BY KATE TURNER ’21
The first official Senate meeting of the 2017-2018 academic year took place on Oct. 3, which also coincided with the annual Mountain Day tradition. Turnout was still strong. Senate chair Liz Brown ’20 ran the meeting and featured Acting President Stephens, Dean of Students Marcella Runell Hall and Dean of Faculty Jon Western as speakers.
After a brief round of student questions and concerns and an e-board presentation by SGA president Camille Gladieux ’18, the first order of business was the SGA’s annual budget vote, presided over by Joud Mari ’19.
Mari explained to assembled senators that the Senate’s budget, made up of a small student activity fee included in every student’s tuition, is broken down yearly into spending on outside fees, class boards, SGA committees, student group funding and operations and cultural centers.
This year, the SGA’s budget totals to about $373,800; the board proposed that the largest portion of these funds ($229,091, or 62.4% of the budget) be spent on student group funding. Mari explained that this funding is allocated as student groups and organizations express a need throughout the year.
The next largest chunk of funds ($67,000) was allocated to operations and cultural centers, which Mari described as funding business offices and operations such as printing and copying; it was followed by funding for outside fees ($29,000). These funds are fixed annually, and include access to the PVTA and Five-College membership. Spending on SGA committees and class boards amounted to $25,070 and $11,000 respectively.
By the end of the night, Brown announced that the budget proposal had passed, although Gladiuex reminded the assembled senators that because of a number of “no” and “abstain” votes, she would be sending out an anonymous student concern form where SGA members could express more fully what had held them back from voting yes.
“We always want to take your concerns into account and do better,” Brown added.
President Stephens was also featured that night, and spoke at length about a new “strategic initiative” for 2021. She summarized last year’s successful fundraising efforts — around $35 million was contributed to the school by alumni — and spoke in detail about the next steps for the development of the expanded Blanchard Community Center over the upcoming year. “This will be a game changer for Mount Holyoke,” she said, describing the last phase of construction, which is scheduled to begin over winter break and finish by April or May of 2018.
She encouraged students to look at the plans for the expansion of the community center, and expressed a hope for the completion of its construction in time for seniors to “have a drink in the pub — as long as you’re over 21.”
The president was joined by Dean Hall, who described in more detail student spaces undergoing development on campus, including “Be Well” spaces as an extension of the recently launched Be Well initiative, efforts to expand merchandise at the Odyssey Bookshop to better reflect the student body’s needs and what she described as an “ongoing conversation” about campus vending machines.
Another initiative Hall described was the development of focus groups targeted at improving the international student experience, which will focus on practical issues such as meals over break and shuttles to airports, but will also help with the social component of college life and efforts to generally promote international students’ visibility.
She was followed by Dean Western, who described in more detail the college’s efforts to promote diversity among the faculty and not just the student body. In the wake of protests last year regarding a need for more diverse faculty and better ethnic studies options, Western spoke a little about the makeup of permanent and visiting faculty at Mount Holyoke, including the implementation of diversity-focused workshops for faculty search committees.
“We want to develop strategies to make sure we put together pools of faculty that are strong, deep and diverse,” he said.
This effort to recruit diverse faculty, in addition to a reexamination of how Mount Holyoke understands teaching itself, comes just before Mount Holyoke faces re-accreditation from NEASC, or the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Western said that the organization would be sending visitors to Mount Holyoke in the fall as a part of that process, and that the administration welcomed student involvement with this process in the coming weeks.