During the final Student Assembly senate meeting of the 2016-2017 academic year, senators voted to sign a petition written by the Asian American Student Initiative and signed by approximately 50 student organizations at the College of William and Mary. This petition was written to address concerns about Pi Kappa Alpha’s annual “camo party.”
At the start of the meeting, Co-Founder and former Co-Director of AASI Pallavi Rudraraju ’17 presented information about the petition, her attempts to work with the fraternity and her hopes for the future.
We have drafted a statement about PIKA’s ‘camo party’ which started as a way to send brothers off to the military, but has since turned into a ‘Vietnam’ party with many offensive caricatures of Asian and Vietnamese people, harkening back to yellow peril,” Rudraraju said.
“We have drafted a statement about PIKA’s ‘camo party’ which started as a way to send brothers off to the military, but has since turned into a ‘Vietnam’ party with many offensive caricatures of Asian and Vietnamese people, harkening back to yellow peril,” Rudraraju said. “Ultimately, we created this statement. We wanted to make it clear, we want an apology, a statement disavowing the ‘Nam’ party and a promise for an inclusivity statement from the fraternity. The reason why we are here for you … [is that] we would love if Student Assembly could give their support to this statement, we want to hold PIKA accountable for their actions.”
Chair of the Senate Alaina Shreves ’18 announced that the senators would take two votes: the first would determine if the senate wanted to respond to the allegations in light of AASI’s petition and the second would determine if the senate would sign the petition.
Before taking the first vote, senators discussed potential problems with responding as a student governmental body. Some, like Class of 2019 President Jonah Yesowitz ’19, who abstained from both votes because of his role as the Interfraternity Council’s Vice President of Administration, said he was worried SA action would be taken as a condemnation of the fraternity as a whole. Others, like Sen. Mitch Croom M.A. ’17 said they worried that “demands” made by SA against a student organization come with a lot of weight, and he was concerned how the fraternity would take this action.
“We aren’t condemning PIKA,” Class of 2017 President Emily Thomas ’17 said. “We are simply addressing a situation.”
The first vote was passed by a majority roll call vote. Senators Colleen Heberle ’18, William Jackson ’18, Sarah MacPhee ’20 and Clare DaBaldo ’20 were absent. Yesowitz and Senators Gaela Normile ’17, Olivia Camper ’17 and Croom abstained from the first vote.
Because the first vote passed by a majority, the senate decided that as a body, they wanted to respond to the petition and the allegations raised by AASI and other student organizations. Before they voted to sign the petition, senators raised concerns about how quickly they would be taking action and the consequences of SA signing this petition.
“I think this is a good petition, but this is very fast,” Yesowitz said. “I can imagine a situation where PIKA’s nationals get involved or where they feel that they are being persecuted and I think everyone should have that in mind.”
Rudraraju and Chief of Staff Elyse Ardaiz ’19 said that the Office of Greek life and other university administrators had already been in contact with Pi Kappa Alpha’s national organization.
Croom seconded Yesowitz’s comment about the pace of SA’s proposed action, and said that he believed SA was normally a more deliberative body. In response, Thomas said that sometimes it is necessary to take decisive action, especially when SA has “signed on” to support diversity.
I think Pallavi has spoken on how long they’re been having these conversations,” Sen. Jackie Amaya-Mendez ’17 said.
“I think Pallavi has spoken on how long they’re been having these conversations,” Sen. Jackie Amaya-Mendez ’17 said. “It might be rushed for us as a body, but not for them.”
The second vote was also passed by a majority roll call vote, which means that Student Assembly will be added to the list of supporting student organizations on AASI’s petition. Heberle, Jackson, MacPhee and DaBaldo were absent for the vote. Yesowitz and Sen. Jack Bowden ’18 abstained from voting.
Rudraraju said that SA would be added with other student organizations who had recently decided to sign as supporters, and that an updated list of supporting student organizations would be released later in the week. She also said that moving forward, she would be meeting with the fraternity’s president, Adam Illowsky ’18, on Thursday, April 27.
Also at this week’s meeting:
• John Hollander ’18 was confirmed as the Student Assembly Secretary for Health and Safety.
• Nicole Ng ’18 was confirmed as one of the Student Assembly Board of Visitors Representatives.
• Sen. Ellie Thomas ’20 was selected to serve as SA President Elijah Levine ’18 and SA Vice President Annelise Yackow ’18’s cabinet delegate.
• Senators passed the Code Modernization Act, introduced by Sen. Brendan Boylan ’19, by a vote of unanimous consent. This bill calls for the removal of two mentions of the phrase “undergraduate council” from the SA code.
• SA Vice President Annelise Yackow ’18 announced that Sen. Alexis Payne ’19 would be the senate member added to the standing Executive Committee.
• Senators passed the Gender Inclusive Alma Mater Act, introduced by Chair of the Senate Alaina Shreves ’18. This bill establishes a committee to review the alma mater and recommend potential changes. Shreves amended the bill over the weekend to add a member of the Alumni Association, a religious studies professor and a gender, sexuality and women’s studies professor to the committee.