SGO Board Meeting 11.5.17: Budgeting, Assignments, and Outreach

by Catriona Anderson

 

David Pipkin ‘18, SGO co-president, convened the SGO executive board meeting in Kohlberg 116 at 7:30pm on Sunday, November 5th. The meeting opened with presentations by SBC and Academic Affairs subcommittees. The latter discussed the possibility of a system for releasing syllabi to students. Pipkin suggested that it was intellectual property of the professors and was unlikely to be released unilaterally.

Jason Jin '20 was concerned about a potential constitutional violation with the appropriations committee, as there were six members proposed instead of the mandated five. He suggested redoing appointments for the committee in order to avoid removing a member of the committee who had been added at his request, who was the only Black member of the committee.

Ivan Lomeli '19 proposed amending the constitution, but Jin was concerned about establishing a precedent for six people on the appropriations committee.

Josie Hung '19, the other co-president, recommended talking to all of the five proposed members and "let's see if one doesn't want to be on the committee." Hung added, "Why don't we have a meeting and talk to all the candidates? If we can hear them, then we might end up turning away a candidate, rather than picking on preference of who we know."

Pipkin pointed out that redoing committee assignments would have a high "time commitment" and suggested that the sixth member could be asked to join a different committee instead. He claimed that there was "high diversity of all kinds on the current committee, including balance of class years" on the reduced committee. He also pointed out that "we should have committees nailed down [by this point in the semester]" and motioned for a vote.

All members were in favor except for Hung, Jin, and Henry Han '20 who abstained.

At this point Hung expressed her concern, which she had heard from other students, that "we [SGO] haven't done much" and that she "wanted to create a space to have that conversation."

At that point it was decided to begin the Senate meeting. After the Senators entered the room, Pipkin convened the full SGO meeting at 7:05, explaining that the focus of today's meeting was to review "what we set off to do, and then narrow our focus for the semester's sake in order to get some things concretely done."

Hung said, "Before the Senate was elected, we had a discussion in exec board about the mission statement, goals and direction." The executive board drafted the new statement and released it to students in an email, she said. "We wanted to give everyone space to come up with initiatives and ideas."

A brainstorming session ensued in which Senators threw out ideas for specific programs or issues.

The final list of issues was then divided into three task forces (comments to follow):

 

Food and Dining

Agenda items:

  • Allowing freshmen to choose meal plan

  • Lower prices

  • Meal swipes lunch Essie’s

  • Vegan/gluten-free options outside Sharples

Members:

  • Siddharth Ramachandran ‘20

  • Katherine Capossela '21

  • Nancy Yuan ‘20

  • Austin Yanez '21

  • Kanhav Thakur ‘20

  • Jack Corkery '20

  • Rareș Andrei Moșneanu

  • Henry Han ‘20

SGO Outreach / Power

Agenda items:

  • Figure out SGO's power and its role

  • Make sure everyone's voices are represented in SGO

  • Make it easier for students to communicate with SGO

Members:

  • Thomas Dell '20

  • Umi Keezing '19

  • Austin Yanez '21

  • Jason Jin '20

  • Akshay Srinivasan '21

  • Peiyi Mei '21

  • Tyler Pasko '20

  • Gilbert Orbea '19

Pads4Undergrads/Toilet Paper/Water Fountains

Agenda items:

  • Pads 4 Undergrads funding

  • Toilet paper availability

  • Improve access to water fountains

Members

  • David Pipkin '18

  • Ibrahim Tamale '20

  • Akshay Srinivasan '21

  • Katherine Capossela '21

  • Peiyi Mei '21

  • Austin Yanez '21

Comments on the food committee:

Tyler Pasko '20 complained that meal swipes weren't allowed for lunch at Essie's, that prices went up, and that the amount of money per swipe went down. He also criticized the fact that freshmen weren't allowed to choose a meal plan.

Gus Burchell '20 said that the reason for the above was that Swarthmore meal plan program couldn't afford the money to leave campus.

Katherine Capossela '21 was concerned about Essie's being too crowded if lunch meal swipes were allowed.

Maya Henry '20 highlighted the lack of vegan and gluten-free options outside of Sharples.

 

Comments on the SGO outreach committee:

Maya Henry '20 pointed out that a lot of student groups have been facing budget cuts due to unrealistic and overly strict SBC rules.

Hung mentioned a new executive board initiative in which students or student government representatives could apply for SGO funding.

Siddharth Ramachandran '20 said that many students are not aware of funding sources outside of SBC and SGO, such as the Dean's Office, President's Office, and so forth, and recommend a database of alternative funding sources.

Pipkin recommended financial or budget training by SBC. He offered to organize this.

Henry said, "The problem is that SBC's requirements require too much itemization ahead of time for some groups, such as SQU, when we don't know how much money we're going to spend on specific items as we decide on our programming later on.”

 

Comments on the last committee:

Gilbert Orbea '19 said, "Pads 4 Undergrads should be an institutional responsibility instead of coming out of SBC budget" or another student money source. Criticism of the program had "over exaggerated" the cost, which came to no more than $1,000 for Spring 2017 with lots of supplies left over. He had applied for Sager funding for the program in order to avoid taking from a pot of student money.

Ibrahim Tamale '20 suggested that students should be able to pay for Uber or Lyft rides on their OneCard.

 

Other comments:

Pasko mentioned that most students don't know how to contact SGO. Increasing visibility would improve communication.

Hung pointed that many of the priorities had been on the agenda for "a long time" but had never occurred due to SGO's need to get administration buy-in for the changes. She said, "We have to be organized to push for stuff… We're here to represent students and hear their voices, to feed information from students to admin. We need more intentional programming to reach out to students. We're all isolated in our own groups and don't hear all the narratives… But there are stories that we might not encounter because we're not in those circles." The reason "people don't trust SGO" is because "some stories don't get represented." In order to gain credibility, Hung said, SGO has to go out and listen to those stories, even if it doesn't agree.

She had attended the CIA Week panel on toxic masculinity in the Black community and was struck by the way that Public Safety made some students feel safer, but other students did not have the same relationship with them because of Public Safety's connection to the police. Although many students liked the Cornell renovations, others felt that the renovations had a "colonizing aspect." "These are legit stories and experience," Hung emphasized. "We have to create space for students to open up even if we don't agree with them in order to make SGO feel more like a legit force on campus."

After the committees had been settled, Henry brought up another issue, exhorting SGO to "do something about the student journalism shitshow," specifically mentioning the Swarthmore Independent blog.

Pipkin said, "I do not believe that is SGO's responsibility to dictate to student papers what they should write." He added that SGO should not "take the extreme step of shutting down a student publication" and that was for the administration to do.

Henry explained that she thought it would be helpful to help charter other news publications, and get funding and listserv. Others told her that those resources should be more available to all student groups.

Hung said that in her opinion it was for SGO to handle, because "students are affected." The fact that "it's too sticky" could not be a reason for cutting SGO off from discussions; in fact, there were differences of opinion even on the exec board.

Tamale said that difference of opinion "is not actionable."

Hung explained that "it's not that we should take action, but we have to acknowledge that this is happening."

A senator said that that kind of discussion would take "too much time" away from other SGO priorities.

Pipkin recommended a study break to communicate the new SGO task force system to students. Hung said that SGO had to avoid a design where SGO was standing behind a table in order to facilitate interaction with students.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

STORIESCatriona AndersonSGO