Tuesday, Nov. 16, the College of William and Mary’s 329th Student Assembly discussed attendance policy reform, passed one bill and introduced bills relating to the Steer Clear program, food for quarantined students and an upcoming clothes drive.
Review Board Hearing on Unauthorized Closed Session
The Review Board, SA’s judicial branch, held a hearing to discuss a complaint made by Attorney General Rory Fedorochko ’22 against SA. Fedorochko asserted in his complaint that SA had violated § 2.2-3711 of the Code of Virginia by conducting a closed session at their Nov. 2 meeting which did not adhere to the specific reasons for which a closed session can be held. The stated reason for the closed session was to “discuss Sentate [sic] Attendance at outer events as well as at SA sponsored events and the culture of Senate.”
Fedorochko emphasized that closed sessions must be called for specific types of discussions, rather than a general conversation within SA.
“[The Code of Virginia] states, quote, “assignment, appointment, promotion, performance, demotion, salaries, disciplining, or resignation of specific public officers, appointees or employees of any public body,” Fedorochko said. “[The reason for holding a closed session] has to be specific, you have to specify who you’re going to talk about… if you’re talking about the whole body in general… discussion has to be public.”
Fedorochko emphasized that closed sessions create a barrier between SA and the College’s students.
“These conversations can be very helpful being honest and direct, but also you go back to, who is the senate accountable to? And that is the students of William and Mary. The students at William and Mary ought to be able to see these discussions unless, as the Code of Virginia lines out, there’s a concern of privacy for some specific individual,” Fedorochko said.
The Review Board voted unanimously in favor of Fedorochko in their Nov. 18 opinion. They also agreed with his proposed remedy of adding a written record of what was discussed in closed session to the Student Assembly Records, as well as a request that all future closed sessions be in line with § 2.2-3711.
“Now that we know the rule, we won’t do it again,” SA Vice President Goodman ’22 said in her closing remarks.
The SA meeting began with a discussion of attendance policy reform, which became a focal point of debate during last meeting’s vote for impeachment on Sen. Shaunna Scott ’24. The articles of impeachment were automatically introduced against Scott after she had reached eight absences, but the impeachment vote failed after multiple senators defended Scott’s work as a senator and pointed to confusion surrounding SA’s attendance policy and impeachment rules.
Senators considered raising the number of absences needed to reach an impeachment vote, and graduate senators brought up time commitment concerns which have led to multiple graduate senator resignations since the start of the session.
In response to the presentation made by SA President Meghana Boojala ’22 at the Nov. 2 SA meeting, which shared the results of a student survey about the Steer Clear program, Senate Chair Owen Williams ’23 and Sen. Mia Tilman ’24 introduced The Steer Clear Revival Act. Steer Clear is a free, student-operated transportation service for students walking home late at night, which shut down operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, after failing to submit a budget to SA.
“This is basically trying to get Steer Clear back in normal operations, because we fund 100% of them, and they did not participate in the last budget process, so they have no money,” Williams said. “So if we want to get them back in operation, a bill would be the only way to do that.”
The bill provides $6,000 to the program to resume normal operations for the spring semester.
Sen. Zach Outzen JD ’22 introduced the Feeding Students in Isolation Act, which addresses the needs of students isolating off-campus after testing positive for COVID-19.
“This is a bill to fund a collaboration between us, the Student Assembly, the Wesley Ministry, which runs the campus food pantry, Food for All, which is a student organization which handles food insecurity on campus, and the school’s COVID response team,” Outzen said. “The program is designed to deliver pre-packaged meals and groceries at no cost from the campus food pantry to students who are required to isolate off-campus due to COVID-19… this bill in particular is to appropriate funds to the campus food pantry for the purposes of purchasing food supplies for this program.”
Outzen stressed the immediate need for the service, as multiple students in isolation had already requested meals for this service before it had been created.
Later in the meeting, Scott introduced the Winter Clothing Drive Act, which charges SA with advertising an upcoming clothing drive. Students can donate clothes, such as winter coats, to the House of Mercy through donation boxes which will be set up in the Sadler Center and Campus Center from Nov. 29 to Dec. 13.
SA also voted unanimously to pass the Subsidized Pregnancy Testing Act, sponsored by Tilman and Sen. Jahnavi Prabhala ’22.
“[The bill] is very straightforward, really just funding pregnancy tests, subsidizing the full cost of pregnancy tests, so students can go and just grab one in the pharmacy and have kind of that ease of access, and the ability to have the tools and resources in order to make informed decisions about their health,” Tilman said.
Also at this week’s meeting:
- Tilman announced that she would take on the duty of class president and resign as senator effective Dec. 10 after the news of Class President Vicka Heidt ’24’s planned resignation due to her transfer to Georgetown.
- Williams emphasized that senators should try to submit bills as soon as possible, as there are only two more SA meetings this semester.