Tuesday, Oct. 11, the Student Assembly of the College of William & Mary passed bills concerning free speech on campus and a novel effort to curtail room lockouts.
Sen. Shaunna Scott ’23 introduced The Culture Pageant Act, which allocates $60 from SA reserves to purchase crowns which will feature at a Culture Pageant in the Sadler Center on Nov. 13.
“This event is supposed to be a safe space for people of color, it has the same set-up as a typical beauty pageant but with more leniency when it comes to categories like talent, dress, interview…overall it’s focused on inclusivity and embracing individuality in every way that that looks,” Scott said.
The Let’s Talk Act, sponsored by Sen. Eugene Lee ’23, passed with three ‘No’ votes from Class President Mia Tilman ’24, Sen. Ashlynn Parker ’26, and Sen. Matt Swenson ’26. The bill restructures the Counter Speech Working Group Act to the “William & Mary, Let’s Talk Initiative” to “educate the university community on university policy and state law regarding freedom of expression on campus,” according to the bill language.
Last week, SA members had expressed significant concern about the practicality of the bill, but Lee’s significant revisions of the bill before this week’s meeting ultimately proved to be the deciding factor.
Sen. Sen Nguyen ’25 shared further pushback the bill faced in the Finance Committee meeting, including concerns that the bill shifts the group’s focus away from hate speech and questions about the use of the Foundation for Individual Rights & Expression (FIRE) as a source of material and curriculum for the initiative.
Another heavily discussed bill, the Distribution of University-Branded Complimentary Keypers Act (DUCK), passed with three ‘No’ votes from Sen. Matthew Hwang ’25, Sen. Miranda Bellamah J.D. ’24 and Sen. Stephanie Hilaire M.B.A. The bill allocates $3,560 from SA reserves to purchase 2,500 custom “keypers” which allow on campus students to hold their room keys in a pocket on their phone in an attempt to decrease lockouts. The Residence Hall Association (RHA) is also contributing $1,500 towards the effort.
While generally popular, support of the bill was not unanimous, with multiple senators questioning the demand for the keypers and concerns about their aesthetic design.
“I don’t know about you guys but I’m not going to put something ugly on my phone, and I’m not saying the SA logo is but..,” said Tilman. She suggested initially ordering 500 units as a test-run as opposed to the proposed 2500.
However, bill-sponsor Nguyen pushed back against the notion that the keypers might not be in demand, citing enthusiastic and generally positive feedback from a recent poll on SA’s official Instagram page.
“There’s 4600 students currently living on campus, and as indicated by the 510 responses approximately 70% were either yes or maybe, so I think there’s a large need among the student population for actually utilizing these keypers,” Nguyen said.
SA President John Cho ’23 updated the SA on his meeting with Jackie Ferree, William & Mary’s Interim Chief Operating Officer. Cho met with Ferree to discuss the College’s expiring 10-year contract with Sodexo, Dining Services’ main supplier. Cho promised students would have the opportunity to be involved in negotiations for the next 10-year contract, whether it be with Sodexo or as part of a search to find a new supplier.
Cho also announced that he will be advocating to expand TribeRides, a program that subsidizes student transportation to and from off-campus mental health appointments, to cover other types of health appointments such as After-Hours care.
Also at this week’s meeting:
- Sen. Shaunna Scott ’23 acknowledged the success of the The William & Mary REAL Chat & Chew Act. “It went very very well, and the Howard students were very happy”, Scott said.
- Class President Zoe Wang ’26 shared 2026 class initiative ideas ranging from a s’mores mixer to advocating for adding ‘Arab’ as an ethnicity profile. Additionally, Sen. Jiexi Lin ’26 shared ideas for initiatives geared towards international students such as enlisting bilingual orientation aides to help the transition for students speak a different language in their home country and advocating for international student scholarships.
A previous version of this article stated that Sen. Spencer Krivo ’26 was one of the ‘No’ votes for the Distribution of University-Branded Complimentary Keypers Act (DUCK). This was corrected to Sen. Miranda Bellamah J.D. ’24.