Town Hall: Community & Safety

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Whether they focus on a specific issue or address a broad range of ideas, Whitman’s Town Hall meetings have proven promising for community growth. These ASWC-hosted events facilitate discussion about the student body’s concerns. On October 20, Student Affairs Committee Chair Arthur Shemitz led the first Town Hall of the semester in the basement of Reid Campus Center. Armed with pumpkin pie bars and hot apple cider, ASWC representatives and club leaders  focused on campus safety. The meeting  also touched on improving iEngage, changing the college mascot and using PGPs (preferred gender pronouns).

Shemitz brought up recent incidents of drive-by racial harassment and break-ins, explaining that ASWC “want[s] to be able to resolve [and] to look for solutions” to the issues. Though all safety concerns are alarming, Shemitz expressed concern that the incidents have “disproportionately targeted people who are already minorities on campus.” Attendees then broke into smaller groups to address these questions: What would you do if you felt unsafe? If you were not on campus, whom would you call? Whose responsibility is it to address an unsafe situation? To whom at Whitman would you feel comfortable talking about issues of security?

While most students knew that “yellow jackets” are on-campus security escorts rather than flying insects, few people in attendance knew how to actually make use of the service. First-year Senator Shannon Zander said that many of her peers “don’t know how far campus security should, or does, extend,” and consequently do not call. Others emphasized destigmatizing its use — students often feel hesitant to contact campus security unless in immediate danger.

Junior Senator Gordon Kochman suggested “creating different ways to get out information” such as a workshop or extensive poster and email advertising. Sexual Misconduct Prevention Advocate Katie Steen echoed upper-level students’ concerns regarding off-campus housing. Steen proposed making workshops required for students who want to join the Whitman off-campus housing lottery. Additionally, Town Hall attendees broached the topic of campus lighting, particularly highlighting the darkness in the Interest House Community.

In response, Senior Senator Anna von Clemm proposed “creating — sorry AnnaMarie — a committee of sorts” to communicate with campus security. Nominations Chair AnnaMarie McCorvie assured the group of her passion for creating committees. Senator Caroline Bauwens suggested supplementing first-year orientation by “extend[ing] the meaning of ‘Green Dotting’ to after a party.”

In closing, Dean of Students Chuck Cleveland reminded attendees that “if you’re in danger, you should call 911″ rather than second-guess the role and location of campus security. Regarding off-campus safety, Cleveland emphasized the need for students to report immediately  any situations that arise.

The next Town Hall will be held on December 9th at 7:00 PM in the Reid Coffeehouse.

Sunday’s Senate, in Seconds

As the song  “Cupid Shuffle” faded out, ASWC representatives gathered for the year’s second Senate.

During Senate updates, ASWC’s committees continued to prove their productivity and commitment. Anya Tudisco, chair of the Finance Committee,  solicited advice on the use of ASWC’s Savings Fund, a sum of unused ASWC budget money that now exceeds $20,000.  Nominations Chair AnnaMarie McCorvie enthusiastically presented the new College Advisory Committees, including a potential Athletics committee. Club Director Josie Furbershaw discussed her work on revising club constitutions and supporting club leaders. Since the last senate meeting, Katie Steen worked with SVP (Sexual Violence Prevention) representatives from the Greek community, while Jack Percival met with President Kathy Murray about student safety.

Max Hanson urged ASWC to ratify WhitCity as a recognized club, emphasizing its “goal of getting students out to games… and engaged in the Whitman college athletics atmosphere.” ASWC Senators agreed that WhitCity is an effective way to increase support for varsity athletics and ratified the club  16-2-1. However, Gillian Friedman, Olivia Hagel and Anya Tudisco spoke for many ASWC representatives when expressing frustration over the quickness of the decision, which was put to a vote without a formal debate. Hagel saw the minimal deliberation time as contrary to what Senate is “supposed to be about,” especially in light of WhitCity’s unclear funding strategies.

The Borders Studies program requested $500 from the Travel  and Student Development fund to support an excursion  to the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center to converse with activists, detainees and immigration lawyers. ASWC unanimously decided to fund the trip.

ASWC also confirmed Mitch Cutter and Alex Barsher as members of the new Buildings and Grounds College Committee. Cutter, a self-proclaimed wearer of many hats,  pledged “to take those garments and put them into [the] job” by focusing on sustainability and students’ input. Barsher emphasized the importance of “framing the right questions” to understand and speak for the college’s spirit.

Acts SAS 15.1 and 15.2 introduced a College Committee that will advise the Registrar’s Office, potentially about class selection, faculty hiring, and changes to the system of registering for classes. The Registrar’s office requested the committee be comprised of a student from each year and preferably from different disciplines of study. Because the Registrar’s Committee applications were distributed to the student body prior to this senate meeting even though the positions technically hadn’t been approved, Oversight Committee Chair Jon Miranda wryly  asked the Nominations Committee to “try to make sure things exists before [they] advertise them.”

Resolution SRF 15.1, drafted by Mitch Cutter, was adopted by acclamation (a unanimous vote that carries extra symbolic weight). The resolution “expresses support for the Umpqua Community College Community” following the tragic shooting of nine individuals on October 1st.

Finally, ASWC developed new speaking procedures to incorporate the ideas and opinions of non-voting members. Previously, “formal debate” only allowed voting members of ASWC to speak, leaving WEB chair Olivia Hagel and other non-voting members without a voice.  Ironically enough, a short debate led to the creation of “debate,” in which all ASWC representatives can speak, and “inclusive debate,” when everyone present can speak.  ASWC will implement these new categories of debate as a trial-run at the next Senate.

Committee Feature: Student Affairs

Though all of ASWC strives to connect to the student body, the Student Affairs Committee specifically helps students improve Whitman through legislation. According to chair Arthur Shemitz, the committee “make[s] changes to the student body” by writing and approving acts and resolutions for the Senate to review.

Resolutions serve as condensed persuasive essays that verbalize the opinions of ASWC and the student body, giving their vision for the future of Whitman College. Last year’s passed resolutions included calls for trigger warnings  in the first-year Encounters program and divestment of Whitman’s assets from the fossil fuel industry.

Whereas resolutions are formal declarations released to the student body and often presented to the Whitman College Board of Trustees, acts effect change within the scope of ASWC’s power . They often modify or streamline the ASWC bylaws, which govern how ASWC operates. At the first Student Affairs meeting, the committee reviewed Act SAS 15.10, which extends the voting period and was passed at the October 4th Senate meeting. Despite Shemitz’s promise that the Student Affairs meeting would not be “tense or anything,” a notably deep discussion followed concerning  how the voting period affects  voter turnout.

Beyond discussion of the Act, committee members also presented their individual projects, which caused conversation about initiating communication with Intercultural Clubs, proposing changes in the Power and Privilege Symposium, and considering charitable uses of flex dollars. Shemitz proposed the institution of an “ASWC hour,” a time that committee members set aside in their schedule to do ASWC work, essentially treating it like an “ASWC class” that they “attend” every week.  He urged committee members to “come out of meetings with a concrete plan of what to do next” and stressed their ability to “pursue the issues that need to be resolved.”

Every student attending Whitman College can write legislation, and ASWC encourages any interested student, whether with ideas or drafts, to reach out to the members of the Student Affairs Committee (along with any other ASWC members): Arthur Shemitz ‘17, Gillian Friedman ‘16, Tom Howe ‘17, Gordan Kochmann ‘17, Emily Bowen ‘18, Emma Bishop ‘18, Caroline Bauwens ‘19, and Shannon Zander ‘19. More information regarding how to write acts and resolutions or otherwise get involved in ASWC is forthcoming.

 

First Senate Commences a Productive Year

Last Sunday, the ASWC Senate entered its first meeting of the 2015-16 school year to the tune of Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” As the music faded out, the formal dress code and prompt start reestablished the importance of the occasion.

To begin, the Executive Council presented a variety of ongoing initiatives, from Arthur Shemitz’s goal of connecting intercultural clubs to Dani Hupper’s push for a bike-share program. The Senior and Junior delegations trumpeted their success at Trivia Night, while the ever-passionate First-Years conveyed their continued interest in working with BonAppétit.

ASWC ratified the Whitman College Green Park Bi-Lingual Program, where Whitman students who speak Spanish mentor Green Park Elementary School students as they learn English. While already quite successful, the club hopes that ASWC recognition will facilitate its ability to collaborate with other on-campus groups and organize community events.

Additionally, the Senate ratified the Whitman Baking Club, which will donate bake sale profits to a variety of charities. Although some senators raised concerns about recognizing such a new club  (Ombudsman Mitchell Cutter commented that he “likes to see a club exist for a semester” before formally approving it), the Senate  ratified Baking Club unanimously.

Club Director Josie Furbershaw introduced this year’s Senator-Club Pairings , which give clubs a direct way to communicate with ASWC.

ASWC provided funding for the editors of Waiilatpu and four members of the Pioneer to attend the ACP’s National College Media Convention in Austin, Texas. Both campus media organizations emphasized the breadth and quality of training provided by the Convention. Waiilatpu co-editor Danica Wilbanks hopes that the workshops in leadership, photography, problem solving and design will help her lead the yearbook’s “large staff of energetic first-years” and improve the general structure of the publication. Marra Clay, publisher of the Pioneer, aims bring ACP back to the Whitman community by hosting all-campus journalism workshops upon her return.

Junior Dennis Young, praised for his exceptional active listening ability, was enthusiastically confirmed as an appointed member of the Nominations Committee. The Senate also confirmed Lily Parker and Conor Scanlon (commended especially for their prior student government experience) as the newest members of the Oversight Committee and Mitch Cutter as Ombudsman, a decision that Senator Tom Howe dubbed “pretty above average.” As Ombudsman, Cutter will liaise between the Executive Council and Senate as well as connect with individual Senators through one-on-ones.

The Senate concluded its official business  by passing Act SAS 15.10, which extends the election voting period from twenty to forty-four hours. Oversight Chair Jon Miranda supported the Act, suggesting that it would increase voter turnout from fifty to sixty-five percent. First-year Senator Shannon Zander, however, expressed concern, claiming that because low turnout results from voter apathy, not time constraints, the act might not improve turnout.

In their closing comments, ASWC members Katie Steen, Emma Bishop, Anya Tudisco, Dani Hupper and Jack Percival expressed joint concern over an incident at an off-campus party  and affirmed their commitment to ensure student safety. A Town Hall meeting addressing these and other issues will be held on October 20th at 7:00 PM in the Reid Coffeehouse.

 

 

ASWC Senate Plans Ahead During Retreat

At last weekend’s annual ASWC retreat, roughly thirty students convened at the Johnston Wilderness Center. Exchanging names, ambitions, years and positions, the group was quickly united by its common passion for bettering Whitman College. Students discussed broader issues such as dissatisfaction with the school mascot and financial aid policy as well as shorter-term goals. Sexual Misconduct and Prevention Chair Katie Steen called for increased lighting on campus, while first-year Senator Erin Lopez advocated  for a system that notifies students when they receive packages. Senators also outlined cultural changes that they hope to foster both on campus and in the greater Walla Walla community; first-year Senator Caroline Bauwens proposed putting “as much weight on [racial issues as on sexual violence]” in light of recent events. The breadth of the student representatives’ concerns, as President Jack Percival put it, “speaks to the level of impact that ASWC has on campus” and its potential to effect change. After a discussion of the resources needed to turn these ideas into actions, the group retired to a long night of card games, casual conversations and s’mores.

In typical ASWC fashion, students broke up into committees the following morning to practice their roles. Anya Tudisco’s Finance Committee, for example, decided whether to grant funds to “AnyaMarie McDisco,” an imaginary  jazz-enthusiast hoping to attend a John Coltrane concert. Each committee oversees a distinct element of Whitman life: while Student Affairs acts as “a liaison between student interests,” according to Chair Arthur Shemitz,  the recently formed Sustainability Committee, led by Dani Hupper, is building a wind turbine and reinvigorating the bike share program, among other projects.

Then everyone staged a mock Senate meeting to learn about the mechanics of discussion and voting. The issues on the table were much more lighthearted than usual: the potential formation of a Napping Club, the funding of a “Prancercise” class, and the confirmation of Kanye West as ASWC President for the 2020-2021 school year. By addressing these less-than-serious agenda items, members improved their mastery of Senate proceedings, using vocabulary and techniques from Robert’s Rules of Order to dictate the meeting’s style.

In total, ASWC evaluated and voted on five agenda items, held three formal debates, conducted four question-and-answer sessions, and spent $500,000 to provide each Whitman student with a kitten.

By spending a weekend developing personal goals and the skills needed to reach them, the ASWC Senate took the first step towards creating a productive year — and a closely bonded community with which to approach it.