeting with TQ this Tuesday concerning dining. Tampon things are happening.

Academics: Deadline for Student Seminars was extended.

Activities: We did week one of the new pre-org application process.

Finance: Nothing new.

Pres: Since Vassar upgraded their fancy systems, I cannot access the VSA email.

8:05//Constituent Concerns

8:05//Restructuring President, Operations, 2017, SoCos

Noyes: I’m working with ResLife to talk about House Presidents getting adjusted. Can we amend stuff later?

Pres: Yes, we will be having multiple amendments throughout.

Ops: I move to Restructure the VSA.

The motion passes unanimously.

~the VSA will take a 5 minute break~

8:23//A Conversation on the BDS Voting Process

Pres: We are talking about voting process, not the actual resolution.

StuLife: We talked about it at the tail end of our meeting. Some of the comments brought up revolved around the idea of…

2019: …I’m going to speak on behalf of my participation. I think the vote should be anonymous and not public. There is at least a perception that if this is public, it can effect their livelihood later in life. I believe because of that it should be anonymous.

Ops: We were pretty concerned with the divisive nature of the resolution. We were concerned that the vote does follow you for the rest of your life. On a more democratic level, this issue is something that the campus should be deciding on.

StuLife: One of the arguments brought up was that given what 2019 has already stated, given the implication for greater members of the council….It is inherently racist to make it a public vote.

2019: I’m going to expand on that because that was what I brought up. I think a referendum or anonymous vote is the best.

Jesse: I would like to speak against the idea of anonymity. The public at large elected representatives. You ran to represent your constituents. They deserve to have a right to know how their representatives voted.

StuLife: I hear the uncomfortability. Although I acknowledge that I was elected for this position, I do not think we owe the student body our livelihood.

Raymond: They can always come and ask us.

2018: Read the minutes from last week.

2019: there have been people on this campus who have taken a public stance who have been harassed.

Academics: I want to query the notion of accountability here. What would accountability look like here?

2017: The people who are looking to be reelected..are you not going to vote for me because I didn’t vote according to your ideas?

Matt: I understand the reasoning to be anonymous. I would prefer for it to be referendum. I would like the people who vote and go for reelection to let their opinions be known.

Ferry: I know people want to know how their representatives are voting. I think it shouldn’t be anonymous.

Jesse: I think it is reasonable. I’m not saying it has to be a vote here. I’m saying we should have a referendum. But people should know how we vote.

Sam: Retaliation will look a lot different for people who say yes versus people who say no. Institutionally, voting no is supported.

StuLife: In terms of precedent, I reached out to our research director and got info on previous colleges that voted on BDS. About four our of eleven schools went to referendum.

Cush: We recommend going straight to referendum. It is inherently more democratic.

TA: This is going to be impossible for some of us to represent our constituents here. We should give them the opportunity to educate ourselves. We should give students on this campus spaces to talk about this.

Cush: We can teach people. Especially in houses. We are having a forum in our house as well.

Pres: From an org standpoint, it’s frustrating that people aren’t engaging in the spaces that are already available.

Davison: We talked about getting stuff going on in the house. We decided against it because we didn’t want to bring that divisive issue into a space that is supposed to be safe.

Ferry: I disagree with Ramy. Those orgs have a political agenda.

2019: I agree with Ramy about using our orgs.

Strong: I’m speaking for myself and also spoke with Sumaiya. Both of us support sending it to referendum. An org will organize to send it to referendum no matter what. You all still get to vote and you only vote for yourself.

Ian (at large): we probably voted more on who we like than your political opinions. The student body would probably appreciate a referendum. There’s already a lot of hate on all sides.

Pres: I agree with what Maya said. We’ve known about this since August. We’ve invested a lot of time and energy into this issue. It feels shitty to have that be ignored. The other thing is a precedent thing, we voted on the Greens thing when we knew that was going to referendum.

2018: I’m going to speak in support of the VSA voting first. I think this conversation has really helped us grow. By voting on it, it will help us become stronger leaders. I think the student body deserves to know how we would vote.

Noyes: I don’t think it’s fair for us to vote with little to no thought about whether it goes to referendum.

Alexia: First seconding things that Ramy and Maya have said. There should be a conversation this year. The VSA did take a political stance this year. Pushing it referendum will leave out a lot of points of view.

Jason: I really agree with Alexia. There especially seems to be a lot of documentation where it did pass and things didn’t go well. I’m sure you have info about the opposite.

Matt: Regardless of what your decision is, it would be really rad to have an open discussion.

J: This has been an issue that everyone has known about for months. After being aware of it, you still passed guiding principles that made the VSA a political body. If you punt it to a group of people who are predominantly not as educated as you are. It feels like a dodge.

StuLife: I’ve spoken to constituents who don’t want a public VSA council vote. Some people want a secret vote over referendum. Some don’t. Maybe we should propose a vote for a secret vote first, then see where we stand.

StuLife moves to have a secret vote in VSA council.

Pres: to clarify, he is moving to suspend the bylaw on this particular issue. It can still go to referendum.

16 in favor, 3 oppose, 3 abstentions. The motion passes.

Academics: I do not think the VSA is more educated than the general student body. There are people who are more invested in it outside of the VSA. A referendum is the best way to let the constituents have their say.

Cushing moves to suspend a bylaw to send the resolution to referendum.

Cushing retracts that motion.

Alexia: We have to actually amend the resolution.

9:20// Finance Guidelines Exec

Finance: We have drafted guiding principles for Finance until the BDS decision has passed. The guidelines can be reviewed afterward. It basically says we aren’t taking a stance at this time, that is not what we are going to base our funding on.

Pres: to clarify, this will only last for this year. It is very temporary. They will have to redo stuff next year.

Finance moves to adapt the language of the guiding principles.

Passes with 19 in favor, two abstentions.

9:41//Open Discussion

2018: We should think about how political we want to be.

Pres: BDS is slightly more complicated now. I don’t personally believe there is such a thing as being apolitical.