TCU Senate adds Women’s Center representative
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013 08:01
The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate voted on Dec. 9 to create a new Women’s Center Representative (WCR) Senate position, with the goal of providing a gender−conscious perspective on school issues.
The future representative will have voting power on all Senate items and will be elected early this semester as part of the normal process for replacing senators who are resigning or traveling abroad for the spring, according to junior Grainne Griffiths, a member of the Women’s Center organization Students Acting for Gender Equality (SAGE) who helped push the legislation through Senate.
The position will focus on the gendered components of the student government’s activities, according to Director of the Women’s Center Steph Gauchel. As with the four existing community representatives—from the Africana, Asian−American, Latino and LGBT Centers—the WCR will speak for students who might otherwise go unrepresented and in this case, students of any gender identity.
“My hope would be that the WCR would be thinking about what are the gender implications of what the TCU Senate is trying to do now,” Gauchel said. “Beyond that, also thinking about how does any gender−related issue intersect with other identity issues, whether it’s racism, classism or homophobia—really putting an identity−based critique onto the issues that the TCU Senate is working on.”
The WCR was the first community representative to be created under a new process passed by a community referendum in fall 2010. To gain a seat on the Senate, the Women’s Center had to submit a petition in support of the position with at least 200 student signatures, Griffiths said. The petition had over 260 signatures when it was submitted, according to Senator Joe Thibodeau, a junior.
Members of the Women’s Center also had to attend two−thirds of the Senate’s Culture, Ethnicity and Community Affairs Committee meetings this fall before the Senate could vote to add a representative, according to Thibodeau.
Thibodeau proposed the creation of the WCR in last semester’s final Senate meeting in December, according to the meeting’s minutes. The measure was passed in a roll call vote with two senators abstaining and one, junior Senator John Rodli, dissenting.
Rodli defended his vote, arguing that issues of gender−consciousness could be adequately addressed by existing representatives of any sex.
“A culture rep to me is supposed to represent a minority group on campus or some group that isn’t necessarily always going to have a strong voice in the Senate,” Rodli said. “Although I think that the technical position is a ‘gender rep,’ not a ‘women’s rep,’ it’s coming from the Women’s Center, and there are literally more females than men on campus—really the only majority that exists.”
Although Rodli said he didn’t personally receive any negative feedback for his vote, Griffiths strongly disagreed with his reasoning.
“It’s not about having two X chromosomes,” Griffiths said. “It’s about representing the Women’s Center, which has a very specific set of things we find important in terms of being gender−conscious.”
Griffiths said that gender−neutral housing and the Tufts University Police Department’s GoSafe transportation service are examples of issues that might be better addressed with the addition of a specifically gender−conscious voice in the Senate. Thibodeau added that there could be a place for such a voice in discussions about the women’s studies program and the installment of security cameras on campus.
“All of these different things are related to the concept [of gender],” Thibodeau said. “Quite frankly, a lot of what we discuss deals directly with gender. Gendered issues are inherently political, and this voice was definitely missing from the body.”
Before the student body elects the WCR, interested students will apply to Gauchel for the position, Griffiths said. Such candidates often go unchallenged, with last year’s vote for the Latino Community Representative being the first contested community representative election.
Griffiths said that if there are multiple candidates, Gauchel is required to submit at least two candidates to the student body. As director of the Women’s Center, Gauchel has the power to choose not to submit more than two applications, even if more than two students apply, Griffiths explained.