SGO Meeting 10.28.18

On Sunday, October 28th at 7:00pm, the SGO Executive Board began their meeting in Kohlberg 116. Seven out of the eleven executive board members were present.

Will Bein ‘21, Chair of Visual and Performing Arts, provided some updates on a project he’d been working on to “make radio more popular on campus.” He had talked with Anthony Coschignano from Auxiliary Services and now plans to have speakers in Crumb Cafe, Sharples, Essie’s, and Shane Lounge. So far,  Crumb Cafe and Shane Lounge have been set up, but a few things still need to be figured out before they would be installed in Sharples and Essie’s. Bein said that according to Coschignano, someone will fund the effort, but Bein was not clear on the details.

Bein has also asked about the possibility of changing Essie’s new meal swipe program. The short answer is no. Coschignano gave him four reasons for this: 1) the meal swipe is meant for food, not for stacking snacks in one’s room; 2) they want to help the Crumb Cafe become more popular; 3) they want hours to be more consistent (previously, Essie’s was opened later on some days than on others, and this was inconsistent for workers); and 4) they needed to extend Sci Coffee Bar hours and shift workers accordingly. Bein felt that all this seemed reasonable, and an editor from the Phoenix who was also in attendance at the meeting shared that Coschignano had given them similar reasons when they published a piece on the new Essie’s changes earlier this semester.

SGO President Gilbert Orbea ‘19 then proposed an idea to executive board members in relation to the WSRN room on the fourth floor of Parrish Hall. After helping host a Small Craft Warnings party in that room, he noticed that the room is “kind of gunky and nasty… the equipment is kind of not great.” Orbea then proposed that SGO fund a partial renovation of that space. He also added that the space is used by a lot of groups, and that SGO “should talk to people to see what kind of changes they want.” Siddharth Ramachandran ‘20, Chair of Academic Affairs, brought up the fact that the WSRN room is controlled by a group who could apply for SBC funding, so he did not believe that SGO should assume that responsibility. Orbea disagreed, saying that SGO represents the students, to which Ramachandran responded that, particularly in this case, the students can represent themselves as well. No decision was made at this time.

Other executive board members continued with questions and updates. Peiyi Mei ‘21, Chair of Student Outreach, asked a question regarding the transportation initiative’s creation of a special pool for low-income students. She asked that for people who applied from blocks, if the person who applied on behalf of a group is low-income, but not everyone in their block, then would that group be entered in the special pool? SGO Vice President Kat Capossela ‘21 responded that they would not.

The issue of information and transparency was brought up when Capossela asked the question “how can we best communicate with the community?” She mentioned that she takes notes for SGO, which are very “stream of consciousness” from her perspective, but also “this is a really really cohesive space for anyone to access and know what’s going on with SGO… how do you feel about sharing these notes with the community?” Other members thought it would be great, and thought of creating a newsletter, much like SGO had done in the past. Capossela suggested it would be under Mei’s jurisdiction as the Chair of Student Outreach. The newsletter would be monthly and would be blasted through email and Facebook. Ramachandran recommended including a recap of the month and then plans for the next month. Mei added that each chair should put in updates from their specific committees into the newsletter as well.

Orbea and Capossela then reported that in their recent meeting with Andrew Barclay and Katie Clark, they were notified that a couple of administrators have been complaining about SGO executive board members not attending required meetings with them. As it turns out, not everyone knew on the executive board knew who they should have been talking to. Mei, for instance, had not been meeting with anyone. Orbea suggested that she meet possibly with Dean Jim Terhune, Vice President Jim Bock, and/or OSE for student outreach. Austin Yanez ‘21, Chair of Environmental Impact, is having his first meeting with Melissa Tier ‘14 and Nathaniel Graf ‘16 from the Office of Sustainability. Bein was told to try reaching out to the chair of the Studio Art department. Ramachandran mentioned that he had been meeting with his assigned administrator, Dean Tomoko Sakamura of Academic Affairs, but questioned: “What are you intending on getting out of certain meetings?” Orbea said that he himself had been communicating with Nakia Waters, Dean Henry, and Andrew Barclay, and the purpose really is to learn from them and get their expertise.

At around 7:45 pm, a group of 3 students came in to present on behalf of a developing product and potential company called Taiga. Hunter Lee ‘19, Temba Mateke ‘21, and Nathan Moreno-Mendelson ‘20 presented their product, a type of dockless bike sharing service complete with a 3D-printed lock and an app that serves as the key to that lock. Other members of the project include David Chang ‘20 and Letitia Ho ‘19 who were not in attendance at the SGO meeting. Lee, Mateke, and Moreno-Mendelsonpresented to SGO as a request for funding so that they could get the service off of its feet at Swarthmore.

As the Senate meeting began, Jim Terhune, Interim Dean of Students, came in to speak with SGO to begin a dialogue with these students. He emphasized that this 30 minute meeting was not nearly enough to have a full discussion about any one issue and that he hoped to soon have a meal with all the members of SGO at the Dean’s house for a longer conversation.  

Before taking questions from members of SGO, Dean Terhune explained that he was still learning about what happened over the past few years and is committed to working with everyone to make changes. He also made sure to note that he was not a candidate for the permanent appointment as Dean of Students, as he didn’t want his interim position to be used as an audition for the job. When Tyler White ‘22 asked him about what brought him to accept this position, Dean Terhune expressed his interest in bringing students and administrators together. He hopes to be able to bring a new perspective to everything when speaking to the students and relaying their concerns to administrative offices.

Capossela asked the first question about the appointments for President’s Task Force on Student Social Events and Community Standards, created to replace the previous year’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Wellbeing, Belonging, and Social Life and focused specifically on the question of Greek life on campus. Dean Terhune explained that they would be appointing Board members, administrators, faculty members, and students, with intentionality in taking as many perspectives as possible.

Srinivasan then asked about the Dean’s external review and how it showed evidence of role confusion. Dean Terhune explained that this was referring to confusion as to whether faculty and staff should go to the class dean or another dean when talking about a specific student.

When asked about Organizing for Survivors, Dean Terhune said, “for some individuals, it was a really rough period of time. There are some personal issues I don’t want to get into,” but there is genuine concern at the core. He also highlighted that Bindu Jayne, the new Title IX coordinator is going to be a key part of these changes, though currently she is on parental leave. Kelly Hodge is the interim Title IX coordinator.

The conversation turned to public safety when Srinivasan asked about student conduct and inconsistent public safety policies among different officers. While Dean Terhune explained that the College Judiciary Council and/or administrative council should be able to balance things out by deciding whether or not the officer’s reaction was reasonable, students expressed general concerns over how officers interact with students. Dean Terhune mentioned the three-day public safety external review that will be taking place next week and that there will be an open session open for all students to attend. Orbea brought up that three days seemed like a very short time to review the many complaints students had about public safety, but Dean Terhune responded by saying that the purpose of the external review was not to get into specific policies like drinking games; rather, these policies should be an internal discussion among the dean’s office, faculty, and students.

Durkson then moved on to a broader question, stating: “many students feel like admin talks to students rather than talk with students, how do we get to a point where admin isn’t just creating policies and having discussions over the summer without us?”

Dean Terhune pointed to this meeting as a start to opening up the dialogue. Durkson pushed back, saying that this conversation would not produce any tangible results, to which Dean Terhune responded saying that after broad discussions like this, students could then set up individual meetings to talk about specific policies. Srinivasan brought back the concerns about policies being implemented without any discussion with the students.

“We should communicate with the students proactively. Conversely, if the students have something they really care about, you should be proactive,” offered Dean Terhune. He also expressed his interest in attending more SGO meetings and hopes that SGO would be a vehicle to voice the concerns of the student body. Before the end of this conversation, Margaret Cohen ‘19, who was on the committee to select Dean Terhune, offered to speak more about the selection process, while Capossela, who is on the committee to select the new dean, offered to do the same.

The second half of the Senate meeting was reserved for voting on amendments. The first amendment changed general body meetings from once every two weeks to every week. Murtaza Ukani ‘22 expressed a need to meet even more often, noting that many students’ concerns that SGO is ineffective are valid. He added that there is no inter-committee communication or any input available from people not on the committees. While this suggestion was ultimately not voted on, in addition to the switch to weekly meetings, general body meetings were also extended 15 minutes. SGO also edited the absence policy to only accept five acceptances per year.

Then, returning to SBC’s proposed amendments to the SGO constitution, SGO rejected the change to double the requested amount needed for SGO approval since no student group has ever requested that much money at one time. They did pass an amendment to require the new SBC Projects Advisory Chair, which SGO argues performs the same exact role as the SGO Student Life Chair, to attend all Student Life Committee meetings since the Student Life Chair has to attend Projects Advisory meetings.

Regarding the SBC Chair, the general body passed an amendment requiring the Chair to abide by SGO attendance rules. Orbea noted that the Chair has in the past always attended SGO meetings and that the continued absence of this year’s SBC Chair, Yin Xiao ‘20 is unprecedented. They also discussed the fact that since the SBC Chair no longer has a vote on the SGO Executive Board, there can now be a tie. Orbea argued that in those circumstances the President should be allowed two votes for quick decision making, but that was quickly shot down, and the general body voted to appeal the vote to the Senate should there be a tie.

Running out of time, they quickly passed a couple more amendments, one allowing SGO to appeal to OSE if they are dissatisfied with SBC’s budgetary decision rather than to themselves, and the other requiring the SGO President to have been a part of SGO before running. Finally, Orbea proposed a new amendment to change the SBC bylaws to require it to have flexible timeframes for Spring Budgeting discussion ranging from 5-20 minutes rather than a set five minutes. This caused a lot of discussion, and in the interest of time this vote was tabled until next meeting.