Tuesday, Oct. 3, the College of William and Mary Student Assembly Senate met and heard from SA President Sydney Thayer ’24, Independent Elections Commission Chair Jason Zheng ’26, IEC member Sophie Hoffman ’26 and Sen. Soleil Garnett ’24.
Class President Nico Giro-Martin ’27 and Sens. Tyson Liverman ’27, Jason Zhou ’27 and Mayer Tawfik ’27 were sworn in. Giro-Martin and Class of 2027 senators were elected Thursday, Sept. 28. Giro-Martin’s election was the first to implement ranked-choice voting.
Thayer gave her State of the College address. In it, she detailed her conversations with the College’s Board of Visitors, noting the significance of new changes to campus, including SA efforts to increase voter engagement and sustainability.
“Other things that I talked about was mainly projects that we are working on as we look ahead to the year so focusing on things like using our new Department of Data and Analytics as much as we can,” Thayer said. “And really like using that data once we collect it, not just sending out surveys and not doing anything with it.”
“I highlighted some of our health and safety efforts,” she added. “So, sustainability efforts and some of our DEI efforts specifically around peer education and connecting with students who are already leaders in those areas and helping amplify them.”
DEI Resolution updates
Garnett gave a follow-up presentation on The Diversity and Inclusion Action Step Resolution, which was passed in the 328th Student Assembly. Garnett proposed the introduction of a similar bill that addresses Native reparations through admissions, hiring and scholarships, emphasizes the bond between local police departments and students, addresses how faculty and staff approach race relations and calls out the College on anti-discrimination practices.
The suggested bill would not include inactive, pre-existing committees, data collection and re-naming buildings.
“The bill has many strengths and weaknesses,” Garnett said. “It puts forward a strong stance on social justice at William and Mary especially in very challenging times, but the results are so specific that it might be better as a clearer stated bill than a resolution because they charge a lot but it was hard to fall through because you can’t demand it if it’s in resolution.”
Report from the Independent Elections Commission
SA also heard a presentation from Zheng and Hoffman. Hoffman said in the last election cycle for the Class of 2027, there were three suspensions and one fine issued for campaign violations.
Hoffman also said in future elections, the IEC aims to provide more clarity in rules surrounding Instagram, as well as to utilize RCV in all elections with more than two candidates.
Sen. Jonathan Aspin ’27 took his oath of office, having missed the meeting the week prior.
Tuesday, Oct. 24, the Senate met and discussed issues regarding free speech after passing The Second Annual Green and Gold Bash Act and The Sustainability Fair Act.
Thayer said SA plans to work in response to the student housing crisis by creating a panel that ensures information concerning off campus housing is accessible to students. She also reminded members that despite numerous current events happening around the world, everyone is entitled to express their opinions in a safe and productive space.
“You all are more than entitled to your personal beliefs and your personal feelings about things,” Thayer said. “But I just want to say that as a body, I think Student Assembly’s job is to make sure that everyone on our campus feels like they can express their opinions and they can learn in a safe and productive way.”
In an open question to SA, Zhou posed a hypothetical question about an issue about a student acting or dressing offensively during Halloween.
In response, Director of Student Leadership Development Anne Arseneau ’89 MA.Ed ’92 said while such an action would be unwelcome and not in line with the College’s values, it would not be a violation of the College’s policies.
“And so if a student chose to engage in that way, there is nothing within William and Mary’s policy that prohibit them from doing so,” Arseneau added. “I would hope that they would be challenged by other students about what we want our community values and norms to be, but they’d be challenged in a way that they could be receptive to. But inherently, we don’t shut down speech, even when it is speech we don’t agree with or speech we find abhorrent.”
Arseneau further added that the College aims to create a venue for speech that is not limited and the expression of ideas.
Zhou added that he heard a student discussing the prospect of dressing offensively on Halloween.
Arseneau advised Zhou to address the person personally.
“The first thing is to step into it and have a dialogue with somebody about why you find this distasteful and abhorrent, right?” Arseneau said.
Tuesday, Oct. 31, the Senate met and heard the Quarterly Finance Report from Chair of the Senate Finance Committee Sen. Matt Swenson ’26. The chamber also, under the direction of Arseneau, discussed ideas for initiatives.
Quarterly Finance Report
Swenson provided a snapshot report of SA’s current finances. Out of the $43,045.35 allocated from the SA budget, 65 Recognized Student Organizations received funding. This year’s starting reserves were $945,311.58, and a total of $89,308.28 has been spent thus far, totaling to $856,003.30 in current reserves.
A total of $192,865.50 has been allocated, but not spent, in SA reserves and $752,446.08 is available in reserves. Out of the $55,000 set aside for club competitions, $4,724.80 has been spent, and $2,000 out of the $30,000 reserved for club conferences has been used.
The Senate held a discussion regarding initiatives for the body. Arseneau detailed how this session came about.
“I’ve had three convos since this summer with people who all shared the same idea, two senators and one cabinet member,” Arseneau said. “But none of them were connected to one another, so if we don’t know what people are in the precontemplation mode about, we can’t help make connections between people who also share a similar parallel interest in an idea.”
Class President Mia Tilman ’24, alluding to a car accident that happened on Richmond road, where President and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Chair of the William and Mary Foundation and Adjunct Professor Cliff Fleet ’91, M.A. ’93, J.D. ’95, M.B.A. ’95 struck pedestrian Rosemary Raynal ’25 while he was driving. Tilman said she had conversations with people who live and drive in the area, in which those individuals said the area was prone to accidents.
Tilman said in her freshman year SA helped fund blinking traffic lights in collaboration with the City of Williamsburg. She said she would like to see SA fund those items again.
“These will last a very very very long time, and will hopefully prevent serious accidents on Richmond Road,” Tilman said.
Sen. Hazel Vineet ’25 said she would like to see more alcohol safety training for Recognized Student Organizations, while Tawfik said he would like to see more transparency in class descriptions during registration. Sen. Hashir Aqeel ’25 said he would like to work on mental health initiatives for athletic teams.