Structural change and new initiatives top SGA agenda

By PORTER BOWMAN

The Student Government Association (SGA) has been working throughout the semester on projects and initiatives with the goal — as always — of helping the student body. As the semester comes to a close, here is an update on some of the recent activity of the SGA Student Senate and Cabinet:

SGA structure

The senate has engaged in ongoing discussions about the future structure and function of the SGA. The conversations were sparked both by the impending dissolution of the commons system, as well as by a reform-minded SGA administration led by president Varsha Vijayakumar ’20, who hopes to increase the visibility, legitimacy and impact of the body.

At the Nov. 24 meeting, Vijayakumar stated her support for eliminating the commons senator positions, as well as for removing the voting power of the Community Council co-chair in the senate. This would shift the number of voting members from 17 down to 11.

While nothing has been formally decided at this point, these discussions on the future of the SGA have taken place in their weekly meetings, as well as behind the scenes, as members hope to pass a series of structural changes in the coming weeks and months. If such changes were approved, the senate would then have to approve changes to the SGA’s constitution.

Vegetarian Atwater

At the same meeting, the senate voted down a proposed referendum which would have made Atwater Dining Hall fully vegetarian for the upcoming Winter Term. If passed, the referendum would have been put on a special ballot and sent out to the student body before the end of the current semester — instead it was rejected in a 15–2 vote.

Many senators found several issues with the plan, and raised concerns on behalf of constituents who felt that dining halls should serve fewer meat entrees at each meal, rather than make an entire dining hall meatless. Additionally, many senators felt that a meatless Atwater would increase traffic at Proctor and Ross dining halls, especially after recent commentary from Atwater chefs about the low attendance on its Meatless Mondays.

Senators expressed a desire to find other options to meet the Environmental Affairs Committee’s goal of 30% meat reduction in college dining halls.

Ethical investing

In the wake of the divestment movement and Energy2028, the senate passed a resolution to support ethical investing of Middlebury’s endowment toward companies and industries that fit within the college’s values. Elisa Gan ’20, the newly appointed Student Liaison to the SGA on Endowment Affairs, is planning a series of forums with several members of the college administration to help students better understand how the endowment is invested and how that will change over the next several years.

Thanksgiving break

First-Year Senator Miguel Sanchez ’23 has taken the lead on a bill that would make Thanksgiving break a full week, rather than just a five-day weekend. Sanchez has worked with Dean of Faculty Sujata Moorti to find ways to make the transition easier for faculty and staff, such as helping adjust the academic calendar, in order to make this possible.

The bill has yet to be formally presented to the senate, since Sanchez is waiting on confirmation from Moorti and others that the change would in fact be possible.

The New York Times subscriptions

The Finance Committee, in conjunction with the Institutional Affairs Committee, received approval to fund the return of digital subscription access to The New York Times for all students. The college formerly paid for both a digital subscription to the paper, available to all students, and for print copies in the dining halls, but the decision was made by the Finance Committee only to fund digital access without returning the copies of the paper to campus.

Student Ambassador Program

The senate passed a bill to fund the Student Ambassadors Program for the remainder of the year. The program, which pays current students to give information sessions about the college at low income schools in their areas over breaks, will be funded by the admissions office beginning in the 2020–2021 school year.

PE credits

Ross Commons Senator Teddy Best ’22 has been working with Director of Athletics Erin Quinn to change the current requirement for physical education (PE) credits. The goal is to give students the opportunity to earn both of the required PE credits for the same activity. This would apply to all credit bearing activities, from student-led yoga classes to seasonal sports, and would benefit varsity athletes, who currently only get a maximum of one credit for their sport.