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  • Palak 11:02 pm on September 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Council, Transitions, VCLU, VSA   

    VSA Council 9.13.15 

    7:02//Call to Order and Attendance

    Absent/Proxy: 2016, 2019 (proxy), Ferry, Raymond (Proxy), Town Students, SoCos

    7:08//Consensus agenda

    1. $2,250 to QCVC
    2. Fem Alliance ($100/$1100)
    3. Hip Hop 101 ($0/$2100)
    4. QCVC ($500/$700)
    5. Minutes from 9/6/15

    Finance: QCVC has changed their event, so we reallocated their cost. FemAlliance is going to a conference. HipHop is going to conference.

    Cushing: Why only $100 for Fem Alliance?

    Finance: Their budget went down since the fund app went in.

    7:09//Forum with Transitions Co-Coordinators

    Luis Inoa: The program is now in it’s 6th year. Created and imagined by alums and students as a fuller pre-matriculation program. They presented that to CIE six years ago. In an effort to assist the program, we took their 6-week model and created a 3 day pilot. We’ve done that for a while, expanding the program every year. We invite about 130 students, but they have to be low-income. They have to have no-to-little parent contribution. This year we got 56 students who attended the event. It’s now six days. We have co-coordinators. We have transitions interns as well. They spend time together and they have small, almost mock classes. We think about what kinds of classes we offer. There are also a series of social activities for the students to get to know each other. It sets the tone for the rest of their experience. We have conversations about campus life here. We make sure the interns are not duplicating the efforts of student fellows. It is an institutionalized program now. We receive funding every year for it. It’s a matriculation to graduation program. We try to be there for all four years for them.

    Tyler Fultz: We try to keep this as much of a family as possible. We bring in more students who don’t always attend the pre-orientation session.

    Diane Eshelman: We also have a monthly brunch for all Transitions students.

    2017: I know you mentioned the conception of the program was initially 6 weeks. Are you planning to expand further?

    Inoa: I don’t know. I want to put energy into helping students while they are here. I don’t know if we spent a lot of time or energy to six weeks. Maybe a full week eventually. It allows for some time to relax and breathe. Now that we have two classes that have graduated, we want to get support from those alums as well.

    Lathrop: Are other staff going to be involved in the future? Additionally, there’s nobody dedicated only to transitions? What about turnover and who can take care of the program?

    Fultz: First, B is involved in the program, but not as a co-coordinator. That’s voluntary on her part. As far as a dedicated person? We want that to happen, but it’s down the line for sure.

    Inoa: CIE met with Cappy last year. They requested a post-bacc. Given some of the changes that did happen. There is something about having somebody with administrative capacity be center to the program.

    Pres: Have there been any trends you’ve noticed in Transitions students?

    Inoa: That’s interesting. If I were to do a pre-arrival major survey, many of them would start in the sciences and STEM field. That comes from pressure of wanting to get a job after Vassar. That changes once they get here. There’s an interesting pipe from the Transitions women to the rugby team? And for a while it was to the Barefoot Monkeys. I have noticed that there are students that connect really strongly and it’s neat to see those friendships carry forward.

    Fultz: Studies can be done on campus about this stuff. The CDO does these all of the time.

    Cushing: How can you get most students to attend the pre-orientation program? Are there any complaints or concerns from students?

    Inoa: It’s a little like admissions. I don’t know what we would do if everyone came. The budget isn’t built for that. What can we as an institution do for all students, first-gen, low-income? I think what we do there, a lot of students would benefit. That’s part of that brainstorming. We have that list. We continue to invite them. Do I invite some people who don’t attend those to come to meet me.

    Fultz: Because of the institutionalization of the program over years, there are places on campus that being a Transitions student can work as capital. It’s hard to know. It’s a conversation every year. We work really hard to create a different type of space in the program. Once pre-orientation ends, there’s a lot of culture shock. It takes a lot of education and outreach. We also have graduating seniors write letters to incoming freshman.

    Eshelman: We also are working on a transitions blog or website. I want faculty to contribute.

    Pres: What’s your ideal for Transitions and how can the VSA help support students?

    Inoa: I’m trying to figure out how to help students understand what they signed up for. We want more admin support. It’s in thinking about that totality of the experience. It’s monthly brunches, workshops, guaranteed paid internships your junior year. You receive support for your GRE, MCAT, LSAT your senior. You are given to the program.

    Fultz: The class gift a few years ago was to open up the IGF to seniors. Things that the VSA could do. I would love to see creative fund opportunities. One of the grants that a lot of finance focus is the Tannenbaum.

    Eshelman: I want to see our increasing cohort continue to increase. We need more human resources though. A lot of Ivy Leagues are doing similar programs. We want more money to send students to these conferences.

    Inoa: We just really need the support of the VSA for any changes we make in the future.

    Eshelman: There’s a website called I’mFirst.org. It lists colleges and universities that are low-income friendly. We are not currently on that, but we are trying to get there.

    Davison: As a house president, what can I do to help?

    Fultz: I think a lot of where these tensions play out is in residential spaces. I think a lot of it is just being intentional with these conversations. It comes from little microaggressions. We need to have intentional discussions in house teams about how to support these students.

    Eshelman: Tell your residents to lock their doors.

    Inoa: One of the things I posed to house advisors is to take a look at parlor spaces and MPRs and can they say welcome in a different way?

    Derek (at-large): Is there anything the students can do to be more open, welcome and aware?

    Inoa: Pick your head up. Make eye contact. Say good morning. It’s small things. Not specific to transitions students, all students need to do that. Be mindful though.

    8:08//New Meeting Procedures

    Ops: we are changing our meeting procedures. New discussion procedure. We want to have people introduce the motion first, one person for it, one against, then vote. We can change it if it doesn’t work out.

    8:10//VCLU Appeal to Suspend Bylaws

    Pietro Garaci: We are here because we heard that our budget is frozen and that we are suspended. We are here to propose a motion to suspend a bylaw about the one-week appeal period.

    Pieter Block: No follow-up was ever recorded. We came to this conclusion after a meeting our our exec boards. We want to have an open process here.

    Cushing: Does the VSA have records of the decision being translated to VCLU?

    Pres: No, we could not find it.

    Jesse: What’s the process?

    Pres: It would go to a Judicial board.

    Jonathon: If there are no records, then what can Jud Board do that VSA can’t?

    Pieter: We believe the board will side with the VSA, but we want to see due process. We promise to fully abide by the courts here.

    2017: I remember discussing this at the final meeting of the year prior.

    Pres: Yes, there are minutes. But nothing was communicated to VCLU.

    Pieter: There’s no doubt about the sanctions, we just want the process to go through on the record.

    Jesse: I feel very strongly in favor of this motion. Let’s put away all personal feelings. We don’t have any evidence that we let them know about the sanctions. They should have the right to go to the judicial board.

    Finance: I do think it is important that the previous goal to help VSA aide VCLU do future program. It would be beneficial to them.

    Town Students: Is there any other group this could affect?

    Pres: I think the motion is specific for VCLU.

    Abstain: 2016, Ferry, Joss, Lathrop, Town Students, Student Life, Ops

    No: Noyes, SoCos

    Pres; We need 2/3 to pass it, but we do not have that so the motion fails.


    Activities: Next week we will be doing Pre-orgs. Everyone should come to activities committee. Somebody from the wounded warrior project is looking for volunteers.

    2016: What type of event is it?

    Activities: I think it’s like a fair. You’d be working events.

    Finance: We had our first treasurer training session last week. Applications for finance committee will go out tonight. Funds are available. Three new funds were created last week. We have a new Finance co-chair, Neena. Every org should apply for a pcard.

    Cushing: Any estimate on pcards?

    Finance: Still mid-October.

    President: Serenading is next Sunday. Food will be served starting at 6:40. Voting to have our meeting is at 7:30 next week. Motion passes. Exec can only meet on Fridays until October break. Agendas will have to come out on Fridays, until October Break. Motion passes. I was cc’d on a long email chain about a lot of off-campus noise. Not from people who live off campus, but from drunk freshman looking for parties. Email VSA emails, not personal ones. Sophomore and Junior reps need to be on one VSA committee. The Campus Life Resource group is looking for students to join. It’s an open committee. Orgs can publicize their events on the VSA facebook page. Go to your committee meetings. Campus dining is going through restructuring. Starting this Friday there will be open forums for people to attend. Antony contacted me reminded me about making MetroNorth tickets free or subsidized. I also need help with food truck Friday.

    Ops: We have finally worked out a VSA restructuring group. It will be well publicized and there will be food. Open to anybody in the Vassar community.

    8:36//Constituent Concerns

    Strong: Marist has a program that gets discount Broadway tickets. We should do that.

    Noyes: Freshman do not want to go to Serenading. Joss has seconded this feeling. This is a general point of view. They don’t understand what the point is and don’t want to take time away from their families that might be here. Is it appropriate or possible to respectfully bow out?

    Joss: RIght now I’m in the process of going to all of the fellow groups in my house to get info. I would not pass down a dictate about whether or not we go without that feedback. Fundamentally, it is their experience. If they reach a near consensus to not participate, can we not?

    2018: The fact that they pushed this to be on families weekend is unfair.

    2017: Skirting the topic of hazing, parents are allowed to show up? It’s embarrassing. Every student does not need to go if they don’t want to attend.

    Cushing: My house team wasn’t excited about it because of the timing. If all house teams are not feeling excited, then what is our role?

    Joss: I don’t know if this is a solution, but not every freshman in my house is going to say no. What if we bit the bullet, but just had the freshman who want to participate in one place.

    2017: Is there a different way for seniors to interact with your house?

    Noyes: Maybe we should table it and have a BHP meeting. My objection is not logistical, but philosophical.

    Cushing: Living conditions in residential houses. This past week we had bees, cockroaches, wasps, pests that are a health risk. I think it is incompetent of this college to not provide us safe spaces to live in. We will write up a resolution.

    2017: There is one exterminator.

    2018: Our house advisor mentioned the idea of putting picnic tables somewhere for a few houses.

    Pres: Reslife doesn’t pay to renovate the dorms. I’ve mentioned that the mice are coming from their old home (where the new science building is).

    2016: It costs $21 mil to renovate Davi.

    Abby: Our houses are not accessible.

    Jesse: It’s not legal to have buildings that are not accessible to people that are differently abled.

    TA: There’s not enough parking for the TAs. The TA house fellow has not responded to my emails. What can I do?

    Pres: Email up the line.

    2018: Student Fellows want to know about student fellow funds.

    2017: It’s through reimbursement.

    Cushing: Talk to Christina.

    Joss: I would like to inquire about how House Presidents don’t get compensated for our time.

    Main: Safety on campus. Not great. How do we make people feel more safe.

    2017: More needs to happen on the weekends so people don’t just get drunk.

    Pres: VSA gave money last year. Is that institutionalized?

    Finance: No idea.

    2016: it was to me, from Activities.

    Jesse: Will people  go to these events?

    2017: Yes they would. Even just 30 people is good enough.

    Pres: ViCE should be doing stuff. They are Vassar College Entertainment.

    Finance: ViCE Film should be doing this, but they also have a discretionary fund. Reach out to them.

    Pres: We should have ViCE here when we talk about them.

    2018: I’m interested in 2017’s comment about people having shame of not drinking on the weekends. I think there are a bunch of events, but it’s later in the night that need programming.

    2017: It’s clear there are a lot of events going on on campus.

    Jesse: As a freshman who does not drink, it can be quite difficult to socialize. It can be difficult late at night that doesn’t involve drinking. Something has to change about how we perceive alcohol.

    Strong: A late night Friday shuttle would be nice.

    Town Students: Can we bring ViCE in here?

    Jonathon: speaking of off-campus, I think it’s important how we frame this.

    2017: There is a $2 movie theater. After the mall.

    9:12//Open Discussion

    Finance: Thanks for coming in on Friday.

    Jesse: VCLU’s discussion. Why did people say no or abstain? We set up the college for a lawsuit.

    2016: I abstained because I was the one who made a majority of the decision last year.

    Jonathon: The reason it failed was because of an administrative thing. It requires a certain number. It would be a more productive discussion to talk about procedure than shame people for abstaining.

    Pres: Exec is meeting with Cappy and Chris Roellke this week.

    Main: How do people feel about the space?

    Noyes: I like Kenyon.

    Ops: We can move around.

    Lathrop: I prefer Kenyon.

    2018: I think we already have trouble getting people to attend. Main is better located.

  • mariesolis 12:02 am on December 8, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: CCL, Security, sexual assault, student handbook, Title IX, VSA   

    VSA Council | December 7, 2014 

    Hey, everyone! Marie here, outgoing Editor-in-Chief, liveblogging the final VSA meeting of the semester! We’ll be getting started shortly.

    7:02 p.m.//Call to Order, Attendance
    Proxy: Noyes, SoCos

    7:03 p.m.//Judicial Board appointment

    Jewett: We interviewed six people. All of them were pretty qualified. We decided to go with Leah Brown. She had done her research and had some concrete ideas she would like to implement moving forward, so we are recommending here.

    7:04 p.m.//Consensus Agenda
    a. Generation (PreOrg) $200/$200
    b. VCLU (Speakers) Tabled/$5000
    c. SJP (PreOrg) $90/$200
    d. VARC (Capital) $119.85/$119.85
    e. UNICEF (Speakers) $3000/$3000
    f. ViCE Film (Social Consciousness) $4000/$8000
    g. Shiva Theater (Capital) Tabled/$7800
    h. Minutes From 11/30/14

    7:04 p.m.//CCL forum

    Casey Hancock: Our purview of the past has been to make policy changes to the college regulations. In the past we’ve discussed things such as the keg ban, the transition to a smoke and tobacco-free campus and issues of that kind. We’re comprised of six students and about six faculty members. The six students include class reps, the three of us and one who isn’t here, as well as Hannah and the BHP co-chair, Drew. We’ve had three meetings; we usually meet monthly. During the first meeting we discussed the situation with off-campus parties as well as the security audit. We also discussed moving the student handbook online. The November meeting we looked at the draft video surveillance policy that has to do with under what circumstances security would use video surveillance. We talked about places that have card-swipe access or places that have hazardous materials or information. We then spent 45 minutes going through the Title IX presentation and talked about specific changes that are new this year. Worth noting: Julian [Williams] did think we’re ahead of the curve nationally. We can do better, but policy-wise we’re not behind. We also met with the committee in charge of the smoking ban. They gave us a timeline and told what their plans are.

    Other CCL rep: They already have a plan in place for faculty and staff if they violate the ban, but they don’t know what they’ll do about students.

    Hancock: You can possess tobacco, but you can’t consume it. Faculty housing is a smoke-exempt zone. Then we had a looser discussion about what the role of the committee was.

    Other CCL rep: Chris Roellke was not at this meeting.

    Hancock: It was also under-attended by high-level administrators. We also talked about, for example, Res Life should pass things through this committee or another committee for shared governance. Basically the attendance agenda for the rest of the year has to do with safety and security. I haven’t seen a lot of regulations in that study. One of the members in our committee is the head of the Safety and Security committee whose purview is so broad that it’s impossible for them to be effective. I think that’s where CCL might come in to help out.

    Main: I thought it was interesting that there was a lack of administrative attendance and input. This committee has the potential to effect change on campus, but it’s not doing anything right now. We should push it that way.

    Other CCL rep: It might be that the meetings were scheduled without any of the administrators’ input. So that might be a reason for the low attendance.

    President: You mentioned the changes in sexual assault policy. Specifically incapacitation. What are those changes?

    Hancock: My freshman year, it was sort of marketed as incapacitation being about someone not being able to give consent under any circumstances under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Now the policy determines the question of reasonability. There wasn’t a lot of comparison to the past, so I’m not sure.

    Cushing: Doesn’t consent have to be sober?

    Hancock: That’s not what the Vassar policy is and that’s not a legal standard. But that’s what our policy is saying now. I don’t think this was well-covered in orientation.

    Cushing: So the policy is that consent doesn’t have to be sober?

    Hancock: On the books, it says that they know how, what, when, where and why they’re doing what they’re doing then they can give consent. People have sex all the time drunk and would consider it consensual.

    Cushing: I think consensual sex is whatever the person deems it is consensual. You can have consensual sex while you’re drunk if you think you want to have sex while drunk.

    Hancock: Our policy as it was before made it so that by our standards, even if two people consented to sex but we’re drunk they would have both committed sexual assault.

    2018: How did they come up with this and make it a solid thing when it was so vague?

    Hancock: I can look up what it says exactly, if you give me a couple seconds.

    Other CCL rep: We did discuss at our most recent meeting that CCL should push for more education to get the campus to understand that this is what the policy really is. None of us knew that and I don’t think the faculty knew either.

    Hancock: The admin. who consistently shows up has been through sexual assault training and interpersonal violence training.

    Other CCL rep: It’s changed since Casey has been here and it needs to be put out there as information.

    Hancock: We talked about a lot of things we could be doing at the last meeting. Here’s what the policy says [paraphrased]: “Incapacitation is when someone cannot make reasonable decisions and cannot give consent. Someone may be incapacitated by alcohol, drug use or disability…When alcohol or other drugs are being used the person is considered incapacitated if they cannot recall the circumstances of the situation. I.e. the who, what, when, where, why or how.”

    Finance: When did the policy change?

    Hancock: I assume it was over the summer. Since Julian came–previously the other person we had in that position wasn’t amazing at their job. Julian is sort of an expert in this field and his work before dealt specifically with this kind of law in higher education institution.

    Finance: Given that none of us knew that this policy was changed…it doesn’t seem there was a lot of student input in this policy change. What’s the process for changing something in the student handbook? Since we’re not involved, I assumed CCL was the group responsible for this.

    Hancock: We recommend changes to Cappy. Sometimes it’s respected and sometimes it never hits our committee. Technically, Cappy can change whatever she wants. Historically, if there’s a change in state law there will be a change.

    Student Life: A lot of our college policies, especially related to Title IX, are designed so we will not get sued. Any policy that says “the presence of alcohol means sexual assault” would make for some kind of lawsuit. Especially considering Vassar is currently being sued by someone who was expelled for assault. I think remembering the legal context is important. Julian has a law degree.

    SoCos: I’m flabbergasted right now. Frankly, Julian made this change to make our policies worse. There is definitely a space for figuring out how to address that. It sounds like CCL wants to send out an email and make this policy clear. Is there a method by which CCL can make a push for this to change to when it was a better policy? I don’t feel good about us just letting it sit there and then making sure people know it.

    Hancock: We could put it back on the agenda and discuss it. To be honest, we’re not a representative group. It might be more effective for VSA to write a letter, resolution and make a recommendation for how the College should move forward. I don’t think the group of people CCL has can effect that change and I don’t think we would be able to represent everyone correctly.

    President: When was this discussed?

    Hancock: November.

    Cushing: Does this mean that if policy changes happen that no one’s going to know about them?

    Other CCL rep: We didn’t come to a conclusion about that, just that we need to publicize them.

    Hancock: One of the admins. talked about how when they go through orientations–they have to go through and read things and take a test on it like alcohol edu and that was talked about a way of making sure students know about these policy changes.

    Cushing: You said this would be a case-by-case process. Will this be a victim-centered approach like people claim? Is there a statement about that?

    Other CCL rep: I don’t remember that ever being mentioned.

    Cushing: We can’t let this go because I don’t feel comfortable doing that. I can be the point person for talking about this on VSA.

    Finance: As horrified as I am by the current policy, I don’t feel qualified to speak on this matter because I’m not a sexual assault advocate or lawyer. What does concern me is that it seems to be a unilateral move by the admins. who are supposed to be working in our best interest. I feel like I don’t have to know everything about sexual assault because I trust that there is a process that functions. We’re supposed to be student leaders but none of us even knew about this policy change. It was my experience as house president that people would ask me questions unrelated to what I do on VSA because people do look to us as leaders on this campus. But now I don’t feel comfortable talking about a lot of these policies, not just because I’m not qualified to talk about them but because I don’t even know about them. This represents a major change in our sexual assault policy and it’s December and none of us knew about it. There’s a problem with how CCL was viewed: I was always under the assumption that even though Cappy and the President’s Office all had final say, that things were run by us. Given all of the atrocious stuff that’s happened this semester, the institution is to blame. I feel powerless to combat that without being treated like a student leader or at least someone who is trusted with that information. I admire Essie’s comment that this is not something we should let go.

    Raymond: Orientation has already been planned, so that’s not a space where that can happen.

    Joss: First off, thanks for coming in and dealing with delivering this administrative news. The policy became effective the beginning of this school year?

    Hancock: The only thing I can say is that every year at the beginning of the year I check the links between our website and the admin. website. I can check the last time they updated it, but they don’t have a date on this one. At the beginning of the year we talked about how these changes didn’t make it into this year’s print copy.

    Finance: So the copy that was given to students has all of the incorrect information?

    Hancock: Yes.

    President: It was also presented to us that changes had been made but that Julian was going to oversee everything. But there was no mention of changing the standards of what would constitute incapacitation. It was presented as being purely procedural.

    Joss: Do the people that make out the changes and the people who dish out the punishments know that freshmen are being presented with the wrong information?

    Hancock: I would venture to guess no. I think when Julian makes these changes he assumes that the College is going to recognize these things and represent them properly. But the person who oversees Res Life hasn’t shown up at all this year. The governance of the College specifies: Dean of the College, Dean of Students, Chris Roellke’s intern, Class reps, a faculty rep, the VP for Student Life, Assistant Dean of the College for Campus Life and Diversity. There are 13 people.

    Finance: Is there published attendance?

    Hancock: It’s a closed committee. You could email and ask about it. There’s a faculty person, Jane Parker who hasn’t been coming. DB Brown hasn’t been coming at all.

    President: We’ll be meeting with Chris Roellke tomorrow, so we’ll talk to him about this. I’ll be sure to update you all on that. Unfortunately, this is our last VSA meeting of the year, but I’ll send out an email letting everyone know what comes out of this conversation. This is a huge change and people need to know about it and we need to do something about it.

    7:36 p.m.// Forum with ViCE

    Maya: I’m Maya and I’m the director of Vice.

    Jason: I’m Jason and I’m the assistance director.

    Maya: ViCE has done a lot this semester–at least one event per week. We did Student Music’s Halloween Showcase. We had students show up and do imitations of their favorite artists in the Shiva. For film we did a screening of Chef that was really great. No-ViCE and ViCE jazz have had a couple great shows this semester and they had their last one last night which was really successful. We did fall fest on the library lawn, which was fun.

    Jason: ViCE music had serenading, which was underattended.

    Hancock: That was mostly because of the weather and location change.

    Maya: Looking to the future, we’re thinking about making the serenade concert smaller.

    Hancock: There’s a lot of stuff coming next semester. We don’t want to say names of specific change, but we have a big speaker coming in February.

    Maya: We also have a big screening coming.

    Hancock: There will be a screening and very large speaker. Since we decided not to have a big fall concert, they’re instead using their funds to have a large spring concert which will be in collaboration with Chris Roellke to have an art thing during the day. We’re already trying to lock down a few artists for that. That’ll be really exciting.

    President: A lot of the focus for ViCE in the past has been on music and concerts. I know there’s been talk of moving it to general campus events.

    Maya: The other chair of special events is Sarah King and she wants to make the silent disco happen. We’re possibly going to have that at the end of the semester. Those events are more expensive so we can’t do as much, but we’re trying to do a lot of other little things. We also tried to get Instagram dogs–we tried to get Marnie, but her fee is $1500, so we couldn’t do that. But we’re going to try to bring dogs.

    Hancock: There are certain acts that bring a lot of people, but those costs have been rising. There’s a balancing act that we’ve been doing all year long, finance-wise.

    Ops: My favorite ViCE special event last year was the hypnotist, so if you could bring that back, that’d be great.

    Maya: Yeah, we’ve been talking about that. Thanks for your input. Another thing we’d like the VSA’s input on is on the bigger acts we bring. The people who usually join the general body of ViCE are really into music so they’ll talk to a DJ who probably no one’s ever heard of. We’re trying to decide whether we want to do polling or focus groups, but it would be helpful in the future if you could be representatives of the campus to get that input. Last year was cool.

    7:44 p.m.//Exec Reports

    Student Life: There’s a lot happening in campus climate, but there’s a lot happening there and maybe an update isn’t the right format to talk about those things. So, Charlotte is our new SAVP coordinator. She has enough of a background in data analysis that transitioning into the campus climate survey has gone smoothly. It’s pretty much done and so we’ve been working with that and trying to make that version of the survey better than our peer institutions while still being able to compare the data. One, we have to check, legally, what questions we can and can’t ask about perpetration. The survey is supposed to be anonymous, but if they College has a certain amount of information about sexual assault they are legally required to investigate. So if someone reveals a lot of information about themselves and says they have perpetrated sexual assault, they’ll have to look into it. We have to figure out what those implications are. We’re also going to craft questions about stalking and domestic violence. That might take a little longer as the peer institutions we’re working with aren’t asking these questions on their surveys. We’re hoping to get hype around this survey to get good data and get a feel for what’s happening on this campus. We’re going to start reaching out to student groups after we come back from break. Second, is anyone here van-certified and here tomorrow between 12 and 2 p.m.? The VSA is renting two vans to help the BSU go to another protest. I can only drive one of them, so we’re looking for another driver. Third, there’s a letter from DB Brown that contained an apology and stated change of policy in response to the Boilerplate article. Basically DB Brown who is not part of the Title IX process–so he’s not legally allowed to know the details of the situation–is allowed to know about whether or not a no-contact order has been filed. However, he was going to send an apology to us in writing about his inappropriate and triggering behavior. He wants to make it so that if someone is in the process of a Title IX investigation they will never have to go see him. There’s no reason someone really should. When you’re in the process of an investigation all of your interactions with admins. are colored by that. We’re going to disseminate the letter when we get it. Most students don’t totally understand the structure of the College, so most people don’t understand that DB has nothing to do with Title IX. It looks defensive if he says that, so it’s going to come from us. I’m on the CIE subcommittee for faculty training. We’re going to meet in the coming weeks. Our intention is to refine the faculty training recommendation put forward by CIE last year. We’re also talking about the mental health petition. It is the recommendation of the Student Life committee that these four things should happen: 1. We secure the post-doc position for another year 2. We hire another full time staff member 3. We get more hours for someone who can prescribe drugs 4. Vassar College insure another practitioner, because right now we only have one. Next thing: A lot of the campus climate conversations haven’t been held through the committee structure. Lastly, what we as the VSA can do: We care about our constituents and I’ve been thinking about how we can better serve those populations. The best thing we can do know is provide people with resources and information, specifically about the structure of the College. In one of my classes my professor let me go up to the board and explain the administrative structure. That can be really helpful because knowing that Bob Walton is the person to talk to about the early buyout incentive, or Roellke is DB’s boss, Julian Williams’ work is informed by the legal obligations of Title IX. He kind of works for the law more than he works for us. Sharing that information–why isn’t the College disseminating that info is what people ask, but I’m beginning to think that’s one of the best things we can do to get involved with activism on campus. We can use what we know from VSA to help people effect change. We can explain how everything works. We should be making a better effort to go out into the community and empower the people we’re supposed to be representing.

    2015: I definitely agree about our role in disseminating info. In order to do that, we need to make sure the info we’re disseminating is correct. I would like guidance in terms of disseminating.

    Student Life: It sounds super boring, but reading parts of the handbook–the information in the handbook is pretty much everything you need to know. The version online is correct. Often we talk about activism on campus and pretend it’s not people we’re in classes with and friends with, so even if it’s just you as a person helping someone out who’s not specifically your constituent, that’s helpful.

    Finance: I’m going to go through the consensus agenda. Generation asked for $200 so they could buy materials for crafts. VSU requested $5000 to bring in a Vassar alum who’s a speech writer for the second Bush administration. We asked to table it because they had no cosponsors. SJP asked for $200–pre-orgs are entitled to operating budgets. We gave them $90 because it’s December. VARC requested $119.85 for heated water bowls for feral cats. Unicef requested $3000 to bring in a speaker who speaks on sex-trafficking. ViCE’s fund app was approves: They requested $8000 that I thought was too much and I think they are underestimating the amount of money they can get from Chris and Cappy’s office. We gave them $4000. Shiva wants to buy equipment. Because Finance meets on Wednesdays we had to have everyone submit their fund apps before Thanksgiving for up to next semester. So I made it so that you can still submit fund apps and we’ll have a meeting this Wednesday too. It’s what’s best for the students. I’ll email everything out as a consensus agenda. We conducted three audits this semester, all of them should be completed. What will come out of those audits is a one-page report of the orgs that were audited. The idea is that we spend a lot of money on these orgs, so everyone should be very aware of how these orgs operate and what they spend money on. We’ll conduct three more next semester. I’m not sure which ones we’ll audit, Hip Hop 101 will be one of them. This semester we did The Misc, WVKR and ViCE. I will continue to approve reimbursement and direct-pay requests sporadically. If you have stuff you haven’t been reimbursed for, you need to do it before the end of this week. This semester the new structure of Finance committee really worked. We’re going to continue it next semester. If you’re a VSA council member you can still join. CIRC is meeting on Tuesday to discuss divestment proposals.

    President: I just want to encourage everyone to use our resources on campus: CARES, TLC, Metcalf. This week has been really heated on campus. It’s a tough time in general but all of this can be triggering.

    Ops: I had a Google hangout with the Seven Sisters’ student governments today. I think it would be good if the administration held a space for healing on campus. Eve Dunbar was there and it was really good because it gave people a chance to talk about their feelings and it helped admins. make an action plan for the spring. The VSA is going to try to provide resources to orgs: Like renting vans for BSU and things like that. Other schools suggested we outlined a memorandum for admin or we can provide support for other students who are already working on these issues. One thing Bryn Mawr does after their meetings is hold a hot topic forum and they bring in students to facilitate discussion. People here have talked about how we don’t discuss big issues on the council floor and that might be a way for us to combat that. Another thing: Other schools already have diversity training for administration, faculty and students and that might bolster our case for that. Bryn Mawr has a position for a diversity assistant. We could look into that. People here have been pushing for our orientations to be focused on social justice and identity. Right now at Smith their entire orientation is social justice themed. We like to copy our peer institutions, so we can look into that too.

    Student Life: Our committee isn’t meeting for the rest of the year, but I wonder how we can use our positions to support people for the rest of the semester. I’m curious about what you all think that should look like.

    President: I also want to say that I’ve been meeting throughout the last week with numerous administrators, alums, trustees, faculty to talk about these issues and solutions. There are clear recommendations and plans coming out of the administration. That list should be coming out soon. When I do get it I’ll let you all know. There are some short-term actions that can be implemented immediately. Coming back from break, the goal is for this campus to look different and for students to see change while we look at long-term action. If any of you have ideas, please come to me as I speak to them almost every day. They’re looking for clear solutions and idea. A lot of people don’t know what to do, but there will be concrete things coming in the future.

    TAs: If any of us wants to support different action, rallies, things like that, we should acknowledge that we on this council have privilege others don’t have. I can only speak for myself but don’t forget that when we enter a space and you’re invited into that space, recognize that even if it helps for you to step up, also remember to step back.

    Finance: I think that what we need to be doing as a student government right now is re-establishing our lines of communication with the powers that be at this institution because we are failing to disseminate information. This school has a lot of “sometimes” procedures. Sometimes things go to the VSA, but not always. Sometimes things go to CCL, but not always. Students need to know how decisions are being made. But I think we really dropped the ball this semester because we’re only realizing now the shit has hit the fan and we’re really not able to hold people responsible for these issues because we don’t understand the College’s structures well enough to help. While a lot of that is the admins.’ fault, we need to stop focusing on things that don’t matter and aren’t important to students at this school. For example, that our sexual assault policies have changes over the summer and our student handbook has the wrong info. A lot of the stuff we do is just gravy. Maybe doing resolution amending isn’t as important as our sexual assault policies. We need to acknowledge the limited of information we have in this room. Every person on this campus is represented by someone in this room, but I don’t think we’re doing enough to represent them. Exec needs to bring up in every meeting from now on that our lines of communication are failing and we need to establish who are in these committees, who’s not showing up. We also need to make an apology: I’m horrified at our level of misrepresentation. I think that we’ve done students an injustice and we need to do everything to rectify that, but I think we need to apologize.

    Student Life: Do people think a BIRT forum would be productive? One problem with BIRT is that things only go to them if they’re reported. We can ask them to talk about things, but it’s being tossed around as a solution to a lot of things that are happening. The people that are on it are probably the best people on campus to work on those issues. But it was heartbreaking to me to be at a forum to have a student ask who they’re supposed to talk to about this shit and they didn’t know BIRT was that body. Are we giving students false hope in BIRT, though? BIRT can act as a mediator and communicate and isn’t a punitive body. But maybe a forum with them would be too hostile. I feel like any forums with admin. right now have the potential to get unproductive really fast, so I’m wondering if this is something worth pursuing.

    Strong: I think it’s something that we need, but this isn’t the best time. Everyone’s going into finals, it’s a tense time. But it could be very beneficial at the beginning of next semester.

    TAs: Reaching out to different groups to see what they think and if this is what they want could be good.

    Student Life: It wouldn’t be a VSA thing, it would be a BIRT thing.

    Maddy (at-large): I disagree with Strong–this could be very stressful for people. Going into finals with all of this on their mind, it might be nice for people to get this information and it could relieve some stress.

    Joss: Admin. can’t just expect us to forget about it. Throw a bunch of papers at us and then just deal with it.

    Activities: I agree that we should do it this semester because the people who it’s affecting most so need this. It should cross over with next semester: Maybe have a forum now and then next semester make a quick how-to sheet for BIRT. It could be maybe given out at the beginning of next semester. We need to show them that after break we’re not forgetting that these things are happening.

    President: The administration is willing to do these things. There was an email set out by Ed Pittman about a space of healing. Admins. will not be in attendance for that because they want it to be a space to heal. I will bring this idea to them.

    2018: Maybe we need a place that has a how-to for everything, where it’s one screen and it can say like “what happened?” and they just click through. There are so many active ways to disseminate info, but there are so many different places. We should have one page that’s just like, “how-to anything,” that would be helpful for students.

    Student Life: I think that’s dope. Each committee should collect all of that info and we could probably put it up before spring break. When we talk about the College I think we do an active disservice to dialogue when we say “the Administration.” If we are in a position where we can name names–this office or this person is doing this–by framing things as “the Administration wants to” we gloss over the people who are administrators at Vassar who have good politics and are working to make progress. We give students a bad model for dialogue when we say everything is “the Administration.” People don’t have anything against Wendy, the director of Metcalf. When people say “The Administration doesn’t want more Metcalf counselors” that’s wrong because Wendy does.

    2017: I think we need to be careful in assuming that the frustration is that students don’t understand the structure. It could be that they understand the structure fine and see that it’s not working. I do think conversations with certain administrators in a forum with BIRT would be valuable. But we should also keep in mind that a forum and telling people more about the structure may not solve the frustration.

    2015: We really need to start recognizing our own role in this. Because we’re representatives we have a different role than angry students. We need to stop talking about the admin. as the system because we are the system. We played a role in this this semester. We need to address that moving forward we need to talk about the way we disseminate info to the student body. When people go to forums, most of the people who attend are the people who are already interested in the issue and probably know the info. The recent campus climate issues are really upsetting because I don’t believe that anyone on this campus is intentionally trying to hurt anyone on this campus. But I strongly believe these are issues we’re all facing from a relatively more homogenous standpoint than in the country. Nobody wants to see sexual assault on campus. When we address these issues we need to try to work to try to solve these problems, recognize the holes in the system and actually take action.

    Cushing: Hannah, thank you for your comment about the administration. I’ve talked to people who aren’t considered the administration: Luis, for example. A lot of them are hurt because we refer to the Administration as a whole. They expressed that they are trying so hard, but they aren’t getting any response. One really important thing is that I spoke to a lot of my professors: The faculty is not being respected at this college and it’s important to recognize that. The WMST department, for example, is willing to hold a talk about gender politics and sexual assault and then talk to the administration about these issues and be a bridge between the students and the Administration. They want to fill this gap because although the senior administrators don’t talk to us, they do respect that the faculty is getting angry as well. We should appreciate the fact that they’re actually open to talking about these issues and not use them as a resource, but bridge the gap through them. We talk about taking action a lot, which I appreciate; however, I still do not know what this action is. We need forums, but this is all conversation and we’ve been having conversations for such a long time. They don’t lead to anything. Right now we’re brainstorming for ways to take action, but there’s still nothing. These are small steps and all we can do, but it’s not leading together in my mind.

    President: I think Essie brings up good points. Every person in this room was elected to be a leader for their constituency and every person in this room should be feel responsible for doing something. As far as I know–and I hold myself and everyone responsible–if you’re not concretely doing anything and not contributing to the solution don’t say other people aren’t doing anything. You can reach out to admins and take action yourself. Saying something needs to be done and not doing anything yourselves in inherently hypocritical. It’s easy to point out where other people are fucking up, but I think we all need to stop pointing fingers. We have a level of privilege to be here. I don’t think any person in this room likes what’s going on on campus. Your job is not just to plan a dorm event this semester.

    Bethan (at-large): I think it might be an important thing to talk to student groups and student leaders and admins. whose job it is to be trained in these issues before you take these actions. While you have a great sense of what the VSA can do, some of the best thing I see is talking to students first rather than taking a top-down approach. I just want to make sure that whatever actions you’re taking isn’t just one thing in one committee, talking to one tokenized person to get to these solutions. In my experience in past years, it happens quite often. Oftentimes the VSA falls all over themselves and try to take a bunch of action in a week without talking to students about whether that action is healthy or productive. The actions should be well considered and well timed. It’s also about the quality of the action. We have seen poor quality things happening from student leadership.

    President: By “take action” I meant thinking critically about ways to support students more. I think a big part too is supporting students who are doing meaningful action.

    Academics: In all of this I have yet to see any concrete things: The only concrete things I’ve seen is the letter from SART in The Misc that listed concrete actions to take. We’re meeting with Chris tomorrow and we could bring him a list of things we can do. I want to re-open the conversation about a social consciousness requirement. I’m going to advocate for proposals to encourage faculty to start asking people’s pronouns. Maybe we can use this space here right now to come up with ideas.

    Main: One of my high school teachers is a sexual education teacher and it would be great if we brought him back. Hearing things about orientation this year, I think it would be good.

    2017: Whenever there are decisions that Cappy and Chris are making that affect sexual assault victims, if we could set up some way so that we cut out of the middleman and facilitate them talking directly to students that’s not in a forum where people are just yelling back and forth.

    2018: We’re talking about communication to the Administration better: No matter what type of situation it is–whether it’s the VSA as a whole asking them something or students crying at them at the Villard Room–they’re not listening, or at least not in an effective way. I’d like them to hear us and do something about it. I’d like to see money be spent in better ways. There’s so much money floating around and we’re asking for Metcalf counselors. I just see $200 going to an org for something and that could be going to Metcalf. I don’t understand how the money works, but I think it could be spent much better.

    Lathrop: I support what Academics said about a social consciousness requirement.

    Finance: I think we lost our seat at the table. I don’t know when that happened, but it did. And now all of these decisions are being made and there’s no student input. We have the structure that certain administrators, if not the entire Administration, refuses to work with. We’re supposed to be the students’ representatives, but there’s obviously a big miscommunication. Concretely, I’d like to see that when there are concrete changes that are going to be made that they ask us whether they’re a good idea. It’s really scary to me–I think there are a lot of people that understand the structure of the school and are frustrated by it, but there are other people who don’t understand the structure and that has scary implications for things like sexual assault. That affects the way people act in a terrifying way. The way we conceive of sexual assault doesn’t align with the rules. Especially since when I question whether something I’m doing is in violation of the rules I pick up the student handbook, which we just found out is wrong. I think that not publicizing changes to the student handbook is a stupid thing to do and it puts students in danger.

    Activities: Problematic language from faculty–if a professor says something inappropriate, who do you talk to? I’d like to make those channels more clear.

    President: I think in the short-term, there needs to be clear explanation for why the sexual assault policy has changed. I also think we need to address issues of language in classes, specifically the pronouns at the beginning of the semester. We need to advocate more effectively. Our seat at the table has been lost and there hasn’t been effective expressing of what’s happened. That needs to change.

    Ops: Something that’s been on my mind since the Margolis Healy forum on Tuesday: The amount of pain for students of color on this campus–if some of us get hurt, we all hurt. This room is not diverse, we do not represent the student body. A lot of my issue has been grappling with how to deal with this as a student leader and personally. I think one thing I would like to see is that somehow our student orientation needs to teach how to treat students properly. There needs to be a tectonic shift on this campus.

    Student Life: The gender-neutral bathroom committee is still happening. Driving students to and from protests on the VSA dime. Sitting on the faculty committee and advocating for faculty training. And promoting a culture of kindness on campus. It’s one thing to quote political theorists, but I’m getting really sick of the way we treat everyone on campus. People say the VSA isn’t doing their job, but this is the only forum where you can shame your peer for saying you’re not doing enough to fix racism, which is messed up. Not that we can’t do more, but at the end of the day this is an extracurricular activity we do. We’re all full-time students.

    Cara: My friend says it’s frustrating for students who are trying to talk to faculty members–they want to make sure faculty isn’t overriding the work students have been doing all year. They can help the situation but there needs to be a more coordinated effort and meeting between those activist groups.

    TAs: At the beginning of the semester, Student Life reached out to identity-based orgs about maintaining a clear and constant line of communication with those orgs. Reaching out to students is, if not the number-one priority, it should be. I don’t want to call anyone out, but this isn’t just an extracurricular thing, but it’s a student voice filtered through us. One action is the Vassar Transparency Coalition will be pushing just for transparency in the school’s investments, but from my view many of the issues of race, gender, interpersonal violence, they center around things not being clear.

    Jewett: As leaders we often don’t know what the deal is–we need to gain a better understanding of how everything works and be better leaders.

    Joss: We need to put pressure on administrators–better housing for trans* students, more sensitivity training, a dissemination of BIRT’s functioning.

    Activities: A lot of themes that have been expressed is a lack of people of color on our council. There’s an ALANA council that meets every other week. I know being in a leadership circle that that conversations we have, if I’m not there, people don’t know what’s going on on council or with administration. There are a lot of policies that identity orgs aren’t aware of.

    2018: Personally at the beginning of the year I wanted to go to the ALANA center, but I didn’t want to make people uncomfortable because it might not be appropriate for me to be in that space. How do you propose I reach out to them?

    Activities: The question is whether they’re comfortable having you in spaces they need to make safe for themselves. We do need allies especially in times of crises…but if you ask and show a genuine interest and have worked to understand and know your space of privilege and don’t take the lead in these spaces, you’re generally welcome there. As long as you care.

    2015: A lot of the advice I’ve gotten about that is that it’s about being there but not about controlling the situation in any way. You need to understand your privilege and have done your research so people aren’t trying to catch you up. If you have valuable information to offer, do so without redirecting the conversation.

    Cushing: I do remember some talk about BIRT, but is it possible to create a database where we don’t breach confidentiality, but we talk about how BIRT has been responding historically? Giving examples for how to go through the process can be more comprehensive. There are a lot of things happening on Facebook that no one else other than the students actually see. We love writing things down online, but instead of going to a forum, using the Internet is very helpful because there are a lot of voices being expressed there. Another thing is where the College’s endowment is being spent–making that info more accessible to students rather than just making it for students who understand Finance. That’s a lot of money. We have a lot of money as the VSA and if the response is not coming from the senior administration we can allocate some of our budget to those things. Accessibility: I don’t know how much money it is to make one building accessible, but maybe we can give money to things like that. I’m willing to give money from our budgets. Another thing is a clear definition of consent. In CARES we think that it is informed consent, which means sober and verbal and all of that. We didn’t know that there was another definition coming from somewhere else. One definition of consent to be emailed to the student body is something we really need.

    2017: This is getting back to orientation: One thing that would be great for us to push for–which I had a brief conversation about with DB Brown–is that we’re using a lot of words that we assume people know what we mean. There’s no vocabulary 101 seminar for words like “racism” or “privilege.” Because there’s not that, I think that leads to people hearing those words a lot without understanding the definition and then they tune out of the conversation. During my orientation it became apparent that when we talked about privilege, no two people had the same idea about what it meant. I think that would get students on the same page a lot earlier.

    Ferry: This is for Academics: I think it needs to be clear what you can do when you’re in a classroom setting and your professor is disenfranchising students. What do you do when you have a sociology professor who can throw out the word “black privilege?” If you can’t get them fired you need to find a way to make sure students aren’t taking these same classes again. Professors need to know who in their own departments don’t know their subject matter. Students shouldn’t have to fight for their own identity.

    Bethan (at-large): The other thing that maybe students don’t like hearing is that, while there are a huge amount of students who are upset, a lot of the issues we have are issues between students. I like the concept of doing things as orientation, but as a senior I vaguely remember what orientation is like, but there needs to be things done all four years. Gender pronouns is something that students mess up too. While we need to hold upper-level administrators responsible, you as student leaders should also be looking to encourage students to respect other students. The administration is mishandling what students are doing to each other.

    President: For the library incident from last year, we all talk about Security but no one talks about the fact that it was a student who called Security.

    TAs: Shout out to all the poets who were at the Wordsmiths poetry slam the other day. And a big shout out to the people who made it to the team.

    Main: Big props to Cushing the Greens for their art event.

    9:12 p.m.//Council adjourned

  • mariesolis 12:02 am on November 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: master planning, Residential Life, Vassar, VSA   

    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-

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