Student Assembly passes resolution to address ResLife issue

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Student Assembly senators discussed a new bill that proposes similar items to the Assembly Accountability Act which was previously rejected. SYDNEY MCCOURT / THE FLAT HAT

After a period of discussion and a vote by roll call, the Student Assembly Senate passed the New Roommate Notification Resolution during its meeting Jan. 30.

This resolution calls for the College of William and Mary’s office of Residence Life to notify a student and their resident assistant before a new roommate is placed in a student’s room with a vacancy.

According to Sen. Jack Bowden ’18, the sponsor of the bill, one of his primary reasons for introducing the bill is that he believes there are safety concerns for students in on-campus residence halls if such a policy is not implemented.

“With this resolution here there are big safety and security concerns that make this worthwhile,” Bowden said. “… Advanced notice is important. There are safety concerns as well. One of my best friends on my Ultimate [Frisbee] team is deathly allergic to peanuts — if someone were to move in [to his room] from Suffolk, Virginia with the peanut factories, there could be a problem.”

Some senators were opposed to passing the bill because they learned Bowden had not contacted Residence Life about his concerns. Sen. Abhi Chadha ’20 said he would prefer to try having a conversation with Residence Life before passing this resolution.

“Echoing that, I think that if we see inaction on the part of ResLife, we need to make a first effort to reach out to ResLife and see what their protocols are, and if there are special considerations they need when deciding this,” Chadha said.

Class of 2021 President David DeMarco ’21 said that he was in favor of the resolution and did not think it was necessary to go to Residence Life prior to passing it.

“It is an important issue, it is just a matter of how we are approaching it,” DeMarco said. “Personally, I do not think passing this resolution is a ‘screw you’ to ResLife. I think voting against it and not passing it would look a lot worse from SA at a point when it is a broad issue. I don’t think there is a negative side to passing it.”

Other senators said they would prefer not to pass this bill as a resolution because they believed SA resolutions should be reserved for larger issues. Although the senate’s code makes no distinction between bills and resolutions, many of the senators follow an informal precedent that resolutions should be reserved for issues that do not require funding and should only be used to address a large issue that is passed once a year.

According to SA Vice President Annelise Yackow ’18, two resolutions that follow this precedent have addressed race relations and sexual assault. However, in the last three years, senate resolutions have also been used to address the high cost of textbooks and the number of student organization meetings senators attend.

While most senators agreed that notifying students of roommate changes was an important cause, some worried that it did not compare to topics such as sexual assault and race relations. Chair of the Senate Alaina Shreves ’18 said that if Bowden’s resolution passed, she would prefer to see a bill passed in the coming weeks that laid out clear steps for addressing the issue.

“For people who are new to SA, typically when we do pass resolutions, there are two bills,” Shreves said. “The first is addressing why it’s an important issue, and within the next week or two, a bill is introduced with more teeth, calling for meetings with administrators, changing school policy … it has a call to action with it.”

Class of 2019 President Jonah Yesowitz ’19 said he supported this resolution but wanted to make sure that Bowden and other supporters of the bill would follow up with Residence Life. To do this, Yesowitz proposed an amendment that requires Bowden to schedule a meeting with Residence Life in the coming weeks to discuss his concerns. Bowden accepted this amendment.

With this amendment, Sen. Shannon Dutchie ’19 called the resolution to a vote by roll call. The bill passed by two votes, with 14 senators voting in favor of the New Roommate Notification Resolution.

Class of 2018 President Laini Boyd ’18, Sen. Alexis Payne ’19, Dutchie, Class of 2020 President Kelsey Vita ’20, Sen. Sarah MacPhee ’20, Chadha, Sen. Clare DaBaldo ’20, Sen. Ellie Thomas ’20, Sen. Aria Austin ’21, Sen. Helen Tariku ’21, Sen. Jack Simmons ’21 and Sen. Kyle Vasquez ’21 voted against the resolution.

Also at last week’s meeting:
• Class of 2018 President Laini Boyd ’18 introduced the Hailing Cesar Documentary Screening Act. If passed, this bill would allocate $3,108 to screen “Hailing Cesar” and to bring Eduardo Chavez, the grandson of Latino-American civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, to campus.

• Sen. Ellie Thomas ’20 introduced the World Interfaith Harmony Week Act of 2018. If passed, the bill would allocate $57 to print flyers and Coexist stickers to give out during World Interfaith Harmony Week on campus.

• Senators passed the Second Annual Sankofa Gala Act, sponsored by Sen. Brendan Boylan ’19. The bill allocates $7,043 to host the Sankofa Gala Feb. 24 and host British-Nigerian entertainer Tolu Ogunmefun.

• Senators passed the Second Valentine’s Day STI Subsidy Act, sponsored by Class of 2021 President David DeMarco. The bill allocates $10,207 to subsidize STI tests on four separate days during the month of February.