The Associated Students of Willamette University (ASWU) on Feb. 17 hosted guests Mira Karthik (‘24), chair of CAFES, and Dean of Students for Community Care and Inclusion, Oli Muñoz. The senate also voted on a candidate forASWU Press Secretary and an Academic Programs Committee appointment at their meeting.
The meeting was called to order at 7:03 p.m. and roll call was taken. During public comment, student Andrea Griffin (‘23), who is Media Content Manager for The Collegian, read a statement on behalf of Vanessa Sanders, co-president of Willamette’s Black Student Union (BSU) and asked a series of questions regarding Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Willamette’s hiring practices. She then asked who is on Willamette’s search committee for new hires, emphasizing the importance of the members being of diverse backgrounds. ASWU President Giovanni Bautista (‘22) was unsure who makes up the search committees and where the Board of Trustees were at in the process of recommending candidates. Bautista said he would look into this and follow up. ASWU advisor, Lisa Holliday, was able to clarify that there is typically a separate search committee for each faculty position comprised of faculty both from inside and outside of that department, a student or two from the department and a specially trained search advocate to ensure the process is ethical. Griffin referenced a 2014 request from student activists for Willamette deans to develop plans for expanding faculty diversity that hasn’t been followed through on. She expressed disapproval of ASWU’s failure to hold administration accountable and carry out their commitment, made last year to organize more opportunities for students, especially students of color, to have productive dialogues with the administration.
Another student, Edgar Nevarez Lechuga (‘22), also spoke on hiring committees during public comment, clarifying that committees vary by department. Lechuga explained how the computer science department has successfully facilitated open dialogues with students and faculty in the faculty search and hiring process, involving diverse student voices and perspectives.
Next, Lisa Holiday announced that Willamette’s COVID-19 Advisory Committee is asking for community feedback regarding students’ preferences with indoor mask policies now that the state of Oregon plans to lift its indoor mask mandate by the end of March. Emails on this matter can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mira Karthik, the chair of the Community Action Fund for Equity and Sustainability (CAFES) then gave a presentation on what the program is and how to get involved. Karthik described CAFES as a “student-led initiative that provides funding for projects and programs that advance sustainability, equity, and justice in and around the Willamette campus and community.” Those who wish to apply can find grant proposal forms on Willamette’s website. She ended by highlighting CAFES’ newest initiative, mini-grants. The mini-grants will be for one-time projects with smaller budgets ($250-300) and will have an easier application process with rolling deadlines.
The next agenda item was officer reports. President Bautista’s general updates included that a candidate, Aidan Lawrence-Devine (‘22) was found for the ASWU Press Secretary position and that the Board of Trustees were meeting on the coming Friday and Saturday, Feb 18 and 19. Bautista also went over feedback received from university committee student representatives about their respective committees.
Bautista received 11 responses, with a 64.7% response rate. Feedback ranged from a few words to paragraphs. The Academic Council is trying to create a policy to get labs to count for credit and are trying to rectify hidden prerequisites. The Admissions and Student Life committee is working on plans to facilitate conversations between faculty and prospective students in a COVID-safe way and are perfecting the timing of communications and announcements for prospective students. The Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee is trying to expand WU’s inclusivity and increase retention of underrepresented staff. The Sustainability Steering Committee is at work on its climate action plan. The Trans Advocacy Committee is trying to make bathroom signage more uniform and clearly indicated throughout campus. Finally, the Title IX Advisory Committee is aiming to increase gender-neutral bathroom accessibility and create a system for course syllabi content warnings.
Next, Treasurer Michael Burke (‘23) had a Student Labor Initiative (SLI) update: he received confirmation from the university that the university, alone, makes decisions about who is an employee and how they get paid. Increases in fees like the one SLI would require need to be reviewed by a chain of administrative levels and approved by the university. This is to say ASWU doesn’t have the power to simply resolve to change employee relations and pay rates without extensive collaboration with the university.
Justice Colby Alexander (‘24) had an update regarding the bylaw change that Chief Justice Alexander Knorr (‘22) brought to the attention of the Senate. The judicial branch looked over the bylaws and found a clause in the current bylaw stipulating the amount of acceptable absences, getting rid of the need for drafting legislation on the matter.
Discussion was then opened up around appointing Tasman Reuben (‘23) to the Academic Programs Committee. Reuben was nominated by the chair of Academic Programs who noted his independent thinking, helpfulness, and problem-solving. The Senate then unanimously voted to approve Reuben’s appointment.
Afterward, discussion was opened up surrounding the ASWU Press Secretary position and the sole candidate, Lawrence-Devine. Lawrence-Devine met all qualifications and it was noted that he intends to improve communication and increase transparency in ASWU’s interactions with the student body. The Senate once again voted unanimously, securing Lawrence-Devine’s position as the new ASWU Press Secretary. He will be sworn in after taking his oath of office this coming Thursday, Feb 24.
The meeting concluded with another guest, Dean of Students for Community Care and Inclusion Oli Muñoz. Muñoz had two updates. First, she announced that WU is funding registration for Basic Rights Oregon Summit, an opportunity for students to practice advocacy on the state level. Interested students can contact Muñoz directly. Her second update was that the College Republicans have been administratively reinstated. This information spurred extensive questions and back and forth discussion between the senators, justices and Muñoz which will be covered further [here]. This conversation went on for over 40 minutes before the meeting was adjourned.