SA passes speaker fee allocations, reacts to column critiquing SA culture

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EMMA FORD AND KIM LORES / THE FLAT HAT

Oct. 22, senators in the College of William and Mary’s Student Assembly Senators passed The Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora Act and allocated funding for an event proposed by the Asian American Student Initiative Organization. Additionally, senators discussed the merits of responding to former Sen. Liam Watson ’20’s criticisms of SA’s handling of mental health issues on campus.

At the meeting, SA senators passed a bill sponsoring ASWAD’s tenth biennial conference, which will be hosted at the College from Nov. 5-9. The bill also invites Carol Anderson, a professor of African American Studies at Emory University, to speak at the conference.

Senators allocated $10,000 for Anderson’s speaker fees and discussed passing additional funding measures in the coming weeks.

SA also allocated $2,659 to fund speaker journalist Fariha Roisin to speak at a future event at the College, which will be co-hosted by the Asian American Student Initiative Organization, the Muslim Student Association and the Rainbow Coalition.

During the meeting’s senator announcements portion, Sen. Derek Kernus ’14 M.B.A. ’20 expressed his frustrations with an opinions guest column published in The Flat Hat’s Oct. 22 issue. The article, entitled “Student Assembly makes empty promises regarding mental health on campus,” was written by Watson following his recent resignation from SA.

Kernus argued against Watson’s claims that SA has not made any substantive progress with mental health improvements, and disputed Watson’s characterization of SA’s culture. He stated that during his time as a senator, SA has raised awareness about mental health issues on campus and that senators have worked collaboratively in their endeavors.

“I’ve had meetings with the counseling center,” Kernus said. “I’ve had meetings with the exec team on making sure our teams have better communication. We’ve had many mental health team meetings. I’ve even had meetings with the mental health team and the executive team where I brought my one-year-old son because I had to watch him, but this was really important for me. So we’ve all made sacrifices for this, and as you can tell, it’s very important to me. So for someone to say it doesn’t matter really bothers me.”

Kernus intends to work with other senators in crafting a response, which he hopes to publish in a future issue of The Flat Hat.

SA President Kelsey Vita ‘20 agreed that Kernus should write a response if he felt compelled to do so but indicated that the executive branch would not directly respond with an official piece of its own.

“We welcome constructive criticism of the Student Assembly because that helps us improve,” Vita said. “There are efforts that are happening and we are entertaining constructive criticism with those efforts because it helps us improve. I don’t know that it’s worth the executive branch worth responding.”

Also at this week’s meeting:

  • Jenna Patel ’18 M.Ed. ’20 was confirmed as the graduate student representative to the Honor System Advisory Committee. Patel was recommended by the Dean of Students Office and serves on the Honor Council of the College’s School of Education.