Senate holds tribute to Reitman, debates funding appeals

The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate began its last meeting of the 2014-2015 session by honoring Dean of Campus Life and Leadership Bruce Reitman, who is retiring at the end of this school year.

TCU President Robert Joseph delivered a speech celebrating the over three decades that Reitman has spent at Tufts, working through four presidencies.

Reitman delivered his own remarks, reflecting on his time as an RA during his undergraduate career. He stayed at Tufts as a graduate student, then worked for the Vermont state government and courts before returning to the Hill. He told stories of indoor fireworks at First Night festivities and about how snow closure decisions have been made over the years.

Reitman remembered a time when six-packs were allowed at Spring Fling, resulting in over two dozen students being transported to the hospital; Lawrence Memorial Hospital declared it as a “mass casualty” event. He asked that current student leaders continue to help make Spring Fling a positive, healthy event.

Senate alumni, including former TCU President Joe Thibodeau, came to the meeting as well to thank Reitman for his work with the Senate. Senators and meeting attendees had the chance to ask Reitman questions about his experience and the decisions he has made, and to thank Reitman for positive interactions they had with him.

Reitman emphasized the important role student government plays at Tufts, and that the future of higher education lies in campus leaders’ ability to demonstrate that the campus contributes positively to the community.

He stressed that a Tufts education needs to remain accessible to non-elite students, and that students should be a part of confronting that challenge. Housing in particular will continue to be a challenge, according to Reitman, one for which he and other campus leaders continue to seek sustainable solutions.

Later, TCU Treasurer Adam Kochman began the evening’s Treasury Report. He explained that through collaboration with the TCU Judiciary, the Senate established six groups whose sole purpose is to compete, and granted those groups some funding for regional travel. Kochman said this provision will be included in future budgeting for groups to resolve this issue in the future.

The first appeal of the night came from Tufts Synthetic Biology (SynBio). The Allocations Board recommended funding $1,462 for registration at a local competition, but did not recommend funding for several other provisions SynBio requested, including research equipment.

Both sides argued their cases, with SynBio representatives arguing for the importance of their research to the club’s mission and to the field of synthetic biology. Senators largely argued that the requested funds would set a precedent for the Senate to fund other student research projects, which is not currently in its purview.

After a question-and-answer period and a series of pro and con speeches, the Senate narrowly passed the Allocations Board’s original $1,462 recommendation by a vote of 12-10-1.

Next, Tufts Freethought Society appealed an Allocations Board decision that denied the society $200 per semester to host community meals. Allocations Board was concerned that the meals served as group bonding, which the Senate does not fund. The Senate noted that usually, Allocations Board would have met with Freethought Society to clarify the purpose of the event, but the two groups had been unable to schedule a meeting before the appeal.

The Senate quickly moved to vote against Allocation Board’s recommendation and to approve the $400 the group requested.

Finally, Kochman led the Senate in voting on Senate council budgets. Council 1, cultural groups, requested $106,360, which passed by acclimation. Council 2, the programming council, requested $746,850, which passed 22-0-1.

Council 3, the publications and media council, requested $152,491, and Council 4, the religion council, requested $91,312. Council 5, the performance group council, requested $126,699.43 and Council 6, the competition group council, requested $171,820.83. All four requests were passed by acclimation.

Council 7, pre-professional, requested $44,935, and Council 8, the council for political groups, requested $28,983.20, both of which were passed by acclimation. Council 9, representing student government groups, requested $253,991.50. Council 9’s budget moved to debate over Sophomore Senator Bryson Wong’s objection to the inclusion of funding for an ice cream truck, and to the inclusion of stipends for four Senate leadership positions.

The Senate finally voted 17-1-4 to pass Council 9’s budget, concluding the final Treasury report of the year.

Diversity and Community Affairs Officer Allison Aaronson gave her closing update of the year on the status of her section, describing the state of diversity and social justice on campus as “in progress.” She cited Tufts‘ announcement that it would accept undocumented students as domestic applicants as a point of progress, but identified the protests over DTZ janitors’ pay cuts as a continued setback.

Aaronson also called for a committee to examine the balance between protecting free speech on campus and preventing hate speech. She shared that on April 17, senior administrators will meet with Senators to discuss gender-neutral bathrooms in academic buildings.

Finally, Senators reflected on their experiences serving on committees, including the projects they worked on with administrators. Joseph closed the meeting with a speech reflecting on the challenges and successes Senate has handled this year, and on the issues Senate will tackle in the future.