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

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.