At the College of William and Mary Student Assembly’s last meeting of the 2019-20 academic year Tuesday, April 28, senators confirmed 10 of 11 cabinet nominations presented by SA President Anthony Joseph ’21.
The senate confirmed John Cho ’23 as Secretary of Sustainability, Evan Smith ’21 as Secretary of Public Affairs, Celeste Chalkley ’21 as Secretary of Diversity Initiatives, Raman Khanna ’21 as Secretary of Academic Affairs, Katie Grotewiel ’22 as Secretary of College Policy and Student Rights, Sam Phillips ’21 as Secretary of Health and Safety, William Ryu ’21 as Elections Commission Chair, Erin Schwartz as Officer of Graduate Experience, Adriana Roach J.D. ’21 as Officer of Graduate Rights, Tiffany Jones as Officer of Graduate Diversity and Jack Amerson ’21 as Attorney General.
Joseph’s only unsuccessful nomination was his choice of Caleb Baker ’21 to become SA’s Secretary of Outreach. Senators asked Baker questions about ways SA can become seen as more transparent and asked him to illustrate mechanisms through which Baker would try to expand communication with students.
“I don’t think that Student Assembly particularly struggles with being transparent,” Baker said. “I think it’s the fact that having information out there doesn’t necessarily mean people are going to look at it. So how do we change that?”
“I don’t think that Student Assembly particularly struggles with being transparent. I think it’s the fact that having information out there doesn’t necessarily mean people are going to look at it. So how do we change that?”
Baker’s nomination was narrowly rejected.
After substantial discussion concerning whether the position should go to an undergraduate student or a student at the College’s Marshall-Wythe School of Law, Amerson was confirmed as Attorney General. SA’s law school representatives voiced their opinion that only a law student should be Attorney General, because of the significant amount of legal research and writing that might be required in the new role.
Sen. Will Wasson J.D. ’21 said that the Attorney General should be able to advise the Senate on legislative legality and noted that these skills originate primarily from taking academic classes on legal research and writing.
“One of the most valuable things the Attorney General can be is a legal adviser to the Senate,” Wasson said. “A lot of the times when we come upon bills…we come upon real legal problems, and these problems are things that the Attorney General could give us advice on … A law student would be able to have the legal research knowledge necessary to really fulfill these legal adviser to Student Assembly, in more than just the code and constitution, because when it comes right down to it, our actions have a really big impact.”
Student Leadership Development Director Anne Arseneau ’89 MA.Ed ’92 informed the Senate that as SA’s adviser from Student Leadership Development, she can raise any legal concerns with the College’s legal counsel for concerns regarding state and federal law.
Despite some concerns, Amerson was ultimately confirmed, receiving 12 yes votes, 6 no votes and 2 abstentions.
Grotewiel, who served as Undersecretary for Title IX Affairs under former SA President Kelsey Vita ‘20, expressed a desire to continue this work as Secretary of College Policy and Student Rights. Grotewiel said that she would actively work with the administration and students to understand the recent changes to Title IX at the federal level and voiced her plan to oversee SA’s implementation of the recently passed Tribe Pride in ID Appearance Act.
Khanna served acted as Undersecretary of Academic Affairs and hopes to expand many of the initiatives he enacted under Vita’s administration, such as integrating data science throughout the College’s programs. For his confirmation, Cho outlined integration plans as Secretary of Sustainability, hoping to more closely integrate SA’s sustainability efforts with those of existing campus groups.
In preparing to act as Secretary of Public Affairs, Smith plans to use his previous government experiences, like working on Senate campaigns and lobbying internships for Hispanic advocacy groups, to work closely with the Williamsburg City Council to address issues like safety concerns and to improve student turnout in elections.
Phillips was confirmed as Secretary of Health and Safety after speaking about her previous work as the Undersecretary for Mental Health in Vita’s administration. She emphasized the importance of hearing both sides of the debate when it came to controversial campus health and safety issues and expressed a desire to work with graduate students on these kinds of issues.
Chalkley was Joseph’s only nominee who was confirmed to return to the same position that she held in Vita’s administration. Chalkley said that while her department had made great strides in the last year, such as including more diversity panels at the Day for Admitted Students, she hoped to improve upon diversity initiatives by expanding them to include more graduate students in the future. She also expressed plans for bettering the orientation experience for all students, with improvements such as having bilingual speakers available to students and parents on move-in day.
“There are still improvements to be made on campus and honestly, within my department as well,” Chalkley said. “… I’m learning more about how diversity functions within our student body, our administration and staff, as well as our community at large, and I hope to continue to confront where we as a body lack to make the community more inclusive.”
I’m learning more about how diversity functions within our student body, our administration and staff, as well as our community at large, and I hope to continue to confront where we as a body lack to make the community more inclusive.”
In vying to become the new Elections Commission Chair, Ryu said he wants to reduce election errors that have occurred in previous SA elections. To alleviate these errors, Ryu suggested the creation of a system like Banner’s hold system, which would allow students to check their voting status prior to the election. Therefore, if a student believes they are eligible to vote in an SA election, then the Elections Commission can address issues before the election takes place.
Before continuing with the nomination process, Joseph explained the newly created cabinet roles of Graduate Officers. Joseph explained that these roles are experimental, and they were created with the goal of giving graduate students more autonomy within SA.
Schwartz, Roach and Jones all expressed interest in forming connections across the graduate schools, with an emphasis on protecting student rights and fostering diversity.
Following the Senate’s confirmations of his executive appointees, Joseph provided executive updates regarding the College’s workers and its implementation of Honorlock for final exams.
Joseph said that he received confirmation that none of the College’s employees have been furloughed or fired, though he added that he is currently seeking more information regarding whether these workers are being provided proper personal protection equipment when they are working on campus.
According to Joseph, many of the workers being identified as being let go are under contract with Sodexo. Therefore, the College does not have a say over whether Sodexo fires or furloughs employees. The College is also prohibited under federal law to compensate for the lost salaries of Sodexo employees. These employees are part-time and contracted to continue until the last day of the semester and the College is looking for ways to provide work to the employees so they can maintain their salary.