Senate meets with Dean of Arts and Sciences, hears funding requests

The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate met Monday night for its weekly meeting in the Sophia Gordon Multipurpose Room for a question and answer session with Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences James Glaser and to hear supplementary funding appeals.

The question and answer session with Glaser began with a discussion of student housing. Glaser cited the addition of over 100 beds in Stratton Hall and the construction of CoHo as examples of the university’s response to the lack of housing.

The discussion then moved to Americans with Disabilities Act compliance which Glaser said the university has been working on over time and that significant funds have been invested in deferred maintenance, according to TCU Senate Vice President Adam Rapfogel. 

The inclusion of textbooks in financial aid awards was also discussed and Glaser said that $2.5 million had been invested by the university in part to defray these costs, according to Rapfogel, a senior.

Glaser also said that the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts would be capping the admission of combined degrees this year but would work to push the number of students pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree to 85.

Finally, Glaser discussed the university’s financial structure.

Of the tuition paid to the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering, around 15 percent goes to fund the central administration; the rest is first used to fund things shared between the two schools, like sports teams or Tisch Library. What remains is further split — roughly 80 percent for Arts and Sciences and 20 percent for Engineering, though Arts and Sciences accounts for 84 percent of enrollment, according to Glaser. He explained that the discrepancy is due to higher costs associated with educating engineering students.

Rapfogel appreciated Glaser’s visit, noting the rarity of high-level university administrators coming to the Senate’s weekly meeting.

“In my four years on Senate we haven’t had many senior decision-makers come in and answer questions for us,” Rapfogel said. “It was great to have time for us to find out how the university makes financial decisions. I’m really happy to hear [Dean Glaser] is interested in continuing the conversation, and I’m excited for our future projects.”

After Glaser departed, TCU President Jacqueline Chen said that in the wake of an Allocations Board funding appeal heard last week, senators needed to remember to be friendly during such hearings. Last week, senators rejected a request for over $1,000 by the Korean Students Association on the grounds that it was “fiscally irresponsible,” TCU Historian Rebeca Becdach, a sophomore, said at the time.

I think that it’s important to remember that while we all feel super comfortable in this room, when people come in like guests, or people who are coming in to appeal, it can feel like a kind of adversarial situation, all of us asking questions and when they’re asking for money it’s often recommended zero dollars,” Chen, a senior, said.

Chen also announced the Senate would embark on efforts to improve flagging student morale.

Rapfogel pointed to a recent student feedback survey and anecdotal accounts as evidence of low morale among the student body.

Updates from committee chairs were then heard by the Senate.

Class of 2020 Senator Harry Kong, the Services Committee chair, announced that following discussions with Dorothy Meaney, director of Tisch Library, printers will be added to Carmichael and Hodgdon residence halls by next semester.

Kong also said that two more gender-neutral bathrooms in Tisch Library previously reserved for faculty and staff will be made available for student use.

Class of 2020 Senator Pedro André Lazo-Rivera then told the body that a survey on the Fletcher Field renovation had been released and encouraged other senators to share it with interested students.

Class of 2020 Senator Alexa Weinstein, the Education Committee chair, updated the Senate on an initiative to collect the syllabi of all Tufts University classes available to students. Class of 2022 Senator Deepen Goradia shared with the body that more than 300 syllabi had been collected and he would sort them and create a shareable Google Drive folder. 

Class of 2022 Senator Carolina Olea Lezama reported to the Senate via FaceTime that “Townhall: What Makes a Home,” organized by the Tufts Latino Center, will take place on Nov. 16.

The Senate then heard supplementary funding requests.

A $450 request from Active Minds for a panel event on mental health in the LGBTQ community and a $185 request from the Thai Students Association for a culinary activity were both approved by acclamation. The Senate then voted to approve a $175 request from Tufts Consulting Collective for survey data collected by SurveyMonkey, an online survey developer. The body also voted to give Tufts Ballroom Dance Team $1,250 to travel to a competition at Columbia University and $3,555 for costs associated with the competition they will host at Tufts.

Next, senior Thaw Htet, the International Community Senator, and first-year Andrew Vu, the First Generation Community Senator, who were elected in last week’s special election introduced themselves to the body.

Before the meeting adjourned, Diversity & Community Affairs Officer Grant Gebetsberger, a sophomore, encouraged senators to contribute to the writing of a resolution on gender parity in the Tufts administration, and Parliamentarian Sharif Hamidi, a sophomore, announced that the body would soon hear a resolution calling for Tufts to divest from the firearms manufacturing industry.