TCU Senate delivers updates at weekly meeting

The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate held its weekly meeting in the Sophia Gordon Hall Multipurpose Room to discuss the current state of TCU as well as to discuss supplementary funding requests from several student groups.

TCU President Gauri Seth opened the meeting with her State of the TCU speech, in which she discussed the Tufts community as a whole and the progress that Senate and TCU have made over the first half of the semester.

Seth, a senior, described the community as “strong, with great momentum and determination,” specifically pointing toward acts such as the recognition of Indigenous People’s Day (IPD), the reinstatement of the cognitive and brain sciences minor, the installation of a printer in Mayer Campus Center and the successful negotiation of contracts for janitors as indicative points of progress in the Tufts community.

She also talked about existing problems, including the divide created by the housing lottery, through which students are forced to choose between living with their friends and trying to find students with higher lottery numbers. Seth said that the administration needs to do a better job of supporting upperclassmen in finding housing, especially with the rapidly increasing cost of off-campus rent prices.

Seth also discussed issues with the Financial Aid Office, saying that it should be held more accountable for its lack of transparency as well as expand its resources and set aside drop-in hours for students.

Following Seth’s speech, Elections Commission member Ryan Hartney, a senior, took the floor to lead the body in electing a new chair for the Services Committee. Five senators who already serve on the committee were nominated and three first-year senators were accepted: Kevin Gleason, Shannon Lee and Olive Baerde. The body voted for Gleason to take the position. 

TCU Treasurer Chris Leaverton then took the floor to speak about the State of the Treasury.

Leaverton, a sophomore, described the Treasury Procedure Manual’s recent simplification. He reported that TCU’s surplus fund is currently at $626,000, the buffer fund is at $13,000 and money can be comfortably moved from the surplus to the buffer as needed.

Leaverton said that accessibility has been a key theme for TCU this year. He said that Senate as a whole is trying to increase accessibility for campus resources.

Next, trustee representatives took the floor to discuss the first Trustee committee of the academic year. Gregory Chin spoke about the Administration and Finance Committee (AFC) meeting, in which administrators met with a group of several trustees and proposed some specific projects. Some of the issues discussed were the inspection of Carmichael Hall’s infrastructure and either renovating or replacing Carmichael Dining Center, as well as increasing property acquisitions around campus, he said.

Chin, a junior, also discussed the relationship between administrators and student activists based on his experience at the AFC meeting. He said that although it may be hard to see tangible results, he believed the trustees and administrators recognize the activist voices on campus and take them seriously, deciding which they want to respond to and how they want to respond.

Sophomore Cecilia Rodriguez spoke next about her experience at the Academic Affairs Committee meeting, which featured discussions about admissions statistics, financial aid, the creation of a data analysis center in the near future and the expansion of opportunities in Tufts’ graduate schools.

The final update came from junior Ben Kesslen, who had attended the Committee for University Advancement meeting. According to Kesslen, Tufts is preparing for an intensive six-year fundraising effort. The committee wants to significantly increase its endowment in order to boost its public image and essentially rebrand Tufts, which it argues would lead to easier professor recruitment, higher rankings and more selective admission rates, among other benefits.

Diversity and Community Affairs (DCA) Officer Benya Kraus then took the floor to provide the State of DCA speech. Referencing recent national events that “shook the social psyche of this nation and this world,”  such as the Standing Rock protests and the Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub, Kraus said the resulting pain and destruction of current events were not things that students could detach themselves from within the bubble of the Tufts community. However, Kraus, a junior, said she is still inspired to be hopeful by many actions of the Tufts community, including community measures such as Take Back the Night, the first IPD celebration, the football team honoring #BlackLivesMatter and more.

TCU Vice President Shai Slotky, a senior, then took the floor next to ask for updates from committee chairs. At this time, the Culture, Ethnicity and Community Affairs committee reached out to several contacts for various projects in order to map out timelines, the Education Committee discussed continued logistics of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) acquisition, the Student Outreach committee talked about the Senate Student Leadership dinner on Nov. 17 and the Services committee discussed the improvement and finalization of the Turkey Shuttle.

The meeting concluded with Leaverton discussing supplementary funding requests from the student groups on campus. There were requests from Tufts University Pre-Dental Society, TuftScope, Another Option, Tufts sQ!, Spoken Word Alliance at Tufts and the History Society. All Allocations Board (ALBO) recommendations for funding passed by acclamation except for the History Society’s request, which moved to a debate on the floor with speakers from the body. Ultimately, ALBO’s recommendation for the History Society passed in a vote of 13-12 with 4 abstentions.

A representative of the Committee on Student Life (CSL) reported that CSL is working with Greek life on a question prompt for the Wendell Phillips Award. This was followed by an update by a TCU Judiciary representative, who noted that Spoon University Tufts, the university’s chapter of a national food recipe and restaurant review group, was not recognized as a student group. The body then moved into its closed session.