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Student senate hears board of trustees report, discuss clear bag policy

| Thursday, April 26, 2018

The emeritus student body leadership presented the spring Board of Trustees’ report to the student senate Wednesday.

Emeritus student body president Rebecca Blais, emeritus student body vice president Sibonay Shewit and emeritus chief of staff Prathm Juneja shared their report on representation in leadership with the senate.

Blais and Shewit, seniors, and Juneja, a junior, presented to the Board of Trustees in the fall regarding alcohol culture on campus. For their spring report, they decided to report on the representation of women, racial minorities and people of low socioeconomic status in student and University leadership.

“We’re looking at leadership both amongst the student body — so RAs and in the student union — and we look at faculty, administration, who’s in the president’s leadership council … all the way up to the Board of Trustees and the Board of Fellows,” Blais said.

They found that 28 percent of the Board of Trustees are women, compared to 49 percent of the undergraduate student body; and 4 percent of the president’s leadership council are people of color, compared to 30 percent of the undergraduate student body, Juneja said.

Shewit said these statistics demonstrate “that our leadership does not at all mirror what we see in our student body.”

Because of the small number of women in leadership roles, it is difficult for female students to find female mentors among University administration, Blais said.

Representation of students of color is low in both hall staff and University newsletters, Shewit said.

“In the Arts and Letters exemplar newsletter … only 13 percent of the students highlighted were students of color,” Shewit said. “We are asking that instead of putting students of color on brochures or inviting them to dinners, actually highlight the work that they’re doing and make sure that they’re represented just the same as all of our other students.”

The University should also encourage and incentivize students of low socioeconomic status to become RAs in order to increase support for undergraduates in similar situations, Juneja said.

Blais, Shewit and Juneja are also asking to decrease the severity of the punishment for students caught with marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia on campus.

Currently, the punishment is immediate on-campus housing suspension. They hope to change the punishment to housing probation for a first offense, Juneja said.

“For my peers that I know that have been kicked off campus, it was more of a detriment to me to have them not be in the community, and it was more of a detriment to them because they were isolated … and didn’t have people to support them during this tough time,” Juneja said.

While the students will discuss several topics, the main purpose of the report will be to bring the topic of minority underrepresentation in leadership to the board, Shewit said.

“The reason that we wanted to pick this topic is because we’ve seen the importance of having representation in leadership and we’ve seen that influence our own work, so we wanted to bring that to the attention of groups that we don’t think have had as many conversations about this,” Shewit said.

The senators also discussed the new clear bag policy that the University recently announced would be enacted next semester.

Dunne hall senator and sophomore Zachary Spitzer said that many universities will begin using a similar policy.

“All of the schools in the SCC conference are implementing the policy in their stadiums and a whole bunch of other schools in other conferences as well … have started implementing this, especially in light of everything that’s been going on in recent months,” Spitzer said.

Diversity council chair and junior Alyssa Ngo suggested that the University give out free clear bags at the beginning of the school year to aid the transition. She also said women, in particular, will be affected if they desire to bring feminine hygiene products into the game.

“I don’t really want to bring that in a plastic bag, for obvious privacy concerns,” Ngo said.

The senators also approved the bestowal of emeritus status on Matt Ross, the judicial council president for the previous term.

The senators unanimously approved each of the nominations for vice presidents of judicial council, the SUB executive board and the assistant student union treasurers.

After the duration of the meeting surpassed an hour but before the meeting was adjourned, senators began leaving. After several had left, Gayheart said that no other senator could leave or the senate would lose quorum and would be unable to adjourn.

“You all committed to this and you need to be here to represent your constituents when we vote on things,” Gayheart said.

No other senators left and the final senate meeting of the semester adjourned.

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About Mary Bernard

Mary Bernard is a senior with a major in Anthropology and a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and is the Social Media Editor for The Observer, managing and overseeing all things audience engagement.

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