The Minutes Roll On

AquajoggingClubRatificationASWC’s last Senate preceded a week of Sustainability Summit presentations, Town Hall discussions, and plenty of WEB events. President Jack Percival began the meeting by reminding Senators of their “duty to their peers” to both faithfully attend ASWC events and maintain contact with constituents. Vice President Arthur Shemitz announced his intention to pursue this goal by creating a student petition service with the help of ASWC Technology Director Benjamin Shoemake. Percival himself hosted the first meeting with his ASWC Diversity Working Group, attended a Tri-College Summit, and followed up on concerns over Transparency to learn how to improve the campus’ climate (speaking of which).

Anna Kitzerow and Anna Brown represented Aqua Jogging Club, which is intended to provide a “social space for students of varied physical abilities to exercise.” Once a week, the club will host aqua jogging sessions during Open Swim and provide belts to attendees. Hailing it for its inclusivity, advertising plans, and great leadership potential, Aqua Jogging Club received ASWC ratification by a vote of 16-1-2.

Nominations Committee Chair Annamarie McCorvie introduced Sanigah Ysa for confirmation to the Diversity Committee. A politics and history major, she applied because she felt a lack of a “driving force to improve” diversity at Whitman. Ysa also cited students’ concerns that “Whitman is starting to lose faith in their […] investment in students of color,” yet expressed hope for the college’s future. With her “mix of passion and practicality and understanding,” as Senator Cillian Mitchell put it, Ysa’s confirmation was unanimous.

The Senate also confirmed Gillian Gray and Brie Strom as Co-Editors in Chief of Quarterlife, both of whom demonstrated their commitment to creative advertising for the magazine. While Gillian related via email that she’d been distributing issues in Britain, Brie recalled their Sasquatch photoshopping campaign for Not Quite Right as a highlight.

Ombudsman Mitch Cutter delivered the annual “State of the Senate” speech, a presentation on how to improve the Senate’s meetings and procedures. The counterbalance of efficiency and understanding was a theme . While Senator Anna VonClemm asserted that the voting body “[doesn’t] need to come to a [unanimous] consensus,” Communications Director Abby Seethoff countered that those elected by their peers should be willing to engage in discussion.

Afterwards, Whitman’s GLBTQ club arrived to request retroactive funding for an activism conference in Chicago that they attended in January. Maxx Borges presented the club’s plan for upcoming Desire Mapping programming, and senators passed the funding request.

Finally, Anya Tudisco initiated the “time-honored ASWC tradition” of setting the student fee. The four-dollar increase to $372 for the 2016-2017 school year accounts for inflation and changes in staff salaries. Senate approved the fee quickly because its modification was minor, allowing the Senate to adjourn a minute early.

Securing Sustainability

As heralded in press releases, the Pioneer (new name TBD), and this selfsame blog, upon the passage of Act SAS16.2, ASWC’s Senate became the first US college to self-impose a carbon tax, a system that changes how students request funding from the Travel and Student Development Fund (T+SD) to account for carbon emissions.  Starting next year, requesting parties will calculate an additional “tax” based on the mode and distance of their travel and include it in their application.  Students themselves do not pay any money; rather, the legislation changes the way that ASWC allocates its budget.  At the end of the academic year, the accrued tax money will be added to the Green Fund, which provides financial support for student sustainability projects.

At the February 7th Senate meeting, some discussion arose regarding the educational aspects of the carbon tax. Senator Anna VonClemm suggested that the Finance committee directly ask requesting parties about how the carbon emission calculation affected their application process. Hupper agreed, noting that the act seeks to remind the Whitman community about the environmental impacts of transportation.

While the tax may, admittedly, produce an effect more symbolic than revolutionary, it remains a significant landmark in sustainability at Whitman. Hupper hopes its passage demonstrates “that Whitman, unlike its peer institutions that see sustainability as a surface-level checklist of maintenance fixes, pursues innovative initiatives” to lead the national undergraduate community in adopting carbon pricing, a practice currently receiving national attention as well.

Beyond the scope of ASWC, many companies, including Exxon Mobil  support the implementation of a large-scale carbon tax. Congresspeople, including former Representative John Dingell (D, MI) and former Senator Christopher Dodd (D, CT), have pushed for the tax, alongside organizations including the Carbon Tax Center. However, given the Supreme Court’s recent staying of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, it seems unlikely that such legislation will gain traction in the near future.

For more information, email aswc_sustainability@whitman.edu or check out this handy guide: All About Carbon Taxation (ASWC)

 

Senate on the Seventh

The second Senate of the spring 2016 semester began, as it often does, with a reflection on the role and goals of student representatives. President Jack Percival warned Senators not to “try to eliminate conflict from our conversation  [because it’s] important […] and part of our duty as student representatives.” Jack also reported that he communicated concerns about Transparency to the Trustees and proposed the February 24th Town Hall theme: “Governing Boards 101” (also known as “the inside scoop”). Finance Chair Anya Tudisco met with the Board of Trustees with the Budget Review Committee, and Dani Hupper talked about sustainability beyond the February 23rd Sustainability Summit. While the first-years and sophomores took a night tour of Whitman’s campus to improve lighting, Senator Caroline Bauwens reviewed the recently distributed large-scale mascot survey (this one comes from the administration rather than ASWC).

In the night’s first agenda item, Josie Furbershaw introduced the Pre-Vet Club for ratification. Its leaders’ commitment to educating students about veterinary medicine, providing hands-on experience to members and volunteering at an upcoming “Dog Jog” fundraiser won the unanimous support of the Senate. Borders as Method, or “BAM,” a club that also sought ASWC sponsorship, hopes to create a “centralized space for immigration discussion and engagement” as well as institutionalize an “Immigration Week.” While Senator Cutter doubted the club’s ability to attract new members, the Senate’s belief in the mission of “BAM” carried it to ratification.

The Climbing Club attended Senate and secured funding  for their fifth annual Red Rocks spring break climbing trip, which is predicted to attract over thirty attendees. Additionally, the Senate funded Avalanche Training for twenty-five members of the Backcountry Ski Club. This training constitutes the group’s main event.

AnnaMarie McCorvie’s Nominations Committee took the stage to introduce first-year Christina Dias, whom ASWC confirmed as the latest member of the Committee. “[U]nbiased and passionate,” Dias made (recent) ASWC history when she chose to stay and watch the Senate’s proceedings after her confirmation.

The Oversight Committee presented this year’s Election Rules, and Committee Chair Jon Miranda congratulated the Senate for “excellent work last semester” based on committee evaluations.

ASWC passed Act SAS16.1 and Act SAS16.3, both of which significantly revised ASWC’s by-laws. While SAS16.1 clarified the Ombud election procedure in the event that two candidates with equal seniority volunteer, SAS16.3 reorganized Finance by-laws — especially regarding club funding.

Sustainability Director Dani Hupper, in an effort to both demonstrate and increase the “understand[ing] that there are environmental impacts to travel,” brought Act SAS16.2 before Senate to implement  an internal ASWC carbon tax. The Act will “tax” requests from the Travel and Student Development Fund and allocate that money to the Green Fund for environmental, educational, and symbolic benefits alike. After the incorporation of a friendly amendment by Senior Senator Von Clemm, Whitman became the first collegiate student government in the nation to pass this kind of legislation. ASWC signified its particular support for this act by adopting SAS16.2 by acclamation.

Then, at 10:30 PM, what President Jack Percival called an “important historic day for ASWC” adjourned right on schedule.

Whitman the Translucent?

The sudden appearance of signs outside Memorial and suit-clad strangers made one thing quite clear: the Trustees have arrived.

Though Whitman students have always been active members of their college community, recent calls for transparency signal students’ desire for an even deeper involvement in the college. Whether in circulating surveys, on the Pioneer’s front page, or with statistics on posters, the buzzword engages diverse groups in campus-wide discussion.

This week, the beginning of the 2016 Global Studies Symposium, “Human Zoos: Photography, Race, and Empire,” involved students, faculty, and visiting professors in a conversation regarding the roots of racism. As explained in a widely distributed petition and Pioneer articles, faculty and students alike were surprised by the revocation of course releases for professors on the Global Studies Steering Committee. Over three hundred community members called for the “transparent and inclusive” consideration of the Symposium, leading to an ASWC Resolution that expressed support for Global Studies. While an enlightening experience on its own, the Symposium also serves as a reminder of student-administration disconnects over the role of transparency.

In December, ASWC Vice President Arthur Shemitz hosted a Town Hall dedicated to ascertaining the tangible goals and concerns related to transparency. Shemitz explored how “[t]ransparency is a really perennial issue” due to “consequential decisions [that] have been made” without consulting students. Nevertheless, Shemitz added, “students are involved when Trustees come to town” through their participation on governing boards. Though the lack of a working microphone at this event complicated the conversation, students’ desire for greater representation remained clear.

In addition to conceptualizing ways for the Board to increase transparency, ASWC invites all students to apply for a position on a college committee or governing board; each board deliberates on a certain facet of Whitman College, student-related or administrative, and meets with the Board of Trustees biannually. Email a resume and cover letter to aswc_nominations@whitman.edu to apply for open governing board positions Of course, students can always contact aswc@whitman.edu with any suggestions or concerns.