SGO Board Meeting 11.12.17: Chartering, Funding and Academic Policies
by Catriona Anderson
David Pipkin '18, one of the co-Presidents of SGO, began the meeting, a few minutes late as Jason Jin '20, the usual note taker, could not be present.
Calla Bush '20 presented progress of the Environmental Subcommittee, such as creating a listserv of environmental groups, organizing a future campus discussion of carbon tax and "moving forwards," and organizing information sessions on the carbon tax.
Gus Burchell '20, the Chair of Student Organizations, stated that the Student Organizations Committee (SOC) had decided to stop requiring student groups seeking a charter to adhere to "the goals and principles of Swarthmore according to SOC," as this violated college policies about free expression. He stated that SOC is currently working with eighteen groups that had submitted a statement of interest for a charter and that the deadline for fall charters was coming up. A change from previous years is that clubs chartered in the fall will receive a temporary budget from a store of $3,000 in SOC funding.
Josie Hung '19 suggested an info session on SOC. Burchell stated it would be later probably after winter break. Hung then recommended an alternate process for closed groups in order to avoid publicizing the names of their members. This was a legitimate concern for some groups such as Colors, whose members worried about being outed as queer, she added. Pipkin expressed support. Burchell said that SOC had not had time to discuss the issue.
Roman Shemakov, the chair of SBC, mentioned his committee's work on making half price monthly SEPTA passes available to students. His group was also working on a comprehensive packet for treasurers in response to the concerns of Brandon Ekweonu '20, Catrìona Anderson '20, and Maya Henry '20 (not present) that materials for treasurers were insufficient and/or poorly advertised. Bush pointed out that such materials were available with a Google search. Ekweonu said that it wouldn't occur to many people to Google and Anderson disputed the contention that the materials were sufficiently clear and comprehensive.
Hung said that SGO in general had an advertising problem, with many students unaware of what SGO does or what SGO stands for. A redesign of the website was planned.
The next meeting topic discussed was whether a name or mission change invalidated a previously issued charter. This came up because Mountain Justice had changed both its name and vision when it became part of the Sunrise Movement. Bush said that in her opinion there had been a significant change in vision. While Mountain Justice had been specifically focused on advocating for Swarthmore College to divest funds from the fossil fuel industry, Sunrise mission statement made no reference to divestment and instead focused on promoting climate justice in the external world. There was a concern that Sunrise's fall semester events had been off-campus, fueling the concern that this was not what SBC had agreed to fund. They also fired their treasurer who was not on board with the larger Sunrise movement.
Hung explained that changing a group's mission was not too unusual; Swarthmore Asian Organization (SAO) had done something similar when it changed its focus from cultural/social events to political events in response to changes in the campus climate and in the outside world. She asked Bush and Shemakov what remedy they proposed for the Sunrise situation.
Shemakov explained that it had never been adequately decided whether SBC was funding a group of people, a name, an idea, or a mission.
Gilbert Orbea '19, the Speaker of the Senate, who had entered during the Sunrise discussion, said that since the group had 90% of the same people and essentially the same goal, there was no reason to cut off funding.
Jasmine Jiménez, Chair of Diversity, would meet with Dean Shá to discuss the campus climate. Hung recommended that she actively reach out to affinity groups.
Ibrahim Tamale '20, Chair of Academic Affairs, had news on the new credit/no credit policy. The faculty had rejected a suggestion to allow students to select cr/ncr grading after receiving their final grade. The current proposal included the following changes:
4 non-reusable CR/NC after the first semester (previously 3)
Option to uncover grade on cr/nc courses before the 2nd week of the following semester
Another change in academic affairs was the aim that students would develop an ability to constructively challenge and engage with diverse cultures, perspectives, and institutions, including issues of structural inequality. The requirement for first year students to take a social justice seminar was rejected by the faculty.
The Constitutional Review Committee was discussed next. It was judged necessary by Bush and Pipkin because discussing the constitution in Executive and/or Senate meetings took too much time. Pipkin added that the constitution was self-contradictory and apparently drafted in a hurry after a previous constitution was lost.
A group of two executive board members, three senators, and two non-SGO students was approved unanimously, at which point Orbea self-nominated to be on the committee. This caused some conflict because Pipkin and Shemakov also wanted to be on the committee, and Orbea did not want to take up one of the slots reserved for senators. Orbea pointed out that as Speaker, the constitutional committee fell under his remit. Hung said that she had heard from others their interest in the committee who had not spoken up during the meeting and requested a random selection of those who were interested. With very little discussion, a motion to include the Speaker as member of the committee along with another member of the senate was made.
The vote was unanimous except for Umi Keezing '19 who abstained.