TCU Senate speaks about tiered housing, institutional change

President's Lawn is pictured on Oct. 18. Ann Marie Burke / The Tufts Daily

The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate discussed methods and tools for institutional change at the Senate’s disposal in planning for its initiatives and goals next semester in a virtual meeting on Sunday night.

TCU Senate President Sarah Wiener posed discussion questions about student activism surrounding Tufts’ tiered housing system, which the university implemented in the fall of 2019, and how the Senate was involved in voicing students’ concerns. 

Senators were divided into five breakout rooms to discuss the questions in smaller groups and later rejoined as a large group to brainstorm ideas.

TCU Senator Claire Bolash said that the Tufts administration dismissed student concerns despite major efforts against the tiered housing system.

“One of the things that impacted this progress was Tufts admin itself,” Bolash, a first-year, said.

Other senators, including TCU Senator Hadiya Giwa, echoed Bolash’s sentiment.

A big difficulty is the administration and Board of Trustees, and finding ways to really direct student needs and wants to the higher-up,” Giwa, a first-year, said.

TCU Senator Max Morningstar emphasized that students and the Senate exhausted their tools in calling for change, with little response from the administration.

“As far as our arsenal, this was sort of a full array of what we could do, and, obviously, we can see there wasn’t change that happened as a result of it,” Morningstar, a sophomore, said.

Morningstar remarked that Senate must come up with new tools to push for change.

“The question is, so how do we expand our arsenal to try and either provoke more reaction from admin, or at least force their hand in making meaningful change happen,” Morningstar said.

Senator Valerie Infante, a member of the TCU Allocations Board (ALBO), reflected on the group discussion and what it means for the university’s housing crisis.

“Having this conversation just further proves the urgency of the crisis, and also giving us potential ideas of what we could do,” Infante said.

Wiener, a senior, thanked the senators for their remarks, recognizing how their ideas will help Senate plan initiatives in the spring.

“Hearing you all ask the questions about how mobilizing and leveraging has happened historically, and [what] should we be doing differently is what I think Senate should be … next semester,” Wiener said.

Wiener also mentioned that having a student on the Board of Trustees, which is the subject of a resolution that she is in the process of writing, would help ensure that student concerns reach the level of decision makers.

Wiener then reminded senators to sign up for class year town halls, which will be taking place virtually later this week.

Sunday night’s meeting was overshadowed by Tufts’ announcement of stricter COVID-19 guidelines earlier that evening, which will impact Senate’s plans and events for the remainder of the semester.

TCU Diversity Officer Mathew Peña said that all Thanksgiving programming from the Tufts University Social Collective and the Office for Campus Life has been paused, as a result of the announcement. 

TCU then heard two supplementary funding requests.

The BlackOut Step Team requested $200 to fund an audio speaker. Nine members of ALBO voted in favor of the request, with none opposed and none abstaining. The request passed TCU Senate by acclamation. 

Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine requested $350 to host Eran Efrati, executive director of Researching the American-Israeli Alliance, to speak about Israel-Palestine relations. Nine members of ALBO voted in favor of the request, with none opposed and none abstaining. The request passed TCU Senate by acclamation.

Following the supplementary funding requests, TCU Parliamentarian Taylor Lewis introduced an abstract for a resolution calling for Tufts to extend Exceptional Pass policies through the spring semester. Lewis, however, does not think the resolution will be necessary and expects the administration to pursue the Exceptional Pass policy next spring without the resolution.

TCU Vice President Grant Gebetsberger then requested reports about the status of committee projects from committee chairs.

In their reports, some committee chairs emphasized that the university’s announcement just hours before had put some of their ongoing projects up in the air, or suspended them altogether.

Avani Kabra, chair of the Services Committee, mentioned that the committee had planned to assemble self-care packages to be delivered to students, but was uncertain whether the committee would be able to assemble them with the new COVID-19 guidelines in place.

Chair of the Administration and Policy Committee Ibrahim AlMuasher explained that the committee’s initiative to allow students studying music to practice their instruments in The Mods was suspended as a result of the tighter restrictions.

Before adjournment, Wiener shared a parting message with the senators commending them for their work.

“The fact that there’s still updates about people’s projects throughout all this is genuinely so inspiring and I feel very privileged and proud to work with you all,” Wiener said.