We have almost made it through the fall semester! Congratuations! I wanted to take this opportunity to update you all on the Vassar Student Association’s (VSA) projects thus far this term, some of the recent discussions that have been occurring on our campus and how the VSA has been involved in the college’s affairs since our last update earlier in the semester.
First, I am honored to welcome Danny Dones ’16 as the new VSA Vice President for Student Life. Thank you to everyone who participated in the election and voted—we’re really excited to continue the Student Life projects from the beginning of the semester, develop new projects and initiatives, and work towards creating a more inclusive and accepting campus for everyone.
Seven Sisters Conference:
Last month, the VSA hosted students from Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith and Wellesley College for the annual Seven Sisters Conference. 75 students participated in the conference, where we all discussed ideas for encouraging students to collaborate on our own campuses, shared some of our schools’ strengths and weaknesses so we could learn from one another, and began several different projects that we can work on together throughout the rest of the year and beyond. The conference reaffirmed our shared values with the other Seven Sisters Colleges and also celebrated the things we do well here as well as challenged us to explore other things we could be doing better.
Improving social awareness:
The VSA Student Life Committee and Academics Committee are continuing to explore how we can improve the discourse on campus related to identity and social consciousness. We will continue to work with administrators and committees on various projects to celebrate different student identities. We will also challenge our notions of privilege and increase awareness and education about these issues as early as first-year orientation.
The VSA Student Life Committee has continued to promote inclusivity by advocating for the installation of more gender-neutral bathrooms in academic buildings that can be accessible to all students. We have been working with the Dean of Strategic Planning and Academic Resources and the Dean of the Faculty to try to make this project a reality, especially in the buildings currently under renovation and in the new science building. We hope to have some concrete changes by the end of the academic year.
Assisting student organizations:
The VSA Activities Committee has also worked on multiple projects this year to make it easier for students to create various organizations, expand membership and achieve their missions. After creating a way for student groups to get some of the privileges of VSA organizations while still growing and demonstrating their sustainability on campus, the VSA Council approved 20 “Preliminary Organizations” for the semester that now have access to VSA funding and spaces on campus.
The process is now much more straightforward and objective for groups to become VSA Certified Organizations. Additionally, we ordered three new wireless V-Cash machines so that more student organizations will have access to convenient fundraising. We are also moving V-Cash machine reservations and College Center table reservations to the online event management system for the spring semester, so that from now on all of the resources that organizations might need will be in one single location.
Peer advising pre-registration party:
Last month, the VSA Academics Committee hosted an event in the Aula for students to come and talk to upperclassmen about pre-registration and classes. There were peer advisors from over 25 academic departments who could speak to their experiences juggling various course and majors with extra-curricular activities, JYA programs, managing major requirements, and different research and internship opportunities. Over 150 students attended the event and we received a lot of positive feedback, so we look forward to holding similar programs in the future.
Communication and recent bias incidents:
The VSA Council has spent a significant amount of time and effort over the past few weeks to provide students with the opportunity to respond and react to some of the recent communications from Vassar Administration and the bias incidents that have taken place on campus. The Board of House Presidents organized a venting session for students in the LGBTQ Center last week to provide a space where we could talk about our feelings and reactions, and many Houses have also held dorm-wide meetings in their common spaces to give students more opportunities to come together and reflect.
The VSA is committed to creating more of these opportunities for students throughout the year, both as a response to events that occur and proactively to prevent future bias incidents. We will also be working with Administration to make sure there are additional forums for students to voice their concerns productively. We want to take this opportunity to continue to advocate for the projects and initiatives for which students have been working that will make this campus a safer and more welcoming place.
This has been a challenging semester for our community, but I am committed to continuing these conversations and following through with the projects we have begun, while still making sure we have the resources available for all of us to come together and heal. It has been wonderful working with so many of you this semester, and I’m so excited to continue to make progress on each of these projects and more. As always, If you have any questions, ideas, or concerns regarding the VSA, or you would like to get more involved in any of these initiatives, I’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Deb Steinberg ’14 is a psychology major. She is the President of the Vassar Student’s Association.