TCU Senate unanimously passes EP/F resolution, senior members deliver end-of-semester addresses

The Tufts Community Union Senate passed a resolution and heard end-of-semester “State of the Union” addresses from TCU Senate Diversity Officer Mathew Peña, TCU Senate Treasurer Sharif Hamidi and TCU President Sarah Wiener, in its last meeting of the semester on Sunday. Members also reviewed supplementary funding requests. 

After TCU Senate Historian Sarah Tata led a brief roll call and the body welcomed its newly elected members, TCU Senate Parliamentarian Taylor Lewis led the body in a discussion of a resolution calling on Tufts University to extend Exceptional Pass/Fail grading for the spring 2021 semester.

The resolution, authored by TCU Vice President Grant Gebetsberger, Africana Community Senator Amma Agyei, Education Committee Chair Iyra Chandra, Trustee Representative Ayden Crosby and Wiener, passed the TCU Senate unanimously with 31 senators voting in favor, none opposed and none abstaining.

In speaking about the resolution, which will call on Tufts faculty to vote in favor of extending Tufts’ Exceptional Pass/Fail grading into the spring semester in its faculty meeting, the authors discussed the message of the resolution.

“I think the resolution is specifically important to send a clear message on behalf of students and from the Senate to faculty,” Wiener said.

Gebetsberger, a senior, acknowledged that the faculty is likely to pass EP/F for the spring semester regardless of the Senate’s input. However, he explained that it is still important for the Senate to vote on the matter.

“It’s just really important for us to weigh in and I think it’s a really good opportunity for us to exercise our function as student government and endorse this and vote for this so that there is a record and a strong message,” Gebetsberger said.

Tufts faculty will meet for a final time on Dec. 11. According to Wiener, it is likely the resolution will be read in front of the faculty before its vote.

After the successful passage of the EP/F resolution, Lewis, a senior, presented a bylaw amendment to the Senate body. According to Lewis, the bylaw amendment would allow the TCU Senate Parliamentarian to temporarily suspend Senate bylaws with the consent of a two-thirds majority vote.

Lewis remarked that the bylaw amendment was proposed due to the fact that the TCU Senate bylaws will not be able to account for every situation. 

According to Lewis, Senate business can often get pushed to the end of the semester. Given the required buffer periods written into the Senate bylaws, it is possible that the Senate will be unable to pass resolutions or conduct other business before the end of the semester unless it is able to suspend its bylaws.

Gebetsberger gave a specific example, where the Senate was concerned that Tufts faculty would vote on EP/F grading for the spring semester before the Senate would have the opportunity to provide its input. In this case, a bylaw suspension would be necessary to allow the Senate to vote on a resolution concerning EP/F grading before the faculty could vote.

“We were worried that there was a chance that the faculty might actually vote [on EP/F] before we had the chance to vote on it ourselves so then the resolution would be pretty useless,” Gebetsberger said. “Two weeks is the quickest that Senate could respond to anything with a resolution.”

The bylaw amendment passed the TCU Senate with 33 senators in favor, none opposed and none abstaining.

Hamidi, a senior, then led the body through the passage of four supplementary funding requests.

Tufts Financial Group requested $440 to pay for two finance subscriptions. Eight members of the Allocations Board voted in favor of the request, with none opposed and none abstaining. The request passed the TCU Senate by acclamation.

TEDxTufts requested $1,510 to send members to a virtual team-building event to prepare speakers for their next TEDx conference. Nine members of the Allocations Board voted in favor of the request, with none opposed and none abstaining. The request passed the TCU Senate by acclamation.

The TCU Senate requested $3,515 to replace the paper bags currently used in dining halls for takeout with reusable lunch bags. Nine members of the Allocations Board voted in favor of the request, with none opposed and none abstaining. The request passed the TCU Senate with 31 senators in favor, none opposed and none abstaining.

Entrepreneurship Association at Tufts requested $500 to attend a virtual venture capital competition in January. Nine members of the Allocations Board voted in favor of the request, with none opposed and none abstaining. The request passed the TCU Senate by acclamation.

Gebetsberger deferred part of his section to the various committee chairs, who announced updates from their committees.

Chandra mentioned that the Senate has begun receiving responses on a survey sent to the student body. She also discussed the possibility of beginning a student book club over winter break.

According to Services Committee Chair Avani Kabra, the committee is pushing many of its outstanding projects to next semester with the exception of the implementation of reusable lunch bags at dining halls.

Jalen Little, chair of the Outreach Committee, mentioned that Outreach finished its town hall project. According to Little, a sophomore, the committee is currently working to publicize the Education Committee and Administration and Policy Committee’s surveys to the student body.

Trenton DeBonis, a member of the Administration and Policy Committee, spoke on behalf of chair Ibrahim AlMuasher. According to DeBonis, a first-year, the committee is releasing a survey to the student body. He also mentioned an upcoming meeting with Director of Community Standards briana Sevigny and Associate Dean of Student Affairs Kevin Kraft.

“[We] have a meeting with Director Sevigny and Dean Kraft to talk about how the COVID protocols are being implemented,” DeBonis said. “The consequences [and] the disciplinary action [will be discussed]. Hopefully, at the next Senate meeting, which is not going to be until next semester, we will have some answers to some of the questions that everybody’s been having about that.”

To conclude his section, Gebetsberger gave updates to the body. Given the lack of spring break, Gebetsberger and Wiener were in contact with Tufts’ administration to ensure students are well supported throughout the spring semester.

“We’ve been working with Deans Glaser and Qu, President Monaco and Provost Aubry on figuring out ways we can make that period that would have been our spring break like a period where we don’t have major assignments due,” Gebetsberger said.

To conclude the meeting, Hamidi, Peña and Wiener each gave State of the Union addresses where they discussed what the TCU Senate has accomplished in the previous semester, and what it is hoping to accomplish next semester.

In his State of the Treasury address, Hamidi discussed the ways in which the TCU Treasury has adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic and the steps it has taken to make the semester more successful for students and student groups.

“Throughout the pandemic, the focus has been to make the Treasury an effective partner and a service to the student body and its organizations,” Hamidi said. “To that end, we started the early days of this crisis by transferring funds to the FIRST Center’s Unexpected Hardship Fund to support low-income students during the chaotic shutdown last spring.”

Hamidi also spoke about how the Senate elected a majority-women Allocations Board for the second year in a row. According to Hamidi, the Allocations Board heard 20 supplementary funding requests and allocated $17,228.

“This is a significant decrease in financial activity when compared to last fall semester,” Hamidi said. “This doesn’t necessarily represent a proportional decrease in organizational activity just because virtual events typically have minimal or no expenses.”

Peña then gave his address, in which he discussed the semester from the perspective of his role as diversity officer. He mentioned how the pandemic caused both the Community and Diversity Committee and community centers to shift their roles from collaborative to offering more personal and individual support.

“[The Community and Diversity Committee] currently has dedicated itself this semester to assisting marginalized students more directly and personally, with the many absent discriminations that have been brought up this semester,” Peña said. “Members of [the committee] are currently focusing on bringing together student groups within their respective communities and further were keen to keep their communities in good spirits.”

Wiener then gave her address, where she discussed some of the Senate’s accomplishments and ongoing projects, including sending care packages to students, the EP/F Resolution, and its effort to amend the world civilization requirement.

She noted how the Senate has become more involved in every part of student life and highlighted how senators have taken on new responsibilities this semester.

“Senate has never been asked to do more than we have this year,” Wiener said. “Individual senators have never had bandwidth as full. We are rising to the occasion and facing uncertainty with opportunity. We have and are learning and showing resilience from our mistakes as we go and genuinely make a difference in our community’s lives.”