SA confirms Vita administration’s secretarial nominees

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EMMA FORD AND KIMBERLY LORES / THE FLAT HAT

At the April 23 meeting of the College of William and Mary’s Student Assembly, senators confirmed cabinet nominations for SA President Kelsey Vita ’20’s administration.

SA confirmed Heather Rodenberg ’21 as Secretary of Finance, Anna Fridley ’20 as Secretary of Public Affairs, Celeste Chalkley ’21 as Secretary of Diversity, Clara Waterman ’20 as Secretary of Academic Affairs, Amanda Yannett ’20 as Secretary of College Policy, Joel Calfee ’20 as Secretary of Outreach, Shreya Mandaya ’20 as Secretary of Health and Safety, Chitra Kokkirala ’20 as Secretary of Sustainability, Will Curtis ’20 as Secretary of Student Experience (the position formerly known as Secretary of Student Life), Hank Hermens ’22 as Chair of Elections Commission and Helen Tariku ’21 as Attorney General.  The Vita-Thomas cabinet includes a total of eight women, and specifically, four women of color.

Rodenberg’s position as secretary of finance requires her to lead the Executive Appropriations committee, which oversees SA’s annual budget. Rodenberg believes she is capable to execute this task through her experience handling large spreadsheets and budgets through her work with Model United Nations conferences on campus.

Fridley, the secretary of public affairs, was selected due to the depth and breadth of her experience working in public affairs. In her new role, Fridley hopes to bridge any gaps in communication between the College, the residents of Williamsburg and the City of Williamsburg.

As secretary of diversity, Chalkley hopes to focus on improving intersectionality at the College, specifically regarding race, religion and sexual orientation. As a first-generation student of color who comes from a family of refugees, Chalkley feels that she is equipped to handle issues of intersectionality on campus.

“I applied for this position because I don’t want diversity just to be a buzzword, or feel like it’s a chore, because it shouldn’t be,” Chalkley said.

Waterman, as the new secretary of academic affairs, plans to focus on improving the College’s hiring process in regards to faculty of color, as well as improving the retention rate of diverse faculty members.

By incorporating her experience as a member of the coordinating committee on sexual assault and harassment, Yannett hopes to use her position as secretary of college policy to improve SA’s transparency, as well as working on improving pay gaps of faculty of color compared to their white counterparts.

“The school does a really historically terrible job of retaining faculty of color, a lot of hires aren’t tenure track, so there’s this whole systemic issue there that I think is really important,” Yannett said.  “… A lot of diverse faculty, even if they are tenure track, we do a bad job on that retention rate for them, and we do a bad job supporting them, we ask a lot of faculty of color to mentor students of color and to sit on committees, so they do a lot of unpaid labor that their white colleagues aren’t asked to do.  So that leads to a higher burnout rate, and the problem with retention.”

Calfee’s main goals as secretary of outreach are to improve SA’s website and social media platforms, and to reach out to students in order to gather information on how SA can best align their policy agenda with the interests of the College’s student body.

Drawing from her experience as an intern in research labs at Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Kokkirala, the new secretary of sustainability, hopes to reduce the effect of construction-based pollution on campus. She also hopes to begin forming a foundation for the 2020 Climate Action Plan that seeks to set a date for when the College will become a carbon-neutral campus.

Mandava, the new secretary of health and safety, plans to call upon her past involvement on the executive boards of Red Cross and HOPE to help her effectively perform in her position. Mandava hopes to work on mental health initiatives, and especially to follow through on Vita and Thomas’ campaign promise to investigate hiring more counselors at the Wellness Center.

As secretary of student experience, Curtis hopes to utilize his experiences as a “storyteller” for campus newspaper and magazines and as an Orientation Aide in order to make connections between different communities at the College. Curtis also has previously worked as a peer educator in the Center for Student Diversity.

Hermens plans to continue improving SA’s election processes as Elections Commission chair and promised to remain unbiased in future elections.

Tariku, who served as a Class of 2021 Senator during the last session, believes that her experience in SA prepares her for the role of attorney general.  She emphasized that since attorney general is a new position in SA, she hopes to use this year as a time to more clearly define the office’s duties and powers. Tariku plans to attend every Review Board meeting and as many senate meetings as possible in order to shape this role moving forward.

Katie Rys ’22, who was unable to attend Review Board confirmation hearings last week, was confirmed as the seventh and final member of the Review Board. Sen. Nick Wheaton M.B.A. ’20, who was unable to attend the SA inauguration on April 8, was officially sworn in as a senator from the Raymond A. Mason School of Business. Furthermore, Mandava and Jeremy Simmons ’20 were confirmed as representatives to the Board of Visitors.

Also at this week’s meeting:

  • The senate passed the . Act II, in which SA pledges to allocate $2,500 annually for the purchase of menstrual products and any future maintenance on the product dispensers.
  • The senate also passed the Transition Act II, which clarifies the processes for exchanging transition materials between different sessions of the Senate.
  • Senators voted to kill the Thrillsburg Act, which would have allocated $152.48 from SA Reserves to fund the creation of a website called “thrillsburg.com” that hoped to “help connect a large number of students of the College of William and Mary with the City of Williamsburg in an impactful way.”