Over the past semester, the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate has discussed multiple contentious resolutions and implemented several senator-initiated projects, in addition to Senate’s ongoing budgetary responsibilities.
Next year’s TCU president will be Benya Kraus, a rising senior who won an uncontested election on April 26. Following that election, internal elections were held to select next year’s executive board.
The new TCU Senate vice president is Anna Del Castillo, the treasurer is Emily Sim, the historian is Jacqueline Chen, the diversity and community affairs officer is Shannon Lee and the parliamentarian remains Adam Rapfogel.
Debate and Disagreement over Resolutions
Senate heard five resolutions this semester, two of which saw significant attention in the wider Tufts community. At the final Senate meeting of the semester on April 9, a resolution was passed urging Tufts not to invest in four companies the resolution authors said are associated with the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Many students voiced opinions in support of and in opposition to the divestment resolution, and several students and senators expressed concerns that it was heard on the night before the beginning of Passover. A statement by the Tufts Office of the President the next day announced that administrators would not support the proposal.
Many students also showed up to a March 12 Senate meeting and voiced opposition to Students Advocating for Students President Jake Goldberg’s second resolution of the academic year. The resolution suggested that Tufts should review its Title IX proceedings and not allow perpetrators or survivors of sexual misconduct to serve on decision-making panels for Title IX investigations. After a lengthy debate during which most speakers sharply condemned the resolution, it failed with no senators voting for it.
In February, Senate’s first resolution of the semester called on Tufts administrators to support the Massachusetts Safe Communities Act, a bill that would essentially make Massachusetts a sanctuary state. Senate passed the resolution, but University President Anthony Monaco has not yet taken a public stance on the bill, according to an April 12 Daily article.
Additionally, resolutions were passed calling on Tufts to create French and Spanish minors for students in the School of Arts and Sciences, and proposing an expansion in reproductive health services.
In April, several senators wrote a resolution calling for Greek life to be abolished and suggesting the creation of alternative social spaces. However, several hours before the Senate meeting during which it was scheduled to be heard, the resolution’s authors tabled it until further notice, citing the need for further dialogue on the controversial issue.
Rapfogel, who acts as Senate’s neutral overseer of resolutions, explained that senators have varying opinions on how political Senate should be, and that some of the most passionate senators tend to believe that the body should take strong stances.
“While people don’t usually have strong reactions to a resolution about meal plans or testing policy, they will about more personal issues like divestment or Greek life,” Rapfogel said.
Rapfogel added that he is pleased that there is strong interest in Senate resolutions. However, he expressed concern that if Senate passes too many resolutions with little chance of being implemented, Tufts administrators might discount resolutions that could have more tangible effects on Tufts students.
Amidst the resolutions this semester, senators also took on projects and sat on university committees. The first major developments included the upcoming changes to the Office of Residential Life and Learning (ResLife), a project that outgoing TCU President Gauri Seth helped to implement.
Among those changes, ResLife will phase out the Resident Assistant (RA) role, instead creating First Year Advisor (FYA) and Community Development Advisor (CDA) positions for first-year and returning-student dorms, respectively. Additionally, almost all first-year students will now live in first-year exclusive dorms, some of which are different from the existing first-year exclusive dorms.
The housing lottery system was modified to make each class year’s housing number a random draw, instead of sophomore and senior year numbers being inverses. In the future, those numbers will be sent out one year at a time, instead of all numbers being sent out at once.
Another development was the Swipe it Forward initiative, which created a bank of meal swipes that can be accessed by students in need. That project was spearheaded by TCU senators Chen, fellow rising junior Celeste Teng and rising sophomores Lee and Olive Baerde. The meal bank was supplied by student-donated swipes, which numbered more than 1,000 by the end of the donation period, according to a Two-Minute Thursday video released by Senate on March 2.
The Committee on Culture, Ethnicity, Community Affairs (CECA), previously led by Kraus, also worked on projects and programs. In particular, CECA members worked to sell shirts in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, the proceeds of which went to water protectors at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The committee also worked to promote and encourage conversations about consent and attempted to clarify and make explicit the reproductive health options offered by Health Service.
The current state and future of Greek life came into focus this semester, and the Student Life Review Committee was formed to address this campus-wide discussion. Created by Monaco, this committee was composed of six student representatives and several trustees, faculty and Medford/Somerville representatives who assessed various facets of undergraduate student life. This included discussions on residential life, student groups, sports and Greek life.
Senate also heard a group of students looking to make Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus tobacco-free. The students asked for Senators’ inputs on ways to promote and enforce the policy, and several senators raised concerns about whether the policy would have a disproportionate effect on LGBTQ and economically disadvantaged students.
In addition, senators worked on projects to address club sports funding, JumboCash retail locations, improving the dining system and printing stipends. Culture clubs are now no longer required to hold three public events to be recognized by the TCU Judiciary, Chemistry Lecturer Diren Pamuk Turner was selected as Professor of the Year and a physical textbook exchange program is now offered.
The Senate has also undergone internal changes, such as the recent creation of the First-Generation Community Senator position, which the Senate anticipates will begin next semester. Additionally, outgoing Senate Vice President Shai Slotky prepared a Strategic Plan for TCU Senate. This plan lists several of the areas for improvement of Senate under four main categories and provides a set of recommendations and guidelines on how to start resolving these issues, according to Slotky. The plan will be presented to the next full Senate.