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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Post-Sundae Sunday

Following a Town Hall brimming with ice cream sundaes and talk of Transparency, Senate met again to discuss upcoming events and initiatives. Finance Committee Chair Anya Tudisco announced the launch of the “Walla Wallet” blog, where students and student organization talk about their use of T+SD funds. Oversight Chair Jon Miranda heralded upcoming ASWC elections: Executive Council elections are April 10-11 and voting for senator races, for which we still need candidates, will happen April 20-21. Whitman students can now rent bikes from the library thanks to Noah Edelson, the first Bike Share Program Intern. ASWC President Jack Percival updated the senate on “dealing with Pio shenanigans” and working with Tony Cabasco to explore Whitman’s standardized test requirement.

After singing “Happy Birthday” to first-year senator Erin Lopez, the Senate considered ratifying the Young Democrats’ Club. Though all club meeting attendees have thus far been “fervent Bernie supporters,” co-Presidents Mateo and James described their group’s goal as simply “provid[ing] resources” for political engagement. Concerns about the club’s longevity notwithstanding, the Senate agreed with its belief that Whitman “needs more of a political voice” and ratified the club.

Nominations Chair AnnaMarie McCorvie oversaw the successful confirmation of Kincaid Hoffman, Kanupria Sanu, and Samuel Reddy to the President’s Budget Advisory Committee (Reddy also joined the Budget Governing Board Committee). All three nominees demonstrated strong leadership skills and experience in the financial sector, whether as Kappa Alpha Beta budget manager or a Goldman-Sachs asset manager. Anya Tudisco and Skye Vander Laan, current Advisory Committee members, offered their advice and support for the trio and advised them that they are about to embark on a stressful—though rewarding—journey.

Chris Meabe, Budget Manager for the Interest House Community, visited Senate to relate his discovery of significant budget mismanagement during the Fall 2015 semester due to a lack of communication. In response to Meabe’s investigation and creation of a more reliable  system of reporting spending, the Senate awarded the IHC $550 to provide for its programming needs.

Leaders of the upcoming Red Rocks climbing group received funding for gas expenses for their Spring Break trip, while Oversight Chair Jon Miranda explained that Waiilatpu yearbooks can be distributed in the fall based on his interpretation of ASWC’s by-laws. Despite Nomination Chair McCorvie’s desire to “open a discussion” about the change’s logistical impact, the Senate decided to keep conversation germane to Miranda’s decision.

Student Life Committee Chair Arthur Shemitz introduced Act SAS 16.4, which reauthorizes the Power and Privilege Symposium for 2017. Shemitz described the Symposium as “a young thing that is constantly evolving”; this year, hiring procedures and group organizations underwent revision.

To conclude March 6th’s Senate, Tudisco reported ASWC’s remaining budget and Percival noted that only three Senate meetings remain.

Note: In an ASWC first, Chris Meabe stayed at Senate after his request was discussed and even asked a question regarding the Waiilatpu budget; the whole of Senate very much appreciated his interest.

On The Gas Station Issue

As submissions for its Binary issue wrapped up, Quarterlife’s staff prepared for upcoming leadership transitions and looming publication deadlines. To guarantee the continued quirkiness of Whitman’s quarterly literary magazine, ASWC Nominations Chair AnnaMarie McCorvie brought Brie Strom and Gillian Gray to Senate for their confirmation as next year’s Co-Editors in Chief. Gray, currently studying abroad, described via email her unabating passion for the publication and her dedication to “[p]ushing the extensive collection of past issues that [she] brought [to the UK…] on semi-interested British students.” As current Co-Editor in Chief with Meritt Salathe, Gray has displayed a knack for constructive criticism and an investment in preserving the magazine’s identity. Strom’s artistic vision and experience with Queering, on the other hand, makes them an excellent candidate for the position. They noted their appreciation for the “spirit in Quarterlife that fosters a lot of different creative work” and hopes to further Quarterlife’s zany advertising techniques. With the blessing of current Co-Editor in Chief Meritt Salathe, ASWC’s Senate confirmed the pair by a vote of 17-0-2.

The following Sunday, Salathe hosted Quarterlife artists, copy editors, and advertisers in a General Selections Meeting, where they discussed which pieces to include in their upcoming publication. “Binary,” developed in concert with the Power and Privilege Symposium, aims to foster dialogue on the harmful nature of socially constructed dichotomies (in addition to inspiring plenty of computer-related art). Salathe led the group in considering each submission and seeking to publish a balance of different art forms and interpretations of “Binary.” Quarterlife’s staff arrived at a healthy mix of fourteen pieces, ranging from a bizarre character sketch of “Eunice B. Fenklie” to frank poems on race and ethnicity. The selected submissions will be scrutinized by Copy Editors and organized by Staff Artists before heading to the press.

With the Binary’s publication on schedule, the staff began brainstorming themes for the next issue. Quarterlife’s fourth publication typically fits a “The _____ Issue” format (think “The Swimsuit Issue” or “The Gardening Issue”), so initial conversations focused on filling that blank space. Because submissions to “Binary” tended to focus on weighty topics, ideas such as “The Education Issue” or “The Immigration Issue,” were sidelined for future consideration. Spring-related odes to regrowth and rebirth were similarly rejected—beautiful often devolves into boring, and Quarterlife favors the bizarre, the uncanny, the mundane. Along those lines, someone floated the idea of “24hr Diner,” attempting to appeal to IHOP-at-2am aesthetics and the tone of the Cards Against Humanity card that reads “waking up half-naked in a Denny’s parking lot.” From there, the general “24/7” theme took hold, the question being: Where would you least like to be at midnight? A convenience store? An airport? A truck stop? Some disquieting dark alley? Even Blockbusters, with its iconic pickles and nostalgic value, was tossed around as a potential theme. But after much deliberation, the matter was settled: this Spring, Quarterlife will ask Whitman to consider “The Gas Station Issue” (staff field trip upcoming).

Submissions deadline to be announced; send paintings, poems, short stories, photos, drawing, graphic art and whatever else you can dream up to quarterlife@whitman.edu­­