Tuesday, March 23 the College of William and Mary’s Student Assembly approved three bills: The Stop AAPI Hate Resolution, The Quarterly Budget System Act and the Cypher Award Reform Act. Senators unanimously passed both the Stop AAPI Hate Resolution and the Quarterly Budget Act, but were divided over the necessity over the Cypher Award Reform Act.
The Stop AAPI Hate Resolution condemned the rising number of hate crimes towards Asian and Pacific Islander Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic and the mass shooting March 16 that led to the death of eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. The victims of the shooting were Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Delaina Ashley Yaun and Paul Andre Michels.
Sen. Sailor Miao spoke personally on the Resolution, recalling his own experiences over his five years being in America, as well as the constant fear expressed by his parents over his safety. He added that even though SA might not hold national influence on the subject, the Resolution could help reaffirm the need to support the AAPI community at the College.
“I’ve been thinking about this for a couple days since we began working on this,” Miao siad. “I guess I just want to say, I’ve been in the states for roughly about five years — four years — about a year in here. When my parents call me, they usually don’t ask about my grades. They ask about my safety. My family and my childhood friends send so many messages to me and ask if I was okay after the shooting. You know, I don’t think my parents should worry about my safety. That’s like the most basic thing that everyone should be guaranteed. But unfortunately, not.”
Miao went on to explain that although some asked why SA was passing a Resolution when they have little influence at the national level, the Resolution would still signal support for the AAPI community.
“Several friends asked me why the Student Assembly is doing this,” Miao said. “We are not Congress, we are not the president. Yet, I think it is necessary because we’re the Alma Mater of the nation. So the first step, the very first step for us to do for the students is to voice our concerns and support all the people, Asian Americans, or us international students, and women.”
Ultimately, Senators unanimously passed the Resolution, agreeing that it was important to bring conversations about recent xenophobic events and hate crimes against AAPI Americans to the College’s campus and stand in support of the College’s AAPI community.
Later in the meeting, senators debated the merits of the Cypher Award Reform Act, which was introduced by Sen. Peter Hayden M.B.A. ’21 and Sen. Helen Tariku ’21 last week. The act would allot $600 from the SA Reserves in order to purchase cypher pins for 2021 Cypher Award recipients. It would also alter the SA Code to read that the Cypher Award is the only distinction for which SA can fund prizes, certificates and plaques.
Some senators argued that they did not believe it was necessary to replace the typical award of a certificate and a handshake with a pin, and others raised concerns with the notion of altering the SA Code in order to fund prizes for only one award.
Due to issues with voting, there was a delay in the final results regarding the passage of the act. After the meeting, SA Secretary Maheen Saeed ’23 said in a written statement that the bill did not pass.
Several other new bills were introduced during the meeting. Class of 2024 President Vicka Heidt ’24 introduced the Pronoun Pin Act, which would allocate $293 from SA Reserves for the purchase of pronoun pins that can be distributed to students at Sadler during the College’s Pride Week, which typically takes place in April.
Sen. Patrick Salsburg ’21 then introduced the A Cappella Benefit Concert Funding Act, which calls for SA to cover the $250 rental costs when a capella groups rent Martha Wren Briggs Amphitheater Apr. 18 in order to record their benefit concert. SA is partnering with the A Cappella Council to put on this pre-recorded benefit concert, in hopes that it will become an annual event. This year, proceeds will be donated to WMFIRE, a student organization dedicated to serving immigrant, migrant and undocumented communities.
Finally, Senate Chair Meghana Boojala ’22 introduced the Street Smarts Revival Act, which allocates $16,000 from the SA Reserves in order to fund the full cost of a new rapid flashing beacon, to be placed at a new crosswalk in front of Richmond Hall. The City of Williamsburg would be responsible for the maintenance of this flashing beacon. The bill, which serves as a replacement for last year’s Street Smarts Act, stipulates that the College would reimburse SA for half of the cost when the new fiscal year begins July 1.
Also at this week’s meeting:
- Senators confirmed Conduct and Honor Advisors Yan Lee ’22 and Beza Kantiba ’23 as representatives to the Honor System Advisory Committee, which reviews and recommends changes to the Honor Code.
- The Senate unanimously passed the Quarterly Budget System Act, which completely reforms SA’s financial system and replaces the Executive Appropriations Committee with a Finance Appropriations Committee that will include SA members.
- Sen. Rory Fedorochko ’22 introduced the Liaison Code Reform Act, which would alter the SA Code so that the Senate could temporarily establish Ad-Hoc Liaison positions in the event that particular insight or context is needed on short-term matters.