Concluding active year, TCU Senate holds internal elections

The TCU Senate convenes in the Sophia Gordon Multipurpose Room on Sept. 30, 2018. Julia McDowell / The Tufts Daily Archives

The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate concluded an academic year marked by 17 resolutions with internal elections in the Sophia Gordon Multipurpose room.

The elections, held on April 30, saw Africana Community Senator Sylvester Bracey, a rising senior, elected TCU Vice President from among a crowded field of candidates.

Outgoing TCU Parliamentarian and Associate Treasurer Sharif Hamidi was elected Treasurer, promising an overhaul of the Treasury Procedures Manual that governs TCU funding to student organizations.

TCU Senators Rabiya Ismail and Finn McGarghan were elected Historian and Parliamentarian, respectively; Latinx Community Senator Carolina Olea Lezama, a rising sophomore, was elected Community and Diversity Affairs Officer.

TCU Senators Alexa Weinstein, Insiya Naim, Iyra Chandra, Jose Martinez, Elizabeth Hom and Tim Leong were all elected to the Allocations Board.

Naim was also elected Associate Treasurer.

TCU Senator Deepen Goradia was elected chair of the Administration and Policy Committee; Ayden Crosby was re-elected chair of the Education Committee; Alex Lein was elected chair of the Outreach Committee; and Leong was elected chair of the Services Committee.

The elections follow an active academic year for TCU Senate, in which an additional $72, 319 was allocated in supplemental funding to student organizations compared to the previous year, for a total of $276,038, according to outgoing TCU Treasurer Izzy Ma. According TCU documents reviewed by the Daily, $2,029,831.06 was budgeted for fiscal year 2020, an increase of $75,722.56 over the previous year.

Ma, a rising junior, highlighted improvements made over the course of the academic year which have improved access to TCU funds for student organizations.

“The travel cap was raised to $300 … and I personally think that off-campus trips are one of the best ways to enrich your college experience,” Ma said. “I also think that the Treasury has been great at being more transparent and getting information out there.”

Outgoing TCU President Jacqueline Chen praised the work of Ma and her predecessor Emily Sim, whom she cited for the improvement of the TCU Treasury in recent years.

“I’m proud of how the Treasury has really remade its image over the past few years I’ve been on Senate in terms of being respectful towards student groups and its approachability,” Chen said. “I think that’s a real credit to Treasurers Emily Sim and Izzy Ma.”

The 2018–19 academic year was also marked by 17 TCU resolutions, most of which were authored by TCU senators.

In October, TCU Senate endorsed Nathan Foster’s candidacy for election to the University’s Board of Trustees. TCU Senate resolved to support — in its only roll call vote on a resolution in the entire academic year — a ‘yes’ vote on Question Three on the Massachusetts Ballot in the November 2018 election, which supported a bill to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in public places. TCU Senate also articulated support for Tufts Dining Workers in their ongoing contract negotiations.

In November, TCU Senate called on Tufts to build a new high-capacity residence hall, which it has not done since the construction of Sophia Gordon Hall in 2006.

In December, TCU Senate called on Tufts to divest its endowment from the firearm industry. In response to an earlier March 2018 Arts, Sciences and Engineering Faculty vote advocating for the same, the university cited difficulty fully divesting from the industry due to commingled investment funds.

In February, TCU Senate called on Tufts to “achieve gender parity in university leadership,” which followed a 2018 Eos Foundation study that ranked Tufts 87th among 93 Massachusetts colleges and universities; advocated for the University to integrate voter registration in the Student Information System; and outlined a path to improve Tufts Dining, by opening a café in Laminan Lounge in Olin Hall, expanding late-night dining options and in other ways.

Also in February, TCU Senate advocated for “academic freedom” and “due process in Professor Thomas Abowd’s contract renewal,” which followed concern that his contract may not be renewed after controversy arose from his course titled “Colonizing Palestine.”

Following this resolution, in March, TCU Senate demanded that Tufts explain its “complicity in the opioid crisis” in relation to the influence of the Sackler family; called on Tufts to increase student voices and influence on the Board of Trustees; and called on the university to “transition to a carbon-neutral endowment.”

In April, TCU Senate called on Tufts to increase “recruitment and support for faculty of color,” and advocated for the implementation of a “shadow-grading system” for first-year students in their first semester. It also called for due process for former Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine student Tiffany Filler, who was expelled in January 2019 on charges of “grade hacking.” TCU Senate, additionally, outlined its support for the integration of “mobile wallet technology” into the university’s ecosystem and called on Tufts to expand financial accessibility for low-income students, including through the introduction of laundry stipends.

However, some of the projects that TCU Senators worked on this year were accomplished indirectly or outside of resolutions.

Notable among these projects is the institutionalization of the Swipe It Forward meal bank as an “opt-out” program, which was mentioned in “S. 19-3 A Resolution Providing a Roadmap for Future Improvements to Tufts Dining.

Chen, who worked to establish the program in 2017, her sophomore year, expressed enthusiasm over the achievement.

“It’s really cool to see [Tufts Dining] agree to make it easier for students to get meals from the meal bank and make it sustainable after I graduate,” Chen said.

Outgoing Community and Diversity Affairs Officer Grant Gebetsberger highlighted another project accomplished in the past year that would improve student input and inclusion in the administrative hiring process.

“[The project] will create a bank of students with [the Dean of Student Affairs] to have people that we can call on to interview candidates,” Gebetsberger said. “All students can opt-in to participate in selecting the people we’re going to be working with and who are going to be advocating for students on campus.”

Goradia also addressed the challenge presented by the administration to his project, which would make available all course syllabi to undergraduate students before enrollment in order to improve accessibility and aid student expectations.

According to Goradia, the school can’t allow TCU Senate to publish the syllabi due to legal issues related to the distribution of intellectual property.

“We’ve gotten 450 syllabi waiting in a folder on my laptop, but the school won’t let us give them out,” Goradia said. “We’re working with Tufts Technology Services right now trying to make a Canvas page next year that everyone is automatically enrolled in.”

Several senators noted additional challenges in the past year that the TCU Senate faced, which they predict will continue into the next academic year.

Gebetsberger highlighted that the university’s continuing deficit creates challenges to any project proposed by a TCU Senator.

“There’s a certain challenge of people pitting certain groups against one other that shouldn’t be pitted against one another who are fighting for resources and attention,” Gebetsberger said.

Gebetsberger added that “high administrative turnover,” indicated by the departure of Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon and several of the directors of the Group of Six centers, will continue to challenge and disrupt dialogue with the university’s administration.

“With all of these vacancies that people really stepped up graciously to perform, it’s going to be hard for Senate to interface and interact with new administrators and make sure that some of the progress that we’ve made isn’t lost,” Gebetsberger said.