TCU Senate discusses general election, Thanksgiving break

President's Lawn is pictured on Oct. 18. Emma Boersma / The Tufts Daily

The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate discussed the U.S. presidential election in an online meeting on Sunday night and heard updates from the TCU Senate Executive Board and the various committee chairs.

TCU President Sarah Wiener described the ways in which Senate and university administrators can serve as a resource for students after the presidential election on Nov. 3.

I’ve been hearing a lot from professors asking for feedback about how their classrooms could function like holding spaces for a lot of difficult emotions that I think people are feeling now,” Wiener, a senior, said. “And I expect some healing after the election, no matter what the outcome is.”

TCU Vice President Grant Gebetsberger remarked that the reason the election is under discussion is because the university is aiming to effectively respond to students’ reactions to its outcome.

A part of the intention of bringing this here was just that we get asked a lot by administrators of just knowing the way that campus felt after 2016, and they were really blindsided and not prepared for the outcome and for the implications that [the outcome] had for the morale of the student body,” Gebetsberger, a senior, said.

Gebetsberger described the impact of the 2016 presidential election on university operations.

“It was like a shock,” Gebetsberger said. “A lot of classes were canceled, [and] a lot of people didn’t show up to the classes that they had the next day that were not canceled. A lot of professors didn’t want to teach.”

Wiener also provided an update from the Tufts Elections Commission (ECOM). She announced that ECOM plans to fill the remaining empty seats on Senate in an election that may also include the proposed Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine referendum titled “End the Deadly Exchange.”

According to Education Committee Chair Iyra Chandra, the Education Committee is developing a survey regarding study accommodations during COVID-19.

During the meeting, Avani Kabra, chair of the Services Committee, said the Services Committee is currently working on a number of projects, including the option of using reusable lunch boxes at the dining halls instead of brown paper bags, in an effort to reduce waste, and introducing name pronunciations on Tufts’ Student Information System. The committee is also working to distribute menstrual products in campus bathrooms.

Valerie Infante, a member of the Allocations Board, spoke on behalf of Ibrahim AlMuasher, chair of the Administration & Policy Committee. She discussed the committee’s partnership with Services on the project to provide alternatives to paper bags at dining halls.

“In the dining app, we [could] add an option to not [receive] the brown paper bags and bring our own reusable bags,” Infante, a sophomore, said.

Infante later announced that the Administration & Policy Committee is working with the university to allow musicians who sing or play wind and brass instruments greater flexibility in study spaces. Music students are only allowed to practice these instruments or sing in The Mods, according to current policy.

TCU Treasurer Sharif Hamidi said that compared to previous semesters, supplementary funding requests are likely to decrease in volume this semester. Hamidi, a senior, noted that student organizations are reallocating their budgets in a way that allows them to comply with the current COVID-19 restrictions.

“This week’s lack of a treasury agenda is also sort of indicative of just how there’s a bit of a slowdown in terms of student [organization] activities and also the fact that a lot of clubs wrote their budgets with the expectation that the COVID restrictions that are currently in place would be different somehow,” Hamidi said.

Gebetsberger later announced that he is working to remedy a problem where students are having difficulty accessing work-study funding from their financial aid packages.

“I sent an email to Patricia Reilly, the head of financial aid, to follow up and see if we could get some answers on the percentage of students who are having this difficulty and to see if there are any remedies being pursued by the office to make sure that students can access the work-study money that they were promised in their packages,” Gebetsberger said.

In response to a question on how the university is handling the upcoming Thanksgiving break, Kabra, a sophomore, announced that a Thanksgiving committee is in the process of determining the number of students who will need food services.

They’re trying to partner with local restaurants and things like that to provide food during the few days that we’re off for Thanksgiving, but it’s very difficult because it’s hard to ask one restaurant to all of a sudden [prepare] 1,000 meals on a holiday that they might be closed for,” she said.