Senate convenes for first session
Priorities include educational equity, improving transportation
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 16:09
Student senators gathered for the first session of College Government (CG) last night to commence the new year. Prior to the Senate meeting, CG Cabinet outlined a preliminary agenda for the upcoming academic year. Their goals include decreasing socioeconomic inequity on campus by augmenting access to resources, reforming CG to promote action and transparency in Senate, and opening up more channels of communication between students, faculty and administrators.
According to CG President Marjorie Cantine ’13, the initiatives for this year are driven by three themes: accountability, community and action. Cantine’s personal initiatives include establishing open town hall meetings to reduce communication barriers between students, faculty, staff and administrators, lessening disparities caused by differing socioeconomic statuses through the Equal Access Project and promoting institutional memory of Wellesley’s history through the Memory Project.
Cantine, along with a team of students from the CG President’s Council, will work throughout the year on projects to reduce socioeconomic inequity at Wellesley by increasing access to critical resources such as textbooks.
“I think [textbook costs] could definitely be improved,” Maggie Benoit ’16 stated. “I’m in Spanish 201, and the textbooks that you have to get, you have to get them new. And you have to write in them, so those aren’t even [purchases] that you can return. I think they were almost $300.”
Cantine believes that reaching out to professors could improve the cost for students. She and Meredyth Grange, the student multicultural affairs coordinator (MAC), will speak at Academic Council at the start of the semester.
“We’re hoping to connect faculty with an awareness of the very real costs of textbooks for students and trying to connect them with folks in library services to make sure that textbooks are available on reserve,” Cantine explained.
As part of her plan to increase access to on-campus resources, Cantine has also been working with the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) to establish grocery shuttles during breaks when the dining halls are closed. CG hopes to have the program up and running in time for spring break.
In addition to transportation during breaks, students also raised concerns about the costs of Wellesley transportation, as well as the efficiency of the Peter Pan bus and the Movie/Mall shuttle. Although CG Cabinet has not yet considered addressing transportation during the school year or expanding airport transportation during breaks—concerns that are common among Wellesley students—Cantine acknowledged that getting off campus is often difficult for students.
“I think a lot of what we can do is just continue to encourage the airport shuttles that we do have during break and maybe put in place some better structure systems so you can figure out how you’re getting back from the airport,” she stated.
CG Cabinet’s focus on increasing accessibility to on-campus resources encompasses student organizations in addition to individual students. Student Bursar Joy Das ’14 has been working to improve access to funds for leaders of student organizations, who have expressed frustration with the lengthy reimbursement process.
“I’m the president of a club and I’ve had to fund hundreds of dollars before and that was my own money,” one anonymous senior stated. “I don’t have hundreds and hundreds of dollars to front for my organization and I know my situation isn’t even the worst.”
This year, the Bursar’s office was reorganized to increase efficiency of reimbursement. Rather than the entire office being responsible for processing all check requests, individual bookkeepers will now be assigned to work one-on-one with organizations on campus. Additionally, money will now be deposited directly into the student organization’s bank account instead of being picked up manually from the Bursar’s office. Das, who has also been reaching out to cultural and athletic organizations to strategize their money requests, hopes the new reforms will streamline the reimbursement process.
“It will be a lot faster because the office won’t have piles of requests,” Das stated.
Members of Cabinet have made it a priority to increase both the accessibility and accountability of student representatives and members of the administration. Both Cantine and Hana Glasser ’15, CG Communications Chair and Secretary/Treasurer, have been attending on-campus events and rotating through House Councils throughout the year. Glasser has also been developing a review system for senators and members of CG Cabinet, as well as a more clearly-enforced attendance policy for senators. Additionally, senators will be required to complete a number of “action items” during their term and will be encouraged to work in groups outside of Senate on projects.
“My experience as a first-year senator was that I came in the room, sat there, left, didn’t talk to anybody around me, didn’t engage,” Glasser said. “I think [the action items] keep things moving quicker...[and] that’s really going to contribute to making Senate more active.”
“We’re all trying to...revitalize Senate as a body for action and a place for debate,” Cantine stated.
Along with these reforms, CG has also upgraded its website to make CG resources and web pages more readily available to students. To improve lines of communication between the student body, faculty, staff and administrators, CG will host town hall meetings open to the Wellesley community throughout the year, each dedicated to a specific topic. Although students are supportive of the initiative, many doubt its ability to mobilize students to get involved in on-campus affairs.