Unpacked

Shortly following the election of this year’s first-year Senators, ASWC hosted a weekend retreat at the Johnston Wilderness Center, during which a number of goals for 2017-2018 were discussed. One of the most popular ideas brought up was to change ASWC’s payment system from a bi-annual stipend to an hourly minimum wage.

 

Could such a change be on the horizon? ASWC Finance Chair Chris Meabe thinks so, and is in the midst of developing an implementation plan that, if funds allow, could see some ASWC officers receiving a minimum wage as soon as next year. The change, Meabe observed, could help propel a substantial shift in ASWC’s socioeconomic makeup, as it would make ASWC a viable option for students who need a more substantial source of income than it currently offers.

 

“Minimum wage isn’t a lot of money,” Meabe said, “but we could at least be competing with other organizations, both on and off of campus, that do pay a minimum wage and allow those students… whose voices need to be heard… to represent themselves in their student government.”

 

However, Meabe took care to note that a switch to a minimum wage is not certain. Though the will is there, as is the know-how, it is unclear at present if there will be enough funding to make the shift feasible. If there are, the change would be rolled out over a period of several years. There is also some internal debate in the Finance Committee over whether certain positions, such as Executive Council members, should remain stipended, due to the difficulty in tracking the hours performed by these positions.

 

“[It’s] going to be determined by how budgeting looks in March [2018],” Meabe said.

 

The Finance Committee is tackling a number of significant issues that will impact campus during the 2017-2018 year, such as designing an improved system of distributing funds to clubs on campus, as well as introducing legislation to ensure smarter usage of the ASWC Endowment Fund. Meabe is confident they will be up to the task.

 

“I have an awesome committee,” Meabe said. “[T]he people around me continue to challenge me with these incredible brilliant ideas that I don’t know how best to support, and that’s an awesome kind of challenge to have.”

Unpacked

ASWC has taken a big step toward a sustainable renewable energy policy for Whitman, passing a resolution that would encourage the campus to add solar panels to new campus roof installations.

 

Passed on October 29th, the resolution stipulates that any time a roof on campus is renovated, or a new roof is constructed, the college must consider a bid to install a solar panel on the roof. Additionally, the school would be required to identify three existing roofs that would be ideal for solar panels and consider bids on them as well. The resolution aims to decrease the amount of on-campus carbon emissions stemming from the campus’ reliance on fossil fuels.

 

According to ASWC Sustainability Chair Genean Wrisley, “Walla Walla is actually a good location for solar, which surprises some people because it’s cloudy a lot. But during the summer… [the panels] generate a lot of electricity. So it’s… pretty good, easy and cheap, and rooftop solar is just, like, really accessible.”

 

Currently, Whitman relies on RECs (Renewable Energy Credits) to decrease the impact of its emissions. These credits fund wind farms in other areas, but don’t affect the campus’ actual use of fossil fuels. The ASWC resolution puts a bit more onus on Whitman to take the initiative in decreasing its own environmental impact.

 

The campus seems likely to respond well to ASWC’s resolution, and Wrisley is hopeful. Even before the resolution was passed, Whitman’s new residence hall was to be constructed with rooftop solar panels installed. But the resolution does not require the campus to accept solar panels, only consider them.

 

“[I]t’s up to them to take the next step,” Wrisley said. “Hopefully, slowly, implementation will happen, but… it’s kind of hard to say or know.”

Act SAS17.1: Continuing ASWC’s Efforts Toward Diversity and Inclusion

At the most recent Senate meeting, an act to make the position of Diversity and Inclusion Director a permanent facet of the ASWC Executive Council was ratified. Considering that this position was created just this year (in Fall 2016, by sitting ASWC president Arthur Shemitz), this is significant. Cherokee Washington, who currently holds the position, had this to say about the ratification: “creating this position and making it permanent in the same year is a testament to ASWC’s dedication to listening to the student body’s needs”.

Cherokee described the position as, “ASWC’s way of telling the administration that diversity and inclusion is an exigency that needs immediate attention and cannot be ignored anymore”. She added that, “There are many things [the administration] can do to encourage more diversity. More scholarships, becoming a school member of the POSSE foundation, recruiting students from more regions outside of the Northwest and California, actively listening and reacting to student needs more effectively and timely, providing students of color with more representation within the faculty, providing students of color with more mentors, and better tending to the needs of students of color who are already at Whitman”. She hopes that these goals can be accomplished in the near future.

Cherokee also hopes that, through encouragement by this position, social justice issues at Whitman will be better addressed on a more basic, student-to-student level through open discussion and thoughtful action. Several students have already expressed interest in helping her with this, many of which are people of color or are from underrepresented backgrounds.

On a more personal note, she added that, “I’m big on ‘flipping the boat’ instead of rocking it, therefore I’ve tried to bring a fire and intensity that’s allowed us to be civilly radical in communicating issues or demands with the administration”. Considering that the Strategic Planning Committee has stated that diversity is a priority for the school, such ambitions will likely be realized.

ASWC Office Hours

Starting this semester, the ASWC Executive Council will institute weekly open office hours in order to better communicate with the Whitman community.

Each week will have a different theme, which will correspond with a topic that comes up during Senate or a prevalent issue on campus. Inquiries need not address the theme.

ASWC president Arthur Shemitz had this to say about office hours:

“This is a great opportunity to check in about getting a club started at Whitman, accessing funds, advocating for change, or just finding out about how to get more involved in ASWC. We would love to see lots of folks coming by and talking about what’s on their mind!”.

Office hours will be held at 12 pm every Monday in the ASWC office (Reid 210).

Resolution SRF16.1: A Step Forward in Title IX Advocacy

At the most recent Senate meeting on November 13th, legislation was presented by co-authors Molly Unsworth ’18 and Kyle Fix ’19 to senators regarding recent violations to the college’s Title IX policy. Specifically, it advocates for mandatory notation on the transcript of “any student that chooses to withdraw while allegations of intimate partner violence, stalking, and/or sexual violence are pending”. Essentially, a notation would inform a school to which a violator is applying/transferring that he/she has been accused of such a violation. This resolution is in response to the recent uptick of incident reports of Title IX violations since 2012; in that year (2012-2013), there were 9 reports, while there were 32 reports in the 2014-2015 school year, according to the college’s Annual Title IX Report. Since 2012, the school has dismissed four students and suspended one after they were found responsible for violating Title IX. This resolution also addresses a larger, national trend of accused violators withdrawing from their respective college while still under investigation, stopping them from receiving all of the proper documentation which may help prevent them from committing violations at other schools. Unsworth and Fix cited the case of a student who withdrew from his previous school after being accused of sexual assault (thus avoiding notation, so the school to which he was transferring was unaware of the circumstances) and is now under investigation at his current school for sexually assaulting another female student.

The co-authors described the problem more generally as, “In current practices, there is a huge concern about getting predators or offenders off campuses, but no sense of follow through on the behaviors they have shown, or any care about the impact they can potentially have at future institutions”.

After some discussion, Senate resolved to pass the resolution by acclimation, which is a rare occurrence. ASWC President Arthur Schemitz noted, “Acclimation is the strongest expression of support that the Senate may give to a resolution. It is more powerful than just a unanimous vote as it expresses our deep commitment to and belief in the importance of the content of a resolution. We use acclimation sparingly, so that it can be applied only to the most significant resolutions that we want to lend our full and entire support behind”. Regarding this, Unsworth commented, “I was genuinely shocked. I had anticipated a lot more push-back from the senate, and the fact that so many people not only supported it, but wanted to give it the honor of passing it by acclimation, was such an incredible moment for both of us”.

Colleges similar to Whitman (Occidental, Emerson) have enacted similar policies to this one, and Unsworth and Fix hope that Whitman’s adoption of this policy will encourage other schools to follow suit, eventually creating a national standard.

An assault survivor herself, Unsworth is passionate about this sort of legislation and change, and is excited that the resolution was passed. However, she still sees much more that needs to be done regarding not only policies, but practices. For instance, she would like to see “further opportunities extended to the student body from the Dean of Students office that invite students to participate in critical dialogues surrounding the prevalence of sexual violence on this campus”. Still more, she hopes that the school will actually make efforts to act on those dialogues, rather than “the same conversations happening over and over again, with no results”.

The resolution still has to be approved by the administration, and may or may not be enacted by the end of this year.

President Murray Visits Senate

In continuation of her semesterly tradition, President Kathy Murray spoke to Senate at a recent meeting on the sixteenth of October. ASWC President Arthur Shemitz commented on the visit, saying, “Last year when President Murray first visited Senate, it was the first time in over a decade that the college president had visited an ASWC Senate, and so we’re very grateful to have her continuing to speak with us.”

President Murray began her presentation by commemorating the student lost earlier on in the semester, describing the event as a “rough start to the year”, but she continued to say that she was reassured by how the Whitman community “came together in a powerful way”.

She then moved on to talk about the Strategic Planning Committee, which has been hard at work determining the school’s goals for the future. By the end of the Strategic Planning process, President Murray anticipates having “between 4 and 6 high-level strategic goals for the college for the next five years”. The committee and President Murray continue to seek input from students about what they hope to see in the college’s future; preceding the fall meetings of the governing boards, President Murray will be holding joint office hours with Brad McMurchie, the Board of Trustees Chair, in Memorial Building 304, from 1:00-3:00pm, on Tuesday, November 1.  Beyond these goals, President Murray hopes to address the issue of increasing the diversity of both the faculty and the student body. Still more, she intends to address the “climate of discourse” which generally plagues discussions today. She wants everyone at Whitman to work on better listening to each other and having hard, controversial conversations. Though it will be a challenge, it is also our “responsibility” to do so.

After concluding her presentation, she engaged in a question and answer session with Senate members. Highlights of the session include:

She addressed concerns about tenure at Whitman, saying that it is “not going away”, because “it serves us here very well and keeps people engaged”.

Regarding a question about progress on the new residence hall being built, she told the Senate that around $7.6 million in funds have been raised, though she would like to get to $10 million. They plan to “break ground” in February of 2017, with the hall will hopefully becoming available for use in Fall of 2018. When asked about whether the function of North Hall would change following the construction of the residence hall, she answered that it would no longer be used as a residence hall, though its new function has not yet been determined.

To a question about increasing financial aid in the future, President Murray answered that the school will be doing more fundraising overall and will be raising financial aid by a quarter of a million dollars by next year. She also stated that the school is thinking carefully about how it will be raising tuition in the future.

When asked about reestablishing the debate team (the team was suspended a year a half ago (for two years) because of “problematic behavior”) at Whitman, she responded by saying that a committee had been assembled to research a safer way for the school to reengage in debate. The committee will produce a report by the first of December detailing its findings, and President Murray will ensure that it is made publicly available. She will decide whether to reestablish the debate team at that juncture.

She was then asked about conversations that have been happening at the administrative level regarding the sexual assault banners put up during Fall Visitors Day as well as the letter distributed by the so-called “Indies” which discouraged first-years from rushing. To this, she answered that she does not yet know much about the banners and that she did not approve them to be put up. Regarding the letter, she said that she did not have a problem with such ideas being expressed, but also that she thought that “the timing could have been better” (the letter was distributed during Rush Week). Due to this and other factors, she was “disappointed” by the letter and its writers.

Finally, she expressed her desire to better distinguish Whitman from other, similar liberal arts colleges. To accomplish this, she wants to highlight the virtues of Walla Walla as well as how specific programs set Whitman apart. She hopes that the latter will be “the tide that lifts all boats”, so to speak.

Special Senate

To the delight of all involved, ASWC held a “special Senate” this past Sunday to discuss Divestment, debate campaigning rules, and plan for the upcoming year. While Sexuality Misconduct Prevention Advocate Katie Steen promoted her sex-positive “Sextravaganza” week (which commences on Saturday, April 30th) ASWC President Jack Percival announced that the Board of Trustees will hold an on-campus meeting this week. In his presentation to the Board, Percival plans to discuss work-study programs, the Pioneer’s name change, WIDE’s new strategic plan, and the possibility of Divestment.

After welcoming the group “to this weird Senate,” Nominations Chair AnnaMarie McCorvie oversaw the confirmation of Olivia Barry as Whitman Events Board Chair. Though currently studying abroad, Barry’s excitement and aptitude under stress became clear in her and Olivia Hagel’s messages to the Senate.

McCorvie then introduced Danica Wilbanks, Mickey Shin, and Zoe Lahaie as the future Editors-in-Chief and Publisher of Waiilatpu. Despite lingering concerns over the yearbook’s new fall release schedule and lack of a business model, the leaders’ abundant passion won over the senate. Additionally, Zoe Lahaie announced possibly changing the yearbook’s name, due to the misappropriation of the term “Waiilatpu” from the Cayuse people.

Oversight Chair Jon Miranda led the Senate in considering sanctions for two groups of Junior Senate candidates who continued to campaign during the voting period (which is prohibited). Although Miranda strongly advocated for the candidates’ disqualification and NoahLani Nitwinsella argued that “disqualification is the only option for a sanction,” the Senate carefully considered the implication of such action; Executive Director of Communications Abby Seethoff weighed the impact of ASWC seeming “too harsh” versus “too soft.” After much debate, the Senate took the advice of Finance Chair Anya Tudisco and put the offending parties on probation.

Previously tabled Resolution SRS16.2 returned to Senate in a different format, which advocates that the Trustees issue an updated official response to Divestment. Anya Tudisco expressed her full support for the resolution and Senator Mitch Cutter even suggested adoption by acclamation, though Senator Caroline Bauwens rejected the motion. Still, the resolution passed unanimously in time for the Trustees’ visit.

Finally, the Senate quickly and unanimously passed Act SAS16.3, legislation written by Executive Director of Communications Abby Seethoff that thoroughly documents the responsibilities of her Committee.

“Knocking’s Good”

In the intended penultimate Senate of the 2015-2016 school year, ASWC focused on transitioning into the upcoming year, continuing to pursue long-term projects, and wrapping up smaller initiatives. President-elect Arthur Shemitz promoted applications for Executive Council positions, and thanked students for their input on the Socially Responsible Investment Framework Working Group’s latest policy draft. Anya Tudisco, on the other hand, plans to bring her Finance Committee’s Final Budget to the last Senate meeting of the semester.  Incumbent Nominations Chair AnnaMarie McCorvie and her committee hired student representatives for governing boards and student committees. In his last weeks as ASWC President, Jack Percival is ready to usher the Executive Council into a new year and meet with the Trustees at their late April meeting.

Senate quickly passed Act SAS16.10, which allows club Budget Managers to serve as ASWC Senators. Finance Chair Tudisco, assuring ASWC members that this change offered no “opportunity for embezzlement,” heralded the Act for providing new avenues for student involvement.

Chief Diversity Officer Kazi Joshua attended Senate to present about the progress of the Whitman College Inclusion Diversity and Equity Council (WIDE), which published a draft of their Strategic Plan. Following the release of the Campus Climate Survey’s results, WIDE will consider the response to three central questions: “(1) Is anything missing? (2) Is anything mistaken? (3) What can we add?” From there, Kazi and WIDE will strive to create a more inclusive campus environment, including expanding options for investigations and installing a campus Ombudsperson.

AnnaMarie McCorvie oversaw the nomination of Christy Carley to the Academic Affairs Committee, where the well-spoken student will exercise her passion for making “bigger picture decisions” and communicating with students. Senate also confirmed Lily Monsey and Hillary Smith as co-editors of campus literary magazine blue moon. Both hope to increase the magazine’s accessibility and inclusivity while continuing its celebration of Whitman’s artistic community. KWCW also experienced a change in leadership, with Cillian Mitchell and Alicia Burr stepping up as next year’s general managers. Mitchell seeks to make “it easier for anyone to be a DJ” and foster a stronger community at Whitman’s radio station. Finally, Senate approved the nomination of Marra Clay and Mitchell Smith as publisher and editor-in-chief, respectively, of the school newspaper formerly known as the Pioneer. Ombudsperson Mitch Cutter commended Clay’s success in working with students, faculty, and alumni “with much aplomb.” Though abroad, Smith still conveyed his excitement for the job, citing “high expectations for a high-impact year.”

Arthur Shemitz and AnnaMarie McCorvie jointly introduced Acts SAS16.7, SAS16.8, and SAS17.8, which substantially update the Nomination Committee’s by-laws. Under the changes, the Committee will focus more on liaisoning between CMOs, governing boards, and students.

As the Senate moved to consider allowing the college newspaper to change its name, Memorial 331 filled with student journalists wearing paper hats and carrying signs to lend their support to the newspaper. Sarah Cornett and Jessica Faunt expressed their concerns about Oversight’s ruling on the change, arguing that the decision set a precedent of limiting free expression. Oversight Director Jon Miranda, however,  assured the room that their choice did not represent “an attempt to defund the Pioneer.” In the end, the Senate unanimously agreed with Marra’s claim that “a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet,” amending the by-laws to allow for a future name change.

The senate also unanimously passed Act SAS16.6, which formalizes the position of “Publisher” within Waiilatpu leadership. However, ASWC members rejected Resolution SRS16.2, which requested that the Board of Trustees issue a formal response to Divest Whitman. President Jack Percival called a Special Senate for this upcoming Sunday the 23rd, where ASWC will discuss a revised version of the resolution.

We All Scream (for Transparency)

Though it occurred over a month ago, the latest Town Hall’s topic of transparency remains just as pertinent today. Vice President Arthur Shemitz launched a large-group discussion with an overview of ASWC’s goals and accomplishments, including the success of his Personal Gender Pronoun initiative and the Bike Share Program revitalization. As well as noting that “transparency is really a perennial issue” of student concern, Shemitz acknowledged a large gap between “what is being done and what we know about what is being done.” On the other hand, he urged students to consider that the “complex tightrope” of evaluating which decisions should take student input into account.

Immediately following, President Jack Percival took the stage to present on the larger structure of Whitman College. With the aid of a graphic by ASWC Graphic Designer Dorothy Mukasa, Percival illuminated the complex system of committees and interactions that supports this institution. Though a complete analysis would require hours rather than minutes, President Percival’s clarification equipped Town Hall attendees to conduct more in-depth conversations.

As always, Town Hall attendees learned how to make an impact on their communities through engagement with ASWC. Voting periods for Executive Council seats and Senator positions, for example, open on April 10th and 20th, respectively.

Senate Goes to the Ball

Thanks to ASWC Executive Director of Communications Abby Seethoff, the ASWC Senate last met in Reid Ballroom to provide a welcoming environment for visitors. As usual, the Executive Council began Senate by updating ASWC on their committees’ endeavors. Finance Chair Anya Tudisco welcomed questions and suggestions for the Finance committee’s upcoming budgeting meeting. Jon Miranda, head of the Oversight Committee, encouraged ASWC members to campaign for or vote in another upcoming event—ASWC’s elections! Current President Jack Percival continues to advocate for student interests, recently urging faculty to cancel classes for the next three Power & Privilege Symposiums.

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