9/30 Senate Beat: Senate Enters The Squirrel Dimension

Senate Public on Wednesday once again focused on funding for Restorative Justice Coalition (RJ), which they decided to revoke two weeks ago. It also discussed Beer Nation funding, tenure, a proposal to form an advocacy group for students reporting bias incidents, and one very tenacious squirrel. 

Student Body President Safi Zenger (‘24) offered a statement about RJ. “We don’t want to cause a huge fuss,” President Zenger said, “but all we’d really like to say on the matter was that our decision to pull RJ’s funding came out of three main factors. First, we received feedback from the student body that people felt uncomfortable with RJ’s practices, especially given their leadership. Secondly, we could not find a lot of evidence of highly intentional student engagement. And finally, we discovered materials that showed they were on a trial period and their function was to be reassessed when the trial was up. The trial was pushed, I think because of the pandemic, but essentially right now their funding is up for assessment, as was planned when it was created. Our assessment is that we’d prefer they find funding elsewhere within the administration as student body funds are reserved for students, and on at least two occasions — once in February or March and once later in the semester, around Renn Fayre — we expressed that we were going to pursue no longer funding them. We revisited this discussion at the start of this semester, and are planning to seize their funding in the spring, so currently they still have funding. Treasury has offered to help them find alternative funding if they would like, and it is also worth noting that in the time since we announced this decision, I have been approached by multiple staff members expressing their desire for us to reconsider our position on funding RJ, but I have not been approached by any students. Our Senate inbox also does not have any RJ related content.” President Zenger also explained that the critical feedback about RJ in question was brought forward informally by several students in her office hours or in conversation. Senate could not provide the exact number of students, as no formal records were kept of these complaints. 

President Zenger also explained that she and Vice President Margot Becker (‘24) recently met with President Audrey Bilger, Vice President for Student Life Karnell McConnell-Black, Vice President and Dean for Institutional Diversity Phyllis Esposito, and Dean of Faculty Kathy Oleson, to discuss Senate initiatives. President Zenger expressed that while both Senate and the Administration update each other during these meetings, in this case most of the meeting was dedicated to Senate updating administration on its projects, including the defunding of RJ.

Nina Gopaldas (‘24) shared that Treasury met with Beer Nation and reportedly told them to go to Finance Committee with a budget for one year of meetings and “some snacks” for those meetings, as Treasury is “open to funding that much.” When questioned, Senators explained that they’ve “historically had some issues with our arrangement with Beer Nation — where we get some of the money back — so [they] want to make sure that if they are going to operate [then] they are going to operate in a way that follows that agreement.” Additionally, Finance Committee allocated $500 to Elvira’s Disciples to host a movie night and amateur drag show, partially funding their requested budget of $957.30.

Senator Kiana Cunningham-Rodriguez (‘23) met with Assistant Dean for Institutional Diversity Jessika Chi to discuss the possibility of starting a student advocacy program for bias incidents, with the intention of training 4-5 students on “all the reporting processes here at Reed.” Such advocates could help students know their options regarding reporting and “talk them through the process,” because such processes “can be pretty stressful and tenuous.” 

Reporting for the Computing Policy Committee, Senator Lennox Reeder (‘25) explained that the committee might be renamed in the near future. “I know that the CPC was already renamed recently,” said Senator Reeder, “but I — that squirrel is about to enter the SU.” Turning to where Senator Reeder pointed, Senate and the audience saw that, indeed, a squirrel had taken up position on the sill of an open window in the SU wall, and exhibited every intention of coming inside. Senate stared at the squirrel. The squirrel stared at Senate. The squirrel, unintimidated, hopped down onto the couch below the window, and proceeded onto the SU floor. All Senate business had, at this point, stopped, as the squirrel’s intentions were unknown and of the utmost importance. In the subsequent five minutes, during which Senators waited with bated breath, the squirrel explored the SU floor, sniffed a bit of wall, found a snack, presumably under the couch, and proceeded back to the window ledge to eat it in peace, while keeping one eye on Senate as breakfast entertainment. (Dear reader: I know not if this snack was an edible or some other form of intoxicant, but as someone who has seen the results of NASA’s inexplicable “Spiders on LSD” experiment, I sincerely hope it was.) Senate, slightly unnerved, nevertheless proceeded with the business of the week until the squirrel finished its meal, gave one final tail fluff, and left again via the window. 

This bizarre episode concluded, Senator Jefferson Ratliff (‘25) reminded all that the Appointments Committee is currently accepting applications for the Pool Hall Assistant Manager Position. Senator Ratliff will also be meeting with the Sustainability Coordinators on Thursday to talk about current projects.

The Student Committee for Academic Policy and Planning attended a meeting where they discussed tenure allocation and staffing concerns. The committee plans to continue discussions on how to allocate tenure track lines throughout the semester, and the committee “will be keeping a very close eye” on the matter. 

Finally, President Zenger explained that another topic of her and others’ meeting with Administrators was the possibility of a staff-Senate mixer, intended to help build connections between senators and the staff who serve on various committees. It has not yet been determined if this event will be open to the public, but President Zenger said the possibility will be discussed.

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