TCU Senate: a year in review

The Tufts Community Union Senate concluded its 2013-14 session last month, marking a year of many accomplishments and little conflict.

Former TCU Senate President Joe Thibodeau, a graduating senior, explained that one of his primary objectives for the Senate this year was to achieve a meaningful and productive analysis of pertinent, on-campus dilemmas, and to follow through by drafting and passing corresponding resolutions.

“This year we tried to foster a setting that encouraged civil debate and talk about issues that impact a lot of students in their everyday lives — issues of equity and justice,” he said.

Over the course of the year, the Senate debated and passed a number of resolutions, with some resulting in new school-wide policies. In early September, the school added a Good Samaritan clause to its alcohol policy, limiting the judicial consequences for students found to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The change was initially proposed in a Senate resolution passed last school year. Other policy changes supported by the Senate are currently pending administrative approval, including the establishment of an undergraduate education major and the construction of an outdoor beach volleyball court.

The resolutions reflected senators’ broad range of objectives, including facilitating student transportation in and around campus, assisting students with the voter registration process, improving the school’s extracurricular athletics programs, enhancing on-campus social life for upperclassmen by building an on-campus bar and eliminating economic barriers that may prevent students from enjoying the complete Tufts experience.

According to former TCU Vice President Stephen Ruggiero, a graduating senior, the Senate was particularly successful this year in using input from outside organizations while drafting its resolutions. For instance, the Department of Education contributed to the resolution calling for an undergraduate education major, club volleyball players were consulted on the resolution calling for a new outdoor volleyball court and members of the Tufts Garden Club helped to push for the construction of an on-campus greenhouse.

“I’m happy that we were able to talk about a lot of projects with our key stakeholders, rather than just hearing from members of the Senate,” Ruggiero said. “We made sure that a lot of student voices were heard, and we were receptive of a lot of student groups.”

During the fall semester, senators passed a resolution calling for a late-night dining option to be available with meal swipes, and they saw their idea come to fruition this semester when the Commons Deli and Grill began accepting meal swipes on Friday and Saturday nights. In order to make the change, Director of Dining and Business Services Patti Klos worked closely with members of the Senate Services Committee.

Newly elected TCU President Robert Joseph said he hopes the Senate will continue to work with outside groups to make necessary and important changes across campus.

“The biggest success for the Senate was that we came together to work with student groups across campus, which allowed us to lay down the foundation for even more great projects,” Joseph, a rising senior, said.

Joseph added that senators were generally able to function well together as a unit, and he hopes that the organization will continue to maintain this positive collaboration.

“There were very few, if any, internal conflicts on the Senate this year, and none of them were particularly big,” he said. “We were able to cooperate well and move forward on a lot of projects. We [laid] down the groundwork for next year, [and] I’m really excited to see a lot of these projects come to fruition.”

Ruggiero said he is confident that the Senate will continue to serve a valuable role on campus next year, especially as the university enters a transitional period marked by a major fundraising campaign and the arrival of several important new deans and administrators.

“Next year is a big year on [the] Senate and a big year for Tufts,” he said. “I think [the Senate] will be able to get ideas on the table and build things effectively.”

With his tenure as TCU President now over, Thibodeau said his experience on the Senate was worthwhile.

“It has been a real honor and a real privilege to serve in the positions we’ve held over the past year,” he said. “We’re really grateful for the opportunities the Tufts community provided for us and the trust which they instilled in us. This has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my Tufts career, and it has helped me to grow as a person.”