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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

TCU senators may get assigned 'districts'

In an effort to open communication with the student body, the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate may start to test a "district system," in which senators represent the residents of specific dormitories, as soon as Monday.

"Hopefully, this program will create more of a sense of community within Tufts," said Senator Edward Chao, a sophomore.

This semester's trial run will focus on freshmen and sophomores, with senators almost exclusively from those two classes getting district assignments.

Chao, who is spearheading the project, said that the Senate needs a better infrastructure to make sure students' voices are heard. "The motivation behind the system is that Senate doesn't really have so much of a chain of command," he said. "Once you're elected, you're kind of like a free agent and you can pretty much do whatever you want."

The program will help individual senators "convey concerns and problems of the students back to the Senate," Chao said.

In the new system, as in the U.S. House of Representatives, each elected representative will be responsible for speaking to the concerns of a district, in this case a residence hall or group of halls, Chao said.

The program will be evaluated after the semester. If it receives high marks, the program could expand in the coming years, perhaps even next semester.

Chao came up with the idea for this project over the summer. He worked with his colleagues in the Student Outreach Committee — of which he is a member — to formulate a preliminary proposal and suggested the plan to the Senate body during Sunday's meeting. There, senators offered feedback, which Chao and the rest of the Student Outreach Committee used to tweak the proposal.

Chao will submit a finalized proposal at this Sunday's meeting; if the Senate gives the nod to the specifics, a "beta" version of the representative system will begin on Monday.

"We just want to get the double confirmation on Sunday," said Senator Antonella Scarano, a senior who, in her role as TCU historian, oversees the Student Outreach Committee.

This year's Senate includes underclassmen living all over campus, making the districts easy to assign and distribute. "Practically speaking, most people will be representing the dorms where they live," Chao said. According to the current plan, the Senate will decide which senators represent which halls after elections every year, based on where the elected members live.

 

"Right now it just so happens that the senators are pretty much spaced out around campus," TCU President Duncan Pickard said. "[Districts are] not necessarily going to always be based on where they [live]."

Dorms that no senator inhabits will be represented nevertheless, Chao said.

Each senator is required to be available to meet with students for at least four hours each month. Senators typically spend this time in the campus center, but a district system would oblige each of them to keep two of those four office hours in dorm common rooms instead. They would be called "activity hours."

Pickard thinks Chao's innovation has the potential to be effective. "The plan of separating the campus up into districts is something we've never tried before," he said. "Any idea that's out there to get the Senate more out in the student body and solicit more opinions about what we're doing is great."

Dean of Student Affairs Bruce Reitman agreed. "I think it's a great idea," he said. "I'm all for it."


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