Updates from USA President: First Council of Representatives meeting held

USA President Abby Hughes gives an update on the Undergraduate Student Association senate, including the Council of Representatives meeting.

By Abby Hughes, USA President

Senate did not kick off our usual discussions regarding pertinent issues that impact the student experience at the usual 7 p.m. Instead, Tuesday night started off with a Council of Representatives meeting, which is a new USA initiative that aims to facilitate connections, communication, and collaboration amongst club leaders across our campus. 

The first Council of Representatives meeting brought together about 21 clubs to discuss upcoming events on campus and open a dialogue regarding how we can continue to utilize this platform to strengthen our clubs and create a network of support for one another. This conversation will continue next month when the Council of Representatives meets again on March 24.

During our Senate meeting, we had the opportunity to hear from the College’s Associate Dean for Diversity & Inclusion, Fatima Rodriguez Johnson. Johnson’s presentation, entitled, “In Pursuit of Inclusive Excellence,” discussed the College’s newly developed strategic plan on race. Johnson has been overseeing the development of this plan since May of 2019 with a team made up of 45 members. 

This plan consists of 10 goals and 25 strategies with areas focusing in community, curriculum and academic initiatives, educational programs, intersectional work, recruitment & retention, and training & skill building. U.S.A. has been identified as one of the allies that can be utilized to implement aspects of this plan, especially when it comes to aspects of community building and developing educational programs and training workshops. 

While the plan has not yet been presented to the Board of Trustees for approval, many of the goals and strategies identified have already gotten underway. Last semester, I served as a student representative on the diversity and inclusion statement team. 

This team, which was not only made up of individuals from our campus community but also included individuals from the Hamlin Park community surrounding the college, was tasked with crafting a diversity and inclusion statement for the College. 

Johnson regards this statement, which has recently been approved by the College’s Senior Leadership Team, as an important step in fostering a better dialogue on our campus when it comes to race. USA will also be an important ally when it comes to facilitating communication between club leaders throughout the school year. 

The strategic plan on race includes a plan to create some sort of “Diversity Board” (separate from USA’s existing Diversity Committee), which would be made up of club leaders from diverse clubs on our campus. USA would allocate money to this board each year, which members would then use to fund large scale events, initiatives, and programs that promote and foster diversity, equity, and inclusion on our campus. Assisting in the creation of this Board and supporting the other goals identified in this plan in any way that we can will be a priority for USA throughout the remainder of the semester.

Following Johnson’s presentation, the Senate approved a number of appeals from the following clubs: Accounting Society ($3,549), AKPSI ($800), Alpha Phi Sigma ($400), Best Buddies ($900), CAC ($150), DiGamma ($937.40), Crescendon’ts ($3,000), Fusion ($658.10), Jazz Ensemble ($1,000), the Wire ($720.26), and SAAC ($7,445). 

The Senate had an extensive discussion regarding an appeal of $3,386.42 from Sigma Phi Epsilon. While U.S.A. typically funds national dues for organizations, multiple Senators raised concerns regarding the use of student activity fees to pay for Greek life’s national dues. 

Senator Carlo motioned to approve SigEp’s appeal for their Senior Banquet and table the rest of their appeal for national dues until next week. Senate also voted to table an appeal from Quadrangle until they provide the Finance Board and Senate with more information regarding the price of different printing options for their magazine.

During this week’s structured discussion, we discussed new opportunities to further connect students with faculty through the Faculty Student Liaison Committee. We reviewed and discussed a general “guideline” that Faculty have developed to use in their syllabus which pertains to student conduct in the classroom. Members of Senate will be meeting with Faculty directly to give them our input and ideas regarding this general guideline.

Our 2.5-hour-long Senate meeting was just a glimpse into the busy semester we have ahead of us. As USA’s election season begins to start up, our committees have also been busy at work. Here are some highlights: Sustainability Chair Emily Augugliaro met with President Hurley and VP for Business and Finance Marco Benedetti last week to give student feedback on the College’s sustainability plan; our JUSTICE Committee is having a Voter Registration Drive on March 11; our Public Health Committee has a Public Health Week planned for March 30-April 3; our Diversity Committee is planning a tabling event in honor of International Women’s Day on March 8; our Student Interests Committee is putting together a time capsule in honor of the College’s Sesquicentennial. 

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