TCU Senate discusses space accessibility, university budget, bylaw changes at final meeting

The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate held its final meeting of the semester in the Sophia Gordon Multipurpose Room last night.

TCU President Benya Kraus opened the meeting, announcing addresses from senate executives and a vote on bylaw changes.

TCU Vice President Anna Del Castillo then opened the floor for committee updates.

In one update, Grant Gebetsberger, a first-year senator, mentioned an upcoming meeting with the administrators to discuss a pilot program for Tufts ambassadors to visit underrepresented areas and speak about Tufts. Gebetsberger also mentioned the possibility of holding a town hall related to mental health.

Education Committee Chair Phil Miller announced that the Textbook Exchange will open on Dec. 14, and will be open for a week.

Del Castillo then opened the election for the new chair of the Services Committee.

Senators then nominated candidates. Janey Litvin, Kevin Gleason, Izzy Ma and Rebeca Becdach accepted their nominations and became official candidates.

Each candidate spoke about why they would be an effective chair, followed by a question-and-answer session.

Senators then voted on the candidates. Litvin and Gleason tied, so they are now co-chairs.

TCU Treasurer Emily Sim then introduced a group of students representing Chabad serving Tufts, and gave them time to speak about their funding appeals request. The students discussed their Spa for the Soul event, which normally features a speaker, and their desire to bring Miriam Lipskier, co-founder of the Chabad Student Center at Emory University, who, according to the students, has come to Tufts twice and has been funded by TCU Senate both times. According to the students, Lipskier’s speeches have focused on femininity and Judaism.

Allocations Board (ALBO) members then spoke about why they denied the funding request, saying that the representative from Chabad who had originally presented the request was not familiar with what the speaker would be discussing. ALBO members said they initially felt uncomfortable funding a speaker without this information. There was then a question-and-answer period. Sim, a junior, then opened the floor for debate, and one of the Chabad representatives spoke about why this speaker is important. Sim then opened the vote on the appeals request. A new amount of $1,150 was proposed and the amount passed 25–1–0.

The body approved funding requests from The Institute Sketch Comedy, TFL Comedy, Currents Magazine and Tom Thumb’s Student Garden.

Kraus introduced that the State of the TCU, State of Diversity & Community Affairs and State of the Treasury addresses.

Shannon Lee, the Diversity and Community Affairs Officer, gave the State of Diversity and Community Affairs address. Lee, a sophomore, noted that the university seems to be more divided than ever over diversity-related issues, and that although the university has made some progress, it could allocate more resources for students in need. Lee pointed out that underrepresented students do not have sufficient access to campus space or resources. The LGBT and Latino Centers need physical repair; the Africana Center is in Capen House, which has no fire escape; the Asian American Center is locked to most of its inhabitants due to the recent resolution and the International Center does not provide enough of a community space. Lee emphasized the need to increase support for students from underrepresented communities, and lamented that the burden often falls on these students to advocate for these changes. Lee said that the administration needs to do more to support these students. She added that more privileged students must also take initiative.

In her State of the Treasury address, Sim thanked students for their dedication to their organizations, and vowed to make the treasury more flexible and accessible. Sim said that more flexibility for signatories for the TCU credit card created easier access to it. Sim also noted that this opened up time for groups to have dialogue with her. Sim added that the cap for available funding from the Student Support Fund to cover club dues was increased by $50. Sim also mentioned an ongoing collaboration with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts to discuss what support those students need.

In the State of the TCU address, Kraus highlighted that Senate serves as a place for dialogue, and that in light of recent divisive issues on campus, it is important to provide this safe space. Kraus praised the reform of Senate bylaws that allows more time for discussion of contentious issues. She added that the outreach committee has made significant progress, and that many initiatives to connect senators and students have been put in place, along with services such as the Turkey Shuttle. Key projects included the Swipe It Forward campaign, bringing menstrual hygiene products to more bathrooms on campus and the town halls on the budget and spatial inequity. Kraus also highlighted sign changes underway for over 20 campus buildings to create more gender-neutral bathrooms, along with new bathrooms in the Mayer Campus Center and Dewick-MacPhie and Carmichael Dining Centers. Kraus expressed a desire to expand the discussion of spatial inequities, like the Asian American Center accessibility issues and the need for renovations in Capen House.

Historian Jacqueline Chen read the text of suggested bylaw changes, which proposed that it would be mandatory for community senators to sit on the Culture, Ethnicity and Community Affairs (CECA) committee, which is chaired by the Diversity & Community Affairs officer. The other change dictates that if another senator wanted to sit on CECA, the senator would have to sit on CECA in addition to his or her mandatory committee.

There was then a question-and-answer period about the changes.

Lee said CECA should be a space for community senators, and Asian American Community Senator and Outreach Committee Chair Charlie Zhen, a junior, emphasized the importance of keeping underrepresented communities in mind.

Lee explained that CECA was less effective this year because it was too large. She also said that diversity and inclusion work should not just be the work of CECA, and that other committees should also participate.

Kraus opened the vote on the bylaw changes. The changes were passed 29–1–0.

Kraus gave Assistant Treasurer Sharif Hamidi, a first-year, an opportunity to explain his proposed resolution that calls on the administration to extend the deadline to designate a class pass-fail to 10 weeks into the semester for all students instead of just first-years.

The body then went into a closed session.