WSA Leadership Board 2016-2017

Congratulations to the newly elected WSA Committee Coordinators for the 2016-2017 academic year!

Academic Affairs Committee - Azher Jaweed '19

Community Committee - Key Session '17

Student Life Committee - Lizzie Shackney '17

Student Budget Committee - Izzy Linzer '17

Chief-of-Staff - Emma Austin '19

They will be joining incoming president, Rebecca Hutman '17, and vice president, Nila Ravi '18, to form the 2016-2017 WSA Leadership Board.

Register to Vote in the CT Presidential Primary

While we have our own WSA Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections coming up soon, we'd also like to remind you to register to vote in the US Presidential Elections. 

The Connecticut Presidential Primary is happening on April 26th and now is the time to register to vote! If you are a U.S. Citizen and a Wesleyan student, you are considered a resident of Middletown and are therefore eligible to vote in the Connecticut elections. Registering to vote is a fairly simply process and should only take you a few minutes. 

If you are registered to vote in another state and are planning on voting in the primary there, you cannot also resister and vote in CT. 

Please make sure to read this entire email to prevent errors in your registration. 

How do I register? 
You can register easily online using this link: https://voterregistration.ct.gov/OLVR/.  
Paper applications are also available at the Wesleyan Registrar’s Office on the 1st Floor of North College.

When do I need to register by? 
The deadline to register online is April 21st

What do I list as my address? 
You must use the street address of your dorm or house on the registration form. You can find your physical street address here. For mailing address, you should enter your WesBox address. 

Should I enroll in a political party? 
In order to vote in the presidential primary you must enroll in the political party of the primary you want to vote in (ex. Democrat, Republican, other). 

Where do I vote? 
Most students will vote in Middletown’s Voting District 14. The polling location is Beckham Hall.

Register online before April 21st. Vote at Beckham Hall on April 26th

More info can be found on Wesleyan’s Voter Registration page.

Resolution for Pro-Active Transparency Press Release

The Wesleyan Student Assembly has always worked to be a transparent student government that engages the student body. However, the WSA has not always succeeded in this regard. The Resolution for Pro-Active Transparency takes massive steps in making the WSA a more transparent and responsible representative body. This resolution mandates that any piece of legislation proposed to the Wesleyan Student Assembly be accompanied by a press release explaining what it does. It also requires that all major or potentially controversial actions taken by WSA committees or subcommittees be explained through press releases. These press releases will be sent to all major publications on campus and posted on all platforms available to the WSA.

This resolution will move the WSA toward being a more transparent, responsive, and democratic institution. It will help bring to light the actions of the WSA’s committees and subcommittees. These press releases will also help increase civic engagement of the larger student body and initiate more meaningful conversations on Wesleyan’s campus about what the WSA does.

Discussion on this resolution will happen in the WSA Senate Meeting on Sunday, April 10, 2016 at 6:00PM in 41 Wyllys, Room 114. We invite all community members to come and voice their opinions on this matter.

Voter Accessibility Act Resolution Press Release

Yesterday, the Wesleyan Student Assembly introduced the Voter Accessibility Act, which will promote greater civic engagement on campus. Because we are in an election year, it is imperative for students to have access to the information they need in order to vote. The resolution aims to bring voter registration into the first-year orientation process. When students arrive and fill out out their I-9s and other forms, they too will be able to register to vote. Students will have the option of selecting either their home states (via absentee ballot) for registration or they will register to vote in Connecticut. For current Wesleyan students, the mechanisms by which to vote will be found on the WSA website at the beginning of the next academic year. In addition, the WSA office will provide print-out copies of registration forms, absentee ballots, etc.

This resolution clears up many of the logistical and technical barriers that interfere with students’ ability to vote in local, state, and federal elections. You can find the resolution here.

Discussion and voting on this resolution will happen in the WSA Senate Meeting on Sunday, April 10, 2016 at 6:00PM in 41 Wyllys, Room 114. We invite all community members to come and voice their opinions on this matter.

Resolution to Raise the Minimum Wage for Wesleyan Students

On Sunday, April 3rd, the Wesleyan Student Assembly introduced a resolution to gradually raise the minimum wage for Wesleyan Students to $15/hour over the next three years. This plan to raise student wages exists within the context of the national movement to increase the minimum wage. Just last week, New York State and California announced plans to raise their minimum wages to $15/hour. Within the last year, Columbia University and New York University raised their minimum student wages to $15/hour, and currently Barnard College is pursuing the same goal. We at Wesleyan believe our school should be a microcosm of the world we wish to inherit. This resolution not is not only practical, but a bold way to help students at Wesleyan.

Currently 46% of the Wesleyan student body is on financial aid and roughly 1,000 students participate in federal work-study on campus. Unfortunately, many work-study students are overworked and cut off from full participation in the Wesleyan experience. Students usually work eight to ten hours a week, but some work far more. Many undergraduates tend to work 8-10 hours per week, but many work up to 20 hours per week and some even more. To work so many hours and handle a full course load, puts enormous strain on a student’s time--Coursework, social life, mental and physical well being, and participation in student activities all suffer when students devote up to 20 hours per week for their Work Study jobs. In addition to paying tuition, students use money from work-study jobs to buy textbooks, pay medical expenses, pay for costs and needs during school breaks, save money for the future, aid family, and cover a variety of everyday necessities.

The minimum wage increase will enable students to work fewer hours and make more money, while also freeing up students’ schedules considerably. It aims to bridge the gap between low-income and affluent students. When work-study students have to work fewer hours, they can participate more in campus life and in the many opportunities Wesleyan has to offer.

To fund the proposal, we plan to tap into available funds and redistribute money to prioritize this gradual wage increase. It is important to note that although funding will have to increase to support this proposal, the increase is not as significant as it appears. Many work-study eligible Wesleyan students currently do not work on-campus jobs, nor do they meet their full allotment of federal aid––usually $1,375 per semester. Therefore, the increased minimum wage would enable Wesleyan to take greater advantage of awards offered by the federal government.

The proposed legislation focuses on students receiving federal work study and those receiving term-time employment. In the interest of equity, employers will be expected to continue prioritizing work-study students. However, this wage increase will apply to all students employed on campus. We foresee this legislation allowing more students to enter the Wesleyan workforce.

Here is the link to the resolution.

Discussion and voting on this resolution will happen in the WSA Senate Meeting on Sunday, April 10, 2016 at 6:00PM in 41 Wyllys, Room 114. We invite all community members to come and voice their opinions on this matter.

Disabling OrgSync Profiles and SmartKeys of Inactive Student Groups Press Release

This past week the Communications Committee of the Wesleyan Student Assembly started disabling the OrgSync profiles and SmartKeys of inactive student groups to help reduce unnecessary bulk overhead spending. Entering the academic year with over 300 student groups, the WSA had to pay OrgSync a premium rate in order to support all the profiles of these student groups, many of which have been inactive for a while. In addition, with a clearer picture of how many groups are active at Wes, the Student Budget Committee (SBC) can have a better understanding of how they should equitably allocate funds throughout the year. Thus, there is a need to determine which groups are active and which are not. 

To determine whether student groups were active or not, student group leaders were asked to come to any one of 24 short group confirmation meetings in the month leading up to Spring Break.  All student groups’ administrators were notified of these meetings via email. During these meetings student group leaders were shown how to use the different features of OrgSync to help organize events, contact members, and ensure the continuity of their student group. If a student group failed to have a representative attend any of these meetings they were marked as inactive.

After these meetings, all inactive student groups’ leaders were contacted via email about an appeals process to avoid mistakingly deactivating groups and give one more chance for student groups to avoid being disabled. The deadline for appeals was Monday, March 28, 2016. If a student group failed to have a representative attend any one of the student group confirmation meetings and did not submit an appeal, their OrgSync profiles and SmartKeys were disabled. The appeals process is currently ongoing, with the appeals process composed of one student representative from the Communications Committee and two from the Wesleyan Student Assembly General Assembly. Decisions on appeals will be released by next week. 

By disabling inactive student groups, the Communications Committee will be able to reduce their overhead spending for the use of OrgSync, thus freeing up more funds to be distributed to active student groups. With only active groups having OrgSync profiles and SmartKeys, the SBC can now also have a better outlook on how they should be distributing funds toward student groups.

Facilities and Services Cap on Student and Student Group Events Press Release

With the rich diversity of interests on campus, it is no surprise that there is no shortage of events that happen across campus in any given week. From academic lectures in Usdan, dance showcases in the CFA, or keynote speeches in the Memorial Chapel, the WSA strives to ensure that students are able to put on events across campus as easy as possible. This is why it has mandated the Student Budget Committee (SBC) to set aside money in the beginning of every academic year specifically for the use of spaces and services on campus for whenever students or student groups want to put on events. For example, when a student group wants to use the Memorial Chapel to put on an event, the request goes through the Student Activities and Leadership Development (SALD) Office where either Elisa Cardona or Bulaong Ramiz help with the planning of the event. Once the event is finalized, they determine how much it will cost and they charge all expenses related to the use of the space and related services like IMS and Physical Plant to the fund that the SBC has set aside for such purposes. In this way, the student group does not have to pay anything to cover these expenses and can rest easy knowing they have one less thing to worry about when planning this event.

This system has been operating in this way for a while now and has worked well with little oversight from the SBC and the WSA. This year, though, it has come to the WSA’s attention that some groups have been abusing the system and have taken disproportionate amounts from this fund that are not justified by the scale of the events they are being used for. Given that these funds are accessible for anyone or any group putting on an event for the whole of campus, we need to ensure that this fund is not depleted too quickly or is being given away to only a few big groups on campus. This fund should be able to promote students and student groups to come up with unique and fun events that characterize and interest the Wesleyan community, and this cannot be done effectively if the fund that is supposed to be used to put on these events is only going to a limited number of groups.

That being said, I am proposing to put a $500 cap on the cost students and student groups can charge for the use of spaces and services per event they put on. Anything above $500 will need the approval of the WSA’s Vice-President, SBC Chair, and Communications Coordinator. This is to prevent the superfluous spending of this fund to ensure all students and student groups are able to access it when needed throughout the academic year. On top of this, the average cost of space and services to put on a big event at Wesleyan has been less than $500, so this cap should be more than enough to cover the costs of an average event at Wes. Of course, this does not mean that we are not open to exceptions. If the student or student group is able to justify why they should need more than $500 for space and services, the cap can be exceeded on a case-by-case basis. Hopefully, through this measure, there can be a greater number and diversity of events on campus hosted by students and student groups.

By Martin Malabanan '16

Discussion on this resolution will happen in the WSA Senate Meeting on Sunday, April 3, 2016 at 6:00PM in 41 Wyllys, Room 114. We invite all community members to come and voice their opinions on this matter.

Resolution to Update Current Accessibility Signs Press Release

Wesleyan is an extremely active campus committed to social justice and change. However, all too often the issue of disability rights is overlooked and forgotten despite 12% of the Wesleyan undergraduate population being registered in the Office of Disability Resources. Over the past few years within the disabled persons and disability rights community there has been an urge for a change to the current accessibility sign to an updated version that depicts those in need of accessibility accommodations in a more positive light.

The previous sign portrays a lifeless, dependent, and stagnant person bound to their chair, whereas the new sign clearly conveys movement, autonomy and a distinctly human individual. What started as a grassroots, guerilla, street art initiative turned into an internationally recognized campaign that quickly grew traction. Now, many locations across the world have adopted the new signage including the state of New York, Cambridge, MA, El Paso, TX, Phoenix, AZ, Tito, Italy among countless other places. Some colleges have also chosen to replace their old signs, beginning with Gordon College in 2012. Clearly, Wesleyan is behind in modernizing our campus’ accessibility signs as well as acknowledging our lack of commitment to disability rights overall and 12% of our community.

It is imperative that this change is met not only with a physical improvement of the signage around campus, but more importantly with a conscious questioning of our perceptions of people with disabilities. The current sign is the most widespread representation given to those with disabilities, yet the resulting stigma is commonly accompanied with words such as “broken,” “passive,” and “reliant.” There is a definite need for a shift in perception and through the implementation of a more favorable and accurate depiction, the conversation can begin, though it will require more education and action.

By Emma Austin ‘19

Discussion on this resolution will happen in the WSA Senate Meeting on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016 at 6:00PM in 41 Wyllys, Room 114. We invite any community members to come and voice their opinions on this matter and ask questions. 

WSA Endowment Transparency and Ethicality Working Group Press Release

In 2007, Matt Ball, WSA President at the time, proposed an innovative idea for the first ever endowment run by a university student government. He suggested that instead of rolling all left over or unused SBC funds to the next academic year, we invest them so they grow. One of the primary responsibilities of the WSA has long been to manage and allocate the Student Activities Fee in a fair way that supports the vibrant student-run social life we all so dearly love. The goal of the WSA endowment is to ensure the long-term availability of student funds and to hopefully, twenty or thirty years down the road, stop charging students for the Student Activities Fee. Over the last eight years the WSA Endowment has grown a healthy amount to today be an impressive $366,000.

Advocating for socially responsible investment practices runs deep in Wesleyan’s history. Students of diverse identities and political opinions have time and time again raised the point that they don’t want our community to be profiting from activities or sectors that run counter to our community values (such as social justice, human rights, conflict resolution and environmental sustainability, just to name a few). Now that the WSA endowment is on its way to being a substantial endowment, we want to start thinking critically about best management practices.  

The idea behind this new working group is to, in a non-partisan or political way, gather more information on our holdings and how ethical or socially responsible they are. The working group will also brainstorm more local and socially responsible funds where we could potentially reinvest. I’d love to one day see that Wesleyan’s student government isn’t invested in sectors where profits are made from suffering, but instead in areas of the economy that are growing in ways that align with our community values. 

By Kate Cullen '16, WSA President

Discussion on this resolution will happen in the WSA Senate Meeting on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016 at 6:30PM in 41 Wyllys, Room 114. We invite all community members to come and voice their opinions on this matter.

Foster Affordable, Reasonable, and Equitable (FARE) Eating Act Press Release

Do you ever feel like your points are able to buy you less and less each year? Well, there’s a reason for that. Since the academic year of 2012-2013, the number of points allocated for each meal plan has not been increased. Thus, as inflation drives up the cost of all products on campus, the amount of points holds less value every year. This means that while the administration has not actively reduced the number of points for each meal plan, we have been hemorrhaging purchasing power as each point is worth less.  To resolve this issue that impacts all of us, the “Foster Affordable, Reasonable, and Equitable (FARE) Eating Act” will redirect a portion of the increase in the Residential Comprehensive Fee to students’ purchasing power, increasing the number of points to adjust for inflation since the last increase.

What the FARE Eating Act does is ensure that students’ purchasing power will be maintained year to year. Going forward, the amount of points students receive will be tied to inflation. This means that the value of each point will remain consistent and never decrease in purchasing value as the price of goods increase. Adding to the good news is the fact that the FARE Eating Act will not increase the Residential Comprehensive Fee more than it would have anyway.  Each year the Board of Trustees increases the Residential Comprehensive Fee by about 3.5%.  Through this, we are maintaining students’ purchasing power without placing an extra burden on students.  The FARE Eating Act means those points will not feel like someone just picked some loose change from your pocket.

By Emma Austin ‘19 and Jacob Maiman-Stadtmauer ‘19

Discussion on this resolution will happen in the WSA Senate Meeting on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016 at 11:30AM in 41 Wyllys, Room 114. We invite all community members to come and voice their opinions on this matter and ask questions.

Cocurricular Leadership Stipend Program Press Release

With new student-run activities on the rise that enrich our community, we need to be sure that every member of our community has the ability to pursue their passion, regardless of socioeconomic status. Organizations like the DIY Builders’ Space and Red Feather Studios are growing rapidly, and thus demand more attention from the students that run them. Even organizations that have been part of Wesleyan for decades have felt pressure. Unfortunately, no safety net exists to ensure that these students are able to balance school, cocurriculars, and work. Work is particularly important.

The WSA for a long time has struggled with socioeconomic diversity, but now it seems that we have begun to turn this trend around. As of January 29th, 18 out of 35 senators receive a work-study stipend, which covers one-fourth of their work-study allotment. That’s one-fourth of a semester’s work potentially freed up, perhaps even one-fourth of a job position that’s now open. I want to commit the WSA to fill the gaps that administration has been struggling to close. Students know what students want, and we cannot wait any longer for someone else to solve the problems we face.

The Stipend Program that the WSA has embarked on will now expand to 5 more student groups as a pilot. $5000 from our own Project Fund will be set aside for those 5 groups. In order to be considered for the pilot, student groups must submit the following: detailed jobs of the students who will receive the stipend, how the student group builds community at Wesleyan, a rewritten mission statement with a commitment to inclusion and diversity, and a plan to include more of Wesleyan into the student group. After reviewing the materials, finalists will meet with SBC, SLC, and CoCo chairs along with 4 senators for an interview. Finally, the student groups who move on will be approved by the WSA President and Vice-President.

I want to be clear: no student group’s budget will be adversely affected by the implementation of the program. The funds will come from the WSA’s Project Fund, which is distinctly different from any SBC allocations. Every student group has something to gain and nothing to lose. Furthermore, this program will be evaluated at the end of the Fall 2016 semester to determine whether or not the pilot should continue. In the Spring of 2017, the final school-wide program will be proposed, and depending on student group interest, there may be a full phase in of the program.

I invite feedback to make this resolution a game-changer in our community for those financial aid students who came here to be students, not workers. Each and every student leader has left their mark on our campus, and it is essential that we ensure that even those who do not have the most financially have a fighting chance to make their mark.

By Aidan Martinez '17, WSA Vice-President

Discussion on this resolution will happen in the WSA Senate Meeting on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016 at 6:30PM in 41 Wyllys, Room 114. We invite all community members to come and voice their opinions on this matter.