Senate Beat: Nov 2, 2020

Senate talks proposed Quest budget

This week’s public meeting saw renewed discussions of Quest funding, as well as updates on the Student Committee on Academic Policy and Planning (SCAPP) and the Health and Counseling Center during committee reports. 

At the beginning of new business, Student Body President Al Chen gave an overview of recent discussions regarding student publication funding. In the interest of making funding for student publications more equitable, the Quest’s print funding is being moved from being a guaranteed byline item to the Top 40 system where funding is decided by student votes and Senate members. Chen also expressed wanting to comment on the recent Letter to the Editors from former publications editors that encouraged moving all student publications to byline funding.

Quest Editor Katherine Draves began by saying that the Quest has no control over and does not endorse opinions expressed in Letters to the Editors. Draves then moved on to raise concerns that the first issues of the Quest are published before Funding Circus is done, so without byline funding, the Quest wouldn’t be able to publish on their normal schedule. Draves also drew attention to the Quest’s responsibilities that are written into Senate and Judicial Board (J-Board) bylaws, such as reporting J-Board summaries, and said that those requirements must be preserved in any future model for Quest funding. Draves clarified that the Quest normally publishes 12 issues per semester, and that the Quest’s proposed line item budget to supplement Top 40 funding would guarantee funding for at least six issues a semester. Draves argued that a biweekly print publication would be required to publish information like the community safety blotter and J-Board summaries, items that cannot be published on the Quest’s website for privacy concerns but must be published in print for accountability purposes.

Chen first addressed access to funding before Funding Circus has occurred. Because line item funding doesn’t stipulate what it goes towards, only the organization, the Quest can use some of their website funding to fund pre-Funding Circus issues of the Quest. Draves responded that funding for the website wouldn’t be sufficient to pay for printing. Because of how printing is done, no matter how many issues are printed, it costs a minimum of $300. Chen then explained that prior to Funding Circus, the Quest, or any organization, can request funds from the financial committee (Fin Com). 

Student Body Vice President Apoorva Mangipudi said that the current conversation between Draves and Senate was basically what normally happens during Fin Com meetings and was just occurring at this week’s Senate public meeting for the sake of transparency. Mangipudi questioned why the Quest needs six issues a semester to meet its obligations per the bylaws and asked why the Quest can’t consolidate those responsibilities into fewer issues.

Draves gave two answers to Mangipudi’s consolidation question, one concerning space, and one concerning an interpretation of the bylaw’s statement on the Quest’s role on campus as an independent newspaper. A simple answer is that the Quest is an eight-page newspaper, and the information that the Quest is required to publish normally takes up a lot of space, prohibiting them from putting all of the required information into a small number of issues. The other issue is that, to be an independent newspaper as stated in Senate bylaws, Draves argues that the Quest needs to be able to report on important campus events, which could come at any point in the semester. The Quest needs to have consistent funding throughout each semester if it is to fulfill its duty of reporting on campus news.

Mangipudi then said that the plan is to discuss the proposed Quest budget during Senate’s closed executive meeting and come back to the next public meeting with a formalized decision. Draves asked why further discussions and the vote was confidential, while this portion of the discussion was public. Mangipudi said that executive board discussions and decisions are always confidential and never public. Draves expressed that it would be helpful to the Quest to know Senate’s reasoning for whatever decision it reaches during the executive board meeting, and Mangipudi said that the reason could potentially be made public.

Chen then brought up that the discussions regarding Quest funding changes have raised questions about Senate’s policies towards confidentiality and that the conversation regarding Senate transparency is going to be a long one which just can’t happen during Senate’s weekly public meeting.

Draves added that, when asked for quotes or interviews, senators have refused to talk to the Quest for fear of backlash from other senators regarding confidentiality concerns. Draves also thanked Senate for the focus they have placed on re-examining their approach to confidentiality, as well as listening to the Quest’s concerns regarding changes to their funding. Chen responded that, with Senate’s limited budget, they are trying to allocate their budget carefully and cautiously and are working with student publications liaisons to discuss funding solutions, but that coordination is difficult with so many groups of people. 

During committee reports, Chen reported that a proposal that would streamline the process for students providing feedback to administrators is going to be drafted this week. The proposal would establish a formal feedback process that would make sure student feedback made it to the right people within the Reed administration.

Mangipudi reported that the Student Committee on Diversity met with the current and former chairs of the HUM 110 staff to go over a proposal drafted last week regarding making HUM 110 more sensitive to the needs of BIPOC students, and that the staff were largely supportive. While the proposal was meant to be specific to HUM 110, the Center for Teaching and Learning was excited about expanding the program to other classes. Mangipudi also reported that SCAAP is upset about how little input they had regarding the fall semester, specifically fall break and the response to their proposed extension of the last spring semester’s credit/no-credit policy. CAPP had 40 meetings over the summer without SCAPP to discuss these issues, even though SCAPP asked specifically to be notified about meetings, and the input that SCAPP was able to provide was ignored. SCAAP understands that faculty are exhausted, and the process of adapting to COVID is confusing and demands fast decision making, but SCAAP wants student interests to be at the forefront.

Senator Charlotte Thompson reported that the Student Opportunity Subsidy (SOS) is doing well, and that she is working on a handbook for the SOS.

Vice Treasurer Ena Hashimoto reported that Pixie Freeman requested $200 for a Halloween trick-or-treating activity, and that Fin Com funded it in full. The motion passed unanimously.

Senator Vivien Zheng reported that she is working with the Center for Life Beyond Reed to create a fellowship that is only open to BIPOC and low-SES students, as well as workshops to help first generation college students with cover letters and job applications.

Senator Billy Fish reported that a Student Health Advisory Council Charter has been drafted and has seen a few revisions but has been received mostly positively by administration. Fish also reported that the Reed Union Committee had their first meeting where they discussed what needs to be done for a Reed Union to exist next semester. They will be soliciting suggestions from students on what issues are important to them, as well as whether an online or in-person format is preferred by most students. 

Committee reports ended with a slew of appointments from Senator Aziz Ouedraogo, who also serves as Appointments Committee chair.

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