Letter to the Editor: An Open Letter to the Student Body

Submitted on October 7, 2020

Letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Quest or the Editorial Board.

Hi everyone, 

We hope you all are doing well and taking care! This semester more so than any that we can remember feels really difficult — we’re living in a pandemic and living through a very polarizing election, and without fall break it sometimes feels like the work is never-ending. Through all of it, Senate wants to help ensure that students, especially BIPOC, low-SES, and trans students, feel welcomed, safe, and secure during their time at Reed. Each of the senators ran on a platform to champion specific issues around campus, as well as to represent the student body in difficult discussions with the administration. We are here because we care about the student body and because we want to push Reed to be and do better. 

In the last few weeks, Senate has been in discussion with the Quest regarding student publications funding and how we can ensure that all student publications have equal access to our funding structure. Our current model allows for the Quest to have ‘line item’ funding for their printing costs, as well as wages only reserved for the Quest editors. Line item funding allows for a certain budget to be consistent from semester to semester with no review or vote. This type of funding has been continuous with little input from the student body. In the last couple of years, the Quest’s exclusive access to wages and line item funding became a point of conflict particularly for Receipts, a students-of-color-run publication that was unable to continue due to their lack of funding and wages. In light of that history, we as a Senate would like to initiate this conversation with all student publications about how we can provide space for students of color in a more equitable way. We feel that it is important to note that institutional support is not necessarily accessible to all, and we are committed to working to ensure that the resources Senate can provide are as accessible as possible. 

In an effort to move forward with this goal, we as a Senate voted unanimously to approve a new funding structure: all student publications will have their websites funded through line item funding, guaranteeing an online presence from year to year. Typically, we have stated that confidentiality has prevented us from sharing if the vote was unanimous or not and have only shared the outcome, though we understand that this can be subject to scrutiny. Oftentimes, though, Senate confidentiality is used in order to protect the identities and experiences of vulnerable students who come to us with the understanding that we will keep their information private. Confidentiality also ensures a level of trust as we work with staff, faculty and the administration of the college, as well as each other. As we work to increase transparency and communication across campus, we will continue welcoming feedback about this integral part of the Senate process.

Beginning in Spring 2021, funding for printing for all student publications will be done through Top 40/30, the semesterly vote where students can rank student groups to be funded in order of which groups they feel are most important to our community. We believe that with student publications entering Top 40/30 funding, our system will reflect students’ preferences and ensure there would be a fair voting process that would not privilege the Quest over other student publications. We also believe that this is more equitable and community minded, as it is subject to the voting of the entire student body, not just what Senate feels should or should not receive priority funding through line item status. As the Quest plays an important and historical role on campus and is written into various codes for many groups, including Senate, Senate has asked the Quest to submit a budget so that the specific student work that our bylaws outline can continue to be reported on and printed with line item funding. This budget is still in discussion, and updates will be provided at our public meeting.

In previous meetings with the Quest, we shared an understanding that both the Quest and Senate are dedicated to practicing equity and inclusion by treating all student publications equally. We as Senate have acknowledged and apologized for the various ways in which we have miscommunicated, yet ultimately remain committed to providing equal access to the funding process for all student publications. Change is difficult, and it can be difficult to acknowledge the ways that long-standing institutional support can be problematic. The Quest as well as the Senate are long-standing voices of student representation, and this level of institutional memory is unfortunately propped up by white supremacy. In Reed’s founding, Black, Indigenous, and other voices of color were not considered to be primary stakeholders in the community. As we as a community work to elevate and sustain the voices of BIPOC and otherwise marginalized students, we must keep this in mind. 

We have also taken into consideration the ways in which our transparency can be improved and are beginning a few initiatives in order to demonstrate our commitment to being an open resource for all students. In our continuous commitment to providing resources for all students, we reviewed our wages distribution and discussed allowing for the editors of all student publications to have equal access to wages, not just the Quest. This discussion was heavily informed again by the recent history of Receipts and their inability to access wages, a misstep on a previous Senate’s part that unfortunately contributed to Receipts’ inability to continue publishing. We acknowledge that each Senate is unique in its decision making process, but by inheriting this legacy we as your current Senate are dedicated to structurally addressing these issues so BIPOC students have equal opportunity. With this said, we understand that the wage review process can be opaque at times and will address this in two ways: first, Aziz Ouedraogo, our Appointments Committee chair, is working on a Wage Review advisory board that will include non-Senate student members to help us make more informed decisions about wages; second, we will dedicate a public meeting to this topic so students can come by and speak with us about Treasury-funded wages. We hope that this process allows for smoother communication and so every community member feels heard.

Moving forward, we want to communicate the ways in which you can access Senate and what we are involved in. First, we hold weekly public meetings on Mondays at 12:30 p.m. (Zoom link is available on the Senate Public Google Calendar) and we publish the minutes in SB Info. We encourage you to join us at these meetings if there is anything you would like to address or would like to learn more about the various resources available for you as a student. You are also welcome to come to our individual office hours (also available on the Senate Public Google calendar) to chat with us about any concerns you may have and how our positions can help you address certain issues. Second, we encourage you to reach out to us if you as a student organization would like to make any structural changes by submitting a proposal to Senate and requesting us to address the issue/vote on it during one of our public meetings. This would help us know which issues the student body would like addressed publicly so we can be as transparent as possible. Again, one of our main priorities as Senate is to serve as a resource for all students so your feedback is welcome at any time.

Through all of our work on Senate, we are committed to transparency and honorably representing the student body. As many of us ran on platforms of transparency, we understand the need for it from the student perspective in regards to the work that the administration and staff of the college does. Senate, like the rest of the college and many student groups, has room to do better and wants to work to be better. Beyond the changes and steps we have outlined above, we will also be holding an “air your grievances” event on Wednesday, Oct. 14 from 8-9:30 p.m.; more information will be sent in SB Info. If you cannot make that time, please feel free to reach out to warroom@groups.reed.edu or drop in to any of our office hours or public meetings, which are published in SB Info. Additionally, the next few editions of SB Info will detail the structure of Senate, as this can be confusing especially to those who are new to Reed or haven’t been involved in our processes before. Eventually, our goal is that all of this information and more will be available on our website, reedsb.com, that we are currently working to improve through the work of the Webmasters and in partnership with the Office of Student Engagement. 

We are genuinely thankful for the amazing work that students do all around campus, and to the student body for voting us into these positions. We also want to take the time to express admiration for the recent trend of SB elections becoming more and more competitive, and want to encourage those students who have the passion and dedication to be on Senate to run! Elections will be coming up soon, and we look forward to all of the amazing work that future Senates will do. 

In community,  

The Autonomous Student Body Senate 

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