The VSA is not a miserable mess.
While it is true that most council members may often feel overworked and insanely stressed, that statement could also be applied to nearly any active, passionate Vassar student. There is no disputing that the VSA is a work in progress, but it is clear that progress is being made.
Many students and faculty have accurately pointed out that the VSA Council has a long way to go to being truly representative of the student body. This is a very valid point, one of which council is aware and working hard to change. For the second year in a row, members of exec board have held information sessions on campaigning to help students who may feel hesitant about running in an election. This year, Operations Committee has implemented a survey that will help to assess the demographics of students who have held and will hold positions on council. It is their hope that gathering this data will help council to understand which groups are consistently underrepresented and allow them to find ways to make the job more accessible.
There are certainly far bigger issues in the world than those discussed during VSA meetings, but I am thankful for council members who take their jobs seriously. It is easy to become frustrated when heated debates erupt over a fund application or an amendment, but the answer is not simply to deem the entire issue unimportant or not worth our time. Every fund application is important because it is important to the organization that submitted it. Every amendment is important because it guides the way both present and future councils are able to operate. There is also a difference between being passionate and dedicated to the issues at hand and being oblivious to greater issues on campus and in the world. To claim that council members don’t understand a life outside of VSA is neglecting to mention the valuable contributions that even the busiest council members make to other aspects of campus, including TLC, Relay for Life and EMS.
There is always more work to be done, but contrary to popular opinion, the VSA has done a lot this year. Despite the fact that I may be fulfilling the image of VSA council as a self-congratulating body, for all those who say the VSA is useless, it’s important to recognize all that has been accomplished.
The VSA Activities committee planned and executed the first ever Spring Activities fair, to help orgs recruit new members, and yard sale, to help orgs fundraise. They accepted applications from, reviewed and approved preliminary organizations and offered support to the pre-orgs throughout the year.
The storage space project, spearheaded by the VP for Activities, ensured that every org that applied for a closet to hold their capital items received a space on campus. This included clearing out new spaces for orgs to use, which meant spending multiple weekend mornings and afternoons moving decades worth of old yearbooks which were taking up valuable space in the College Center.
The VSA Academics committee ordered a NYTimes subscription, which has helped to keep students and faculty aware of current events. It expanded the majors fair to include other academic offices, helping to provide students with even more access to important information. It published an academic newsletter featuring the work of students and professors and provided feedback to administrators regarding the future of CEQs. It accepted applications for student seminars, interviewed all student seminar instructors and helped to subsidize some of the cost of these academically enriching activities.
The VSA Student Life committee lobbied for gender neutral bathrooms throughout the campus and had all single-sex bathrooms relabeled with non-binary signs as well. The VP for Student Life spoke at a forum explaining to students and faculty exactly why this change is so important. It followed up about making Exec Board members have their VSA service count for work-study, in order to make the position more accessible to all students. It collaborated with the SAVP coordinator to make students more involved in the Title IX process.
The VSA Operations Committee spent countless hours deliberating over the many appointments that needed to be made to complete house teams and class councils this year. It then drafted a new board, the board of elections and appointments, to make the appointments and elections process smoother for future VSA council members and more accessible to all students. It drafted a letter to the administration urging them to fund the hiring of a post-doctoral fellow for the infamously understaffed Metcalf, a request that was recently fulfilled.
The Finance committee, a major time commitment for all involved, met every week to discuss each fund applications and carefully determine effective ways to distribute funds. It created a new fund, solely for the ALANA Jam, to ensure that the event can continue, without confusion, in future years. It spent many late nights working on annual budgeting, dividing up over $750,000 and meeting with organizations to discuss and agree upon a fair allocation.
The VSA president coordinated and implemented a successful trial run of serving hot food at Late Night at the DC. The VSA Executive board planned and hosted this year’s Seven Sisters Conference. The conference, with which all students were encouraged to get involved in, promoted the exchange of ideas between schools and solidified our relationship with peer institutions.
I don’t mean to dismiss the legitimate and reasonable requests for more transparency, more accountability and a more approachable VSA. However, as some have expressed frustration over student apathy and council inefficiency, I want it known that council members do care, they do work hard and they do get stuff done.
—Rebecca Bauer ’14 is the outgoing President of the South Commons.