Senate Beat: Feb 2, 2020

Senate Debates How to Count Students in 2020 Census

The first tantalizing meeting of the semester on February 5 had all in attendance gripping the edge of their chairs at the thrilling mention of the 2020 U.S. Census! Other topics included diversity, student success, and apple strudel (or was it chocolate cake?).

The census! That’s right. It’s been a decade since you (or more likely, your parents) let the government know that you exist! Every ten years the U.S. government requires the masses to collect and produce accurate data regarding the American people and economy. The form will ask basic identification questions including your name, sex, date of birth, age, race, and whether or not you consider yourself Hispanic. The Census Bureau has already been in persistent contact with Reed. At Reed, all students are filed as living in “group quarters” which includes dormitories, hospitals, the military, and correctional facilities, among others. In the past, the institution asked students to fill out the required forms themselves, and if a student didn’t, a form would be filled out in their name. Faculty and staff are trying to devise the best way to complete the census this year, considering whether they should file everyone’s forms for them or if students should be given the opportunity to file for themselves. The issue with this lies in a concern for student autonomy. Some complications regard the filing of students preferred names and the fact that, in the census, gender is categorized as binary. 

During the meeting, the senators hashed out this issue among themselves, and there was a notable division of opinions. Some senators believed that the forms should be filled out by staff on behalf of students to make the process quicker and easier. Others believed that students would care about the filing of their identification and would prefer to record themselves. By the end of the discussion, the senators agreed that the best option would be to create an “opt-in” system through IRIS in which students could choose to file for themselves if they so please. The students that do not opt-in would be filed by faculty and staff. There is a National LGBTQ+ Task Force guide to the census that can function as a resource for students that have questions regarding how to approach gender in the census.

During committee reports, one senator noted that the Student Committee on Diversity is looking to hire two students to serve on the committee this semester, both of which would be paid by the hour. Discussions are still happening regarding the hiring of a Vice President of Student Life. Sustainability is still working to pass amendments to their statement and creating a new climate action plan.

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