Senate Beat: November 5, 2021

Senate Beat Keeps Students Informed

Senate gathered in the dying light of the famed fifth of November to do their work. Appoint some election czars, pass some budgets, and chief among these burdensome tasks: keep the student body informed. As Student Body President Alondra Loza called the meeting to order she announced the news: they did not have a quorum. A few gasps were let out, my mind went white like the student body of this college. Dean of Students Tawana Parks nodded. After the realization set in, Loza brought the meeting to order. Chief amongst the issues before the Senate is the ongoing discussion with Director of the Office for Student Engagement Janice Yang over the Student Space Taskforce (SSTF). The SSTF was brought up by a number of senators as a threat to their goal of a return to a more autonomous student body. Senator Margot Becker was first to question the neutrality of the task force when she informed the audience of its consideration of graffiti. This consideration of graffiti by admin, and not as a conversation amongst the student body, is another blatant intrusion into student business by an administration with so little to do they take up student issues as theirs. 

Justice on campus was on more than the senators’ lips and minds, but several of their calendars. Becker, Loza, and Student Body Vice President Orion Pendragon met with the newly monikered Accountability Groups — composed of Honor Council, the Restorative Justice Coalition, and the Judicial Board — to discuss the intersection of student engagement, justice, and accountability, on campus. Loza remarked specifically about students and their role in the justice process at Reed. Loza’s passion for student autonomy was clear when she reminded the students in the audience, several of them first years, that the thing that makes students powerful is not just the money we pay to be here or the work we put in in classes, but our knowledge and care for one another. A tear rolled down my cheek as Loza spoke about how students’ alienation from one another decreased our power. In the clarifying questions around this it became clear that the Senate’s understanding was that everyone had problems with engagement. Quest Editor Betsy Wight agreed with Loza’s assessment that the Quest had seen a decrease in engagement; this aligned with Senate’s trouble finding people to fill positions and waning interest in elections for the past several semesters. 

Senator Beq Yonaka — who ran on a platform of accessibility — brought up the issue of over enrollment and students being bumped from their non-major classes. Their particular attention for this issue was around accessibility, and how bumping students from classes they weren’t majoring in specifically affected lower-income students. Low-SES students may have an interest in majoring in something like anthropology but were more likely to not have access to classes like it before Reed — particularly as many students come into Reed undecided. Their committee report around physical accessibly referenced how the college had brought in an outside firm to look at accessibility throughout the college. 

Several students steeled themselves and bravely asked questions of the Senate. One student asked about the nature of the lack of student engagement several senators brought up throughout the meeting, another asked after how Senate had “cut corners” as Senator Safi Zenger had referenced in her thorough committee report. The final question was in regards to the ailing jewel in Reed’s academic crown: Humanities (HUM)  110. These brave students found a receptive Senate that congratulated them for their willingness to ask questions by spinning the wool of their questions into the gold of informative answers. In regards to the election, Loza repeated some stories of how hard election running had been in the past via Zoom, and how it had held but just barely. Zenger’s effective summary of elections and Senate as a whole of: “We’re on the come up” was met with affirmative nods from all. Loza addressed the majority of the question regarding HUM 110 as that was a large part of her reason for running. In the matter of how HUM might be taken from an unevenly applied iron — to the clothing of white students, and the skin of darker ones — to a useful educational institution, Loza’s answer focused on the Student Committee for Diversity, and the possible development of a HUM Committee. Zenger brought focus to how difficult HUM reform proved by talking about her experience with how hard faculty fought against content warnings for all readings in the course. Senate will meet next on November 12 at 4:30 p.m. in the SU. If you’re interested in running to join them or if you want to learn more about governance, their meetings are open.

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