SA commemorates Graduate School Inclusion Month, passes climate sustainability act

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KIM LORES / THE FLAT HAT

Tuesday, Feb. 11, the College of William and Mary’s 327th Student Assembly met in the Alan B. Miller Hall at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business as part of SA’s ongoing Graduate School Inclusion Month initiative. During the meeting, senators listened to two presentations, introduced two new bills and passed two bills concerning a sustainability commitment and the creation of a reparations committee respectively.

The meeting began with a presentation from M.B.A. Association President Brittany Rakestraw, who welcomed SA to the Business School. Rakestraw outlined the association’s purpose of reaching out to business graduate students, as well as hosting social and networking events for these students.

Next, Graduate Council President Erin Schwartz spoke to senators about the history of the Graduate Council as well as its plans. Specifically, Schwartz highlighted the Council’s membership, consisting of two representatives from each graduate school and an executive team. According to Schwartz, These members work together to advance Council’s historical role of advocating on behalf of and hosting social events for graduate students.

Senators then began discussion of the White Papers, the first drafts of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee’s new strategic plan for the College. The Senate reviewed the plans from the Teaching and Learning Subcommittee, the Research and Innovation Subcommittee and the Flourishing and Engagement Subcommittee. Some graduate school senators raised concerns that the drafts were too heavily focused on the undergraduate experience at the College and claimed they did not give enough attention to graduate students. However, some senators also appreciated the specific focus on mental wellness originating from the Flourishing and Engagement Subcommittee.

“I will say I like that they finally address in written form that wellness is an issue both externally and internally,” Sen. Derek Kernus ’14 M.B.A. ’20 said. “There have been times that I believe that certain people in the administration, people high in the administration, don’t really want to accept that students need to be well both physically and mentally to do well at the College.  And it’s nice to see that they’re acknowledging that, but I will also say that I hope they actually follow through with that, because I’m still a little weary personally.”

Senators then turned to their new business for the week, which included the introduction of the Publication Protections Act, a reiteration of an earlier act which called for changes in the way that SA conducts negotiations with the Media Council. Some of these changes included negotiating the Media Council contract every three years, mandating that SA representatives to the council be elected by the Senate, and allowing for-credit Media Council organizations to receive yearly block grants, which will be adjusted each year according to the overall Media Council contract).

Sen. Kyle Vasquez ’21 and Secretary of College Policy and Student Rights Amanda Yannett ’20 then introduced the Pride in ID Appearance Act, which calls for the establishment of a fund that would cover the fee of changing the student picture on the Tribe Cards for those students who undergo significant changes in their appearances.  These significant changes could apply to transgender or gender non-conforming students, but the bill is open more widely to students who experience any serious changes in their physical appearance. The act would specifically prevent students from using this fund for more cosmetic changes, such as haircuts or spray tans. The bill requests an initial $100 in funding. Yannett said that she administered a survey of the student body, to which 100 students responded that this fund would be useful, and 20 of those respondents said that they would use this fund themselves.

“It was brought to my attention that students have been covering their student IDs with paper or crossing out their picture on their student ID because it doesn’t accurately represent their physical experience, specifically with trans students,” Yannett said.

Also at the meeting, senators passed the Sustainability Climate Action Resolution, sponsored by Sen. Joshua Panganiban ’20, after making some minor changes to the bill from last week. The resolution calls for a student-led sustainability initiative in conjunction with the administration’s goal of carbon neutrality by the year 2030.

Additionally, the senate passed the Ad-Hoc Reparations Committee Act, which would create a semester-long SA committee with the purpose of researching potential reparations for the College’s historical relationship with slavery.

Before the act’s passage, senators discussed about which SA members would end up serving on this committee, as some felt it was unreasonable to ask that each graduate school be represented as the School of Education, for example, has only one senator. Sen. Will Wasson J.D. ’21 ultimately compromised by editing the bill so that committee members could attend committee meetings at their convenience.

Also at this week’s meeting:

  • SA Chief of Staff Abhi Chadha ’20 announced that SA elections for the 2020-21 academic year will take place Thursday, Mar. 26.