During their Feb. 7 meeting, SA Senate discussed committee updates, scheduling their town hall, the new SA website, and a procedural change that would put students before senators in their speaker’s list order, among other topics.
They began 33 minutes late after a struggle to meet quorum. Many senators were absent, including sophomores Annie Chin, Miraz Sadi, and Cecile Wang, juniors Falisha Hola and Kevin Tusiime, and first-year Zephyr Zhao.
To start off the meeting, junior Ben Lapidus, senior systems analyst at Wilson Commons, gave a presentation about the SA website redesign. Committee chairs then gave updates.
Campus Life Committee Chair Lilly Hutton said the Global Celebration Committee would host its first meeting on Friday, Feb. 11 to discuss alternatives to the Hirst Lounge flag display. She expressed frustration at being the only student on the committee composed of mostly administrators.
Hutton also said she and first-year Senator Olga Yuvchenko will investigate reports from the UHS Horror Stories Facebook group. Students can submit Bias-Related Incident Reports for themselves and others to create records of those UHS experiences and email Hutton to highlight incidents they want SA to address.
Junior Senator Boris Sorokin will join members of the Academic Affairs Committee to draft legislation in response to a professor denying a student an excused absence on Lunar New Year. Currently professors are only required to accommodate religious observances, not cultural ones, according to the Advising Handbook.
President and junior Sabeet Kazmi then delivered executive updates.
During meetings with Dean Jeffrey Runner over the past few weeks, Kazmi and Vice President and junior Rusama Haque recommended allowing at least two pass/fail courses to count towards students’ clusters this semester. Kazmi said this recommendation will likely not be entertained.
Reacting to concerns about the response rate to student complaints last semester, Dean Runner is considering requiring that syllabi include a link to the faculty complaint form, and President Sarah Mangelsdorf suggested having an ombudsman for faculty complaints.
The floor was passed to Minority Student Affairs Liaison Adrija Bhattacharjee, who urged senators to attend meetings and put in more work.
“If you are in this position and you want to stay here and finish your term, you can either do the shit that you have to do or just leave,” she said. “Resign, leave, and never run again […] There are kids out there, actual students, that would want to come in this position and do a lot more work in the last two months than y’all have done in the past year.”
Debate was later held concerning a proposal by Bhattacharjee looking to end the practice of senators yielding to students in the gallery. The proposal would function by automatically placing non-senatorial students at the top of the speakers’ list if they have input. The procedural change would not require legislation to be enacted, so no vote was held.
In an interview, Bhattacharjee said this was all aimed at making SA more accountable so it could effectively pressure administration, as many students she had spoken to expressed frustration at their inaction.
After another debate, the senate agreed to conduct an Instagram poll to set a date and time for their town hall. The forum will be held sometime on the week of Feb. 21.
With Sorokin and senior Senator Ezra Kruger dissenting, the senate also agreed to not meet on Valentine’s Day. The next Senate gathering will be on Feb. 21.