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Where you read it first | Monday, October 2, 2023

TCU Senate discusses funding requests, referendum, policy proposal

Sophia Gordon Hall on May 7th, 2014.

Disclaimer: Samuel Weitzman is a sports editor at the Daily. He was not involved in the writing or editing of this article.

The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate met last night in the Sophia Gordon Multipurpose Room to hear funding requests, a proposed referendum and a policy proposal.

TCU President Benya Kraus, a senior, opened the meeting by reminding the body of the Tufts Spirit Song Competition, an initiative focused on updating the Tufts spirit song to make it more representative of the diversity of the student body, for which the deadline is March 31. Kraus also noted that TCU Senate Executive Boardelections are coming up in April.

TCU ParliamentarianAdam Rapfogel, a junior, then took the floor to introduce a proposed referendum by sophomore Rachel Wolff.

Wolff described her proposed referendum as one that would allow the student body to petition Senate resolutions to turn them into university-wide referendums, meaning the whole student body could vote on the issue.

Wolff noted that her motivation to push for this change was inspired by a feeling that the student body was not sufficiently consulted when the TCU Senate resolution calling for the university to end investments in the Israeli occupation was presented last April. She then mentioned that in order to push forward with her proposal, she is seeking at least 300 signatures from students.

After a brief question-and-answer period, TCU Senate Vice President Anna Del Castillo, a senior, took the floor to introduce a Tufts Speech Policy Proposal, brought to the senate by Tufts Cooperation and Innovation in Citizenship (CIVIC).

CIVIC representatives Wolff; Samuel Weitzman, a senior; Madison Taylor, a senior; and Senate trustee representative Nathan Foster, a senior; then outlined the policy proposal in a presentation. The proposal had also been written by sophomores George Behrakis and Ethan Brown in addition to those present, but Behrakis and Brown were not in attendance.

They said Tufts should prioritize freedom of speech, but they also noted that preventing harassment of any represented group on campus is also an imperative. As a result, they mentioned that their proposal would permit any group to bring to campus any speaker the group desires, unless compelling reasons exist to not do so, such as the incitement of violent views against particular individuals or groups, or the possibility that university could not ensure the safety of the speaker. They also advocated for the process of an appeals procedure regarding bringing speakers to campus.

Following their presentation, the senate moved into a brief question-and-answer period.

TCU Senate Diversity and Community Affairs Officer Shannon Lee, a sophomore, asked what type of speech would qualify as inciting violence against individuals or groups.

Wolff responded to Lee’s question by pointing to the freedom of speech guidelines highlighted by the United States Supreme Court as a possible inspiration.

However, after the body split up into conversation groups to discuss the presentation, Lee argued that Tufts, as a private institution, need not follow the path of the Supreme Court and could instead demonstrate a lower tolerance for harmful speech.

She also said she believes that there should be broader feedback from community members on this issue, and that she hopes this will be a continuous conversation. Similar points were made by other members of the Senate, who also believe Tufts should set its own standard for what is appropriate speech as a private institution.

The TCU Senate then transitioned to hear committee updates, first from the services committee.

Sophomore Senator Kevin Gleason said he has been in discussions with administrators of Tisch Library about the possibility of opening the library earlier.

Following that, Education Committee Chair Philip Miller, a sophomore, reminded the Senate to nominate professors for the upcoming Professor of the Year award.

After, Administration and Policy Committee Chair Jamie Neikrie, a senior, mentioned that there is an initiative to find a new name for the Capen Village housing developments and encouraged Senate members to start thinking of possible names.

TCU Treasurer Emily Sim, a junior, then took the floor to hear funding requests, first from the Media Advocacy Board representing Future Histories, an on-campus literary magazine that is currently not a TCU-recognized group.

Sophomore Elisa Sturkie took the floor to speak on behalf of Future Histories. She noted that despite the magazine's lack of TCU recognition, the group has already published student work online. Sturkie continued by mentioning that there are many talented students willing to write for the magazine, yet the publication cannot get readership without proper printing and funds.

After a brief question-and-answer period, the Senate then instituted a move by acclamation to vote on the request, to which first-year TCU Assistant Treasurer and Allocations Board (ALBO) member Sharif Hamidi objected, arguing that it is unfair to grant funding, even indirectly, to groups that aren’t yet TCU-recognized. He mentioned that he believes this would undermine the purpose of groups seeking TCU recognition in the first place.

The body then moved into a brief debate period, during which Associate Treasurer and ALBO Member Finn McGarghan, a sophomore, argued that publications should be viewed as exceptions in this regard, because regardless of TCU recognition, they need significant start-up funding.

The TCU Senate then voted on this request, which was passed.

The TCU Senate then approved a funding request from the Korean Students Association for $1,130 for food at Big Brother Big Sister events, one for $2,049 and another for $1,800 from Spoken Word Alliance at Tufts (SWAT) to attend an event and bring a speaker respectively, one for $2,000 from the Cape Verdean Students Association to bring a well-known singer, one for $520 from the Tufts Robotics Club to attend a competition, one for $550 from S-Factor to go on tour in New York City, one for $1,061 from the History Society to attend the Quiz Bowl National Championship, one for $2,430 from the National Society of Black Engineers to attend a convention, one for $773 from the Tufts Debate Society to attend a competition and one for $585 from the Tufts Ballroom Team to attend a competition in Rhode Island.

Lastly, the body heard updates from TCU Historian Jacqueline Chen, a junior, and Lee, and held a brief open forum.

Then the meeting adjourned.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Kevin Gleason was only in discussions with Tisch Library staff about the possibility of opening the library earlier. A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that this change in library hours had already been made. The Daily regrets this error.