Tuesday, Sept. 13, the Student Assembly of the College of William & Mary passed three bills and introduced one bill. Notable public comments shared a window into an ongoing debate on campus.
Upcoming Elections Update
SA elections to fill the four class of 2026 senator positions and one class of 2026 president position, as well as two senator positions in the Class of 2023 and one in the Class of 2024, will occur on Sept. 29.
The class of 2026 elections will likely be a packed race, with over 15 freshmen attending the first candidate information session and more attending later ones. Multiple juniors and seniors also attended the information sessions, suggesting that the upperclassmen races may be competitive as well.
Sources say that campaign violations have already occurred before the canvassing period. Candidates may not begin campaigning before the officially sanctioned campaigning period begins on Sept. 17.
Multiple students shared their views on the The Subsidizing Sexual Health Resources Act sponsored by Class President Mia Tilman ’24. The act allocates up to $3,375 from SA reserves to continue previous subsidies of emergency contraception and pregnancy tests given by the Student Health Center. Specifically, the bill covers the cost of 75 pregnancy tests and subsidizes 200 emergency contraception (Levonorgestrel, or Plan B) doses, bringing down their cost to students from $20 to $5.
During the public comment period, President of Tribe for Life Skylar Culbertson ’23, expressed concern for the subsidization of Plan B and suggested instead subsidizing different types of contraceptives.
“Every human is deserving of a right to life, and as a college, we should not be providing Plan B to students…which can potentially take a human life,” Culbertson said.
Becca Gaylin ’23, President of Vox: Planned Parenthood Generation Action, also wrote a statement that was read by Chair of the Senate Eugene Lee ’23.
“Emergency contraceptives and pregnancy tests are crucial for students, a lot of whom may be beginning to explore sex and sexuality in college. Accidents happen, especially to students,” her statement read.
Her statement also called for the Student Health Center to replace its emergency contraceptive pill brand, E-Contra One Step, with Ella, as the former does not always effectively work for those who weigh over 150 pounds.
Sen. Shaunna Scott ’23 introduced The William & Mary REAL Chat & Chew Act. The bill aims to partner with Howard University for a two day program called REAL (Road to Excellence for Aspiring Lawyers) to spread awareness about the Lemon Legal Scholars program, an initiative from the Marshall-Wythe Law School which supports distinguished HBCU students interested in a career in law. The bill stipulates that 15 Howard students will be chosen on a first come, first serve basis to visit the College and meet with law school leaders to learn more about the scholarship program. With Howard University’s student senate covering $12,000 in expenses for lodging and transportation and the law school covering most food expenses, the bill requests $300 for pizza and drinks at a Chat & Chew event.
“This could be a great way for us as a Senate to show our support for Howard University since they’ve given so much money for them to come over here, and at the same time give back to our student body,” Scott said.
Law School Senator Brendan Clark ’24 was also involved with planning the initiative over the summer and shared the Law School’s perspective.
“I’m excited to bring this forward and I did bring it forward to the Law School’s administration who are throwing a good deal of money and time behind it as well, so it’s going to be a very well-put together and orchestrated program…it’s a platform priority for the dean and it’s something that’s high on his agenda,” Clark said.
Both Senators expressed optimism that the program may continue in future years and expand to other HBCUs.
In a unanimous vote, SA passed the Make OBAC More Efficient Act, sponsored by Chair of the Senate Eugene Lee ’23 and Sen. Matthew Hwang ’25. The act changed the language in SA’s code to reduce the number of people needed to make quorum for OBAC meetings as there was difficulty reaching quorum over the summer.
SA unanimously passed the Tribe Spirit Act, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Bess ’24, which allocates up to $2,500 from SA Reserves to be used for the purchasing of t-shirts that will be sold at Homecoming and Family Weekend.
Sen. Morgan Brittain voted in favor of the bill, but added a warning cautioning against further use of SA reserves for t-shirts before the vote.
“I’m going to vote for this bill, I don’t hate spirit, however, I do think, going forward for next year, we should consider perhaps another avenue as an SA fundraiser as this fundraiser based around t-shirts is not an opportunity that most student organizations have available to them via student activity fees,” Brittain said.
Finally, SA passed The Subsidizing Sexual Health Resources Act which allocates up to $3,375 from SA reserves to continue previous subsidies of emergency contraception and pregnancy tests given by the Student Health Center.
The vote followed discussion about how to spread awareness about the subsidy and what information is included with medication distributed by the Student Health Center, as well as earlier public comments sharing student comments on the bill.
During his executive update, SA President John Cho ’23 said that he had elevated concerns from students about COVID-19 case management, the lack of quarantine housing as well as dining on campus to administrators.
Chief of Staff Owen Williams ’23 also shared context into why the administration has not continued its Covid-19 dashboard into the new semester.
“At the end of last semester, the administration was getting a strong indication…that those numbers on the dashboard at the end of last semester were inaccurate just because people were not reporting rapid tests, so even if there was a case management system with the dashboard coming back it’s likely that those numbers would not be an accurate representation of what the Covid situation was like on campus,” Williams said.
Cho also encouraged senators to be engaged with the upcoming Williamsburg City Council elections.
“Student Assembly is non-partisan and we are not allowed to officially endorse any one candidate,” Cho said. “Our job is to ensure that every student receives the information that they need to make an informed vote.”
The City Council election will occur on Nov. 8.
Cho added that SA will be hosting a public forum on Oct. 19 at 6 PM in the Commonwealth Auditorium featuring all four candidates running for City Council as an opportunity for students to learn more about each candidate’s platforms.
Also at this week’s meeting:
- The position of Executive Branch Representative to the Graduate Council was filled by Sen. Stephanie Hilaire MBA after being the sole nominee.
- Lee encouraged senators to stay out of endorsing candidates in the upcoming SA elections, while noting that they do have the right to do so.