SA passes Election Day resolution, appoints liaisons, approves new composting services

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EMMA FORD AND KIM LORES / THE FLAT HAT

At the Sept. 1 meeting of the College of William and Mary’s Student Assembly, senators conducted an internal review of their policies regarding the separation of bills and resolutions, passed a bill allocating additional composting bins around campus, ratified a resolution that calls on the College to not hold class on election day, and appointed Media Council and executive liaisons. 

Senate Chair Meghana Boojala ’22 first led senators in a discussion concerning the role of SA resolutions, where representatives debated how frequently bills should be put forth by SA. Boojala cited a recent uptick in the number of resolutions that the Senate has passed, and asked senators to think deeply about whether topics of interest could best be addressed by formal bills and resolutions, or more informal avenues like ad-hoc committees and working groups.  

Most senators agreed that resolutions should be reserved for topics that SA can discuss and agree on, as well as for issues that SA seeks to convey its position on to the College administration.

Other senators, including Sen. Will Wasson J.D. ’21, said that the Senate should pass as many resolutions as they see fit, considering that in other institutions such as the U.S. Congress, resolutions are often used in a more ceremonial manner.

At the end of the discussion, SA Vice President Kyle Vasquez ’21 suggested that the most important element of the resolution was that it was well thought-out.  

“We just need to be very meaningful and intentional about the things that we are writing, and ensure that the things we are writing and talking about have longevity, have a lot of research, are well-versed, et cetera, that we are reaching administration,” Vasquez said. 

“We just need to be very meaningful and intentional about the things that we are writing, and ensure that the things we are writing and talking about have longevity, have a lot of research, are well-versed, et cetera, that we are reaching administration.”

Also at the meeting, senators passed the No Class on Election Day Resolution, despite senators raising concerns throughout the discussion period.  This resolution, sponsored by Sens. Patrick Salsburg ’21 and Owen Williams ’23, calls on the College to cancel all classes and move all assignments due on Election Day, Nov. 4, in accordance with Virginia declaring the date to be a state holiday. 

A major concern referenced was that not all students are registered to vote in Virginia, and thus that the resolution should specifically apply only to general elections, and not state elections.

Class of 2021 President Aria Austin ’21 said that she believed this bill would not equally help all students, as a large portion of the student body votes absentee. Additionally, she questioned whether this resolution could even be applicable this year, because the College has already created its academic calendar. 

“For me, personally, I think this bill should only be passed if it applies to every student and in this case, it’s not going to apply to every student,” Austin said. “My main concern is that there are already a good amount of students on campus that already vote absentee and the school calendars years in advance so I don’t think this is something that could go into affect until the next four years, so realistically passing this doesn’t make much sense to me, especially because it’s not going to apply to the whole entire student body.”  

Ultimately, senators passed the resolution 10-5.

Senators then passed the More Compost Bins on Campus Act, also sponsored by Salsburg, after adding an amendment to the bill that raised the money allocation to $810 in order to add a sixth compost bin near the Graduate Complex, pending final agreement. The finance committee designated this bill as immediate spending under its new COVID-19 spending limits, meaning that the spending is now pending approval from Student Leadership Development.

Vasquez then announced the creation of a Sadler Center art display which will serve as a memorial to the African Americans enslaved by the College. All students can participate in the memorial by requesting an art display kit, after which they will receive a canvas, painting supplies, and the name of an enslaved person that was uncovered through the Lemon Project. Students will then create an artwork inspired by the person’s name, and provided that it is appropriate as determined by a committee with members from SA, the Lemon Project and Sadler staff, the artwork will be included in the final display. This form closes Sept. 10. 

Following Vasquez, Student Leadership Development Director Anne Aresenau announced that a working group regarding campus expression finalized a three year initiative to redefine campus space usage for freedom of speech and expression. Arseneau explained that the group revised policy regarding unaffiliated persons at the College, making it a requirement that such persons must register with the university to speak and will be given a designated time and place to use their right to freedom of speech. 

“…A new expressive rights policy provides more restrictive rights to unaffiliated persons,” Aresenau said. “Let’s use the example of the preacher coming to campus. That person will have to register their certain time, place and manner, there are restrictions on where they can be, and fewer privileges to those persons. They still have the right to speak. We are a public institution but it is more guarded in the way that we approach access to campus.” 

Conversations surrounding campus expression were reinvigorated three years ago after events in Charlottesville, Va., where white supremacists held a protest that led to the murder of Heather Heyer. The new policy will still meet the requirement that public institutions must uphold free speech, but will allow for the College to designate appropriate spaces and times for such demonstrations to occur. 

Under the new policy, students will be able to have full access to campus space not in use to use their right to freedom of speech and will not have to register with the university to use space. Aresenau added that the policy has only been verbally agreed to at this time.

Also at this week’s meeting:

  • Sens. Rory Fedorochko ’22 and Eugene Lee ’23 were selected as SA’s Media Council Liaisons, while Class of 2022 President Suhas Suddala ’22 was selected as Executive Liaison. 
  • Senators passed the COVID-19 Semester Response Resolution, which reinstates SA’s attendance policy, quorum requirements and meeting requirements for the semester, following a lapse in these requirements during the pandemic.