TCU Senate discusses progress of ongoing projects, hears funding requests

The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate met last night in the Sophia Gordon Multipurpose Room to discuss ongoing projects and hear supplementary funding requests.

TCU President Benya Kraus started the meeting, encouraging the body to attend the Senate Town Hall taking place tonight at 7 p.m. in Alumnae Lounge, to discuss spatial inequality and the Capen Village upperclassman housing project.

TCU Vice President Anna Del Castillo opened the floor for all senators to share progress on the projects they are working on.

Notable projects included efforts to open a Korean language class at Tufts and to amend the residency requirement. Some senators also noted that they are working on opening more gender-neutral bathrooms and increasing availability of feminine hygiene products in restrooms. The session was followed by a question-and-answer period.

Next, committee chairs took the floor to give updates. Education Committee Chair Phil Miller, a sophomore, said that a survey for a possible Korean language class at Tufts received more than 120 responses, which were overwhelmingly positive. Services Committee Chair Malachy Donovan, a junior, announced that the Turkey Shuttle service will take place again this year on Nov. 21 and 22. There were no significant updates from other committees, according to their chairs.

After the announcement, the Senate heard six supplementary funding requests. The Senate did not hear a supplementary funding request from Tufts Republicans to bring to campus Ben Shapiro, a former editor at Breitbart News. Tufts Republicans decided to reschedule its funding request for a later date, according to the Senate’s Facebook page.

George Behrakis, president of Tufts Republicans, told the Daily in an email that his organization decided to postpone the hearing for the request, not to cancel the request itself. He said Tufts Republicans made this decision in response to Tufts Student Action and Tufts United for Immigrant Justice’s plan to “pack the room” with those against the funding request, because of “Shapiro’s history of spreading fake news and fear-mongering, particularly around issues of immigration.”

“When we discovered on Saturday that some of the left-leaning groups on campus were mobilizing in order to oppose our request at the Senate meeting on Sunday, we thought it would be appropriate to request the Senate postpone the debate and vote on it in order to give ourselves time to prepare,” Behrakis, a sophomore, said.

Behrakis rejected criticism that Shapiro is a white supremacist.

“[Shapiro] has routinely condemned the ideology of white supremacy and the groups and people that espouse such views. There is also a certain degree of irony in terming an orthodox Jew a white supremacist,” Behrakis said. “Similarly, he has never advocated hatred or violence towards any group of people, including people who may be homosexual or transgender.”

Shapiro caught media attention when he called transgender activist Zoey Tur by the wrong pronouns and described transgender people as mentally ill, among other incendiary remarks.

Behrakis added that he believes an ideology shouldn’t be the basis for blocking a speaker from coming to Tufts.

“I don’t think disagreeing with certain views of a speaker is a legitimate reason for him to be blocked,” Behrakis said. “The notion that his views are too beyond the pale for him to have the opportunity to speak is something with which I wholeheartedly disagree.”

Meanwhile, the scheduled demonstration to protest the Allocations Board (ALBO)’s initial recommendation to fund the event, titled “Pack the Room: Vote No to Ben Shapiro,” has also been cancelled.

Ann-Marie Lee, one of the organizers of the protest, said that she believes TCU Senate has justification not to fund the Tufts Republicans’ speaker event.

“As someone who actively and vociferously engages in dangerous hate speech, I believe that the TCU Senate should not be helping [Shapiro] to come to campus, especially since the TCU is an organization whose purpose is to inclusively serve the student body to the best of its abilities, and [since] many TCU senators have promised to uplift and protect marginalized students, students who are directly implicated in the hateful language, actions and presence Ben Shapiro provides,” Lee, a sophomore, told the Daily in an email.

She added that a new protest has not formally been organized to her knowledge.

TCU Treasurer Emily Sim explained that ALBO recommended to provide $4,700 in funding for Tufts Republicans’ speaker event and that five ALBO members voted in favor, four against, and one abstaining for the request. She explained that Senate was not attempting to hide the funding request in any way.

“We do not have an obligation to [publicize funding requests] because that is not in our bylaws. Our bylaws don’t stipulate that we are supposed to do that nor that we are not supposed to do that,” Sim told the Daily in an interview. “We have not set a precedent to share Allocations Board recommendations after our Wednesday meetings.”

Sim also added that she thinks publicizing funding requests and ALBO’s recommendations beforehand may be unfair because the Senate does not share other potentially contentious funding requests.

“Obviously knew that this will be contentious request. So did want to share with public personally, but that’s … my bias as a person and that wouldn’t be fair to other groups who have come in for other speakers that I know members of Tufts community would view also as contentious,” Sim said.  

The body voted to match ALBO’s initial recommendations for the following groups: $5,117 in funding to the European Students’ Association (ESA) for its retreat on Nov. 5, $2,990 to the Vietnamese Student Club (VSC) for a speaker event, $704 to Teach-In-CORES for its yearlong budget, $450 to the Media Advocacy Board for a speaker event, $3,780 to Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) for its two upcoming events and $7,420 to Tufts Relay for Life for its yearlong budget.

After supplementary funding, TCU Parliamentarian Adam Rapfogel announced the titles and abstracts of the two upcoming resolutions that will be heard by the Senate. Rapfogel first announced that the Senate will hear ‘A Resolution Calling for Tufts University to Create an Accessible Asian American Center through the Relocation of Asian-American Special Interest Housing,’ asking the university to relocate Asian American special interest housing to make the Asian American Center more accessible to all students. The authors of this resolution are Ana Sofia Amieva-Wang, Shannon Lee and Charlie Zhen.

Also, Senate will hear ‘A Resolution Calling for Tufts to Offer a Greater Number of All Gender Inclusive Restrooms on Campus,’ which urges the university to install single-stall bathrooms in public educational and student resource buildings, encourage gender-inclusive signage and look into creating more multi-stall, all-gender bathrooms. The authors of this resolution, according to Rapfogel, are Kraus, Lee, Grant Gebetsberger, Leticia Preiebe and Rebeca Becdach.

Then the meeting adjourned.