The VSA Student Life committee works on a number of projects and initiatives that strive to better the quality of life for all students on this campus.
This year, with the VSA accepting a set of guidelines that declares our body a political intersectional feminist organization that works to represent underrepresented voices, the student life committee is working on a number of major projects to help move along the process of achieving equal voice for all students at Vassar.
One of the major initiatives that was just completed by the student life committee was the transportation letter initiative that will be sent to various senior level administrators. This letter focuses on providing transportation for students who seek off campus counseling, off campus prescription medications and transportation to and from the hospital. Currently in the status quo, there is no system set in place by Vassar College that provides transportation to these resources.
Vassar has allocated a certain amount of funds for transportation to be used by Pell Grant students for this purpose. While this push is a huge step in the right direction, as Pell Grant students tend to be the most financially burdened at this college, the VSA and student life specifically believe that much more needs to be done in order to meet what we consider a basic necessity of students.
This letter was drafted by all members of student life committee, with special recognition given to Ashley Hoyle, Rebecca Pober, Sophie Firedfeld-Gebaide and Derek Sontag. In the letter, we call for the administration to provide this service.
We acknowledge some of the work that the college has done in the past regarding mental health services, including the recent hiring of a number of more counselors. We use this to say why these three services must be provided by the college.
So many students cannot afford to pay for weekly transportation to and from a local therapist or counselor. Furthermore, public transportation and taxi transportation in the town of Poughkeepsie is not the most reliable, and these sessions with counselors are things that these students need to attend in order to be healthy and functional students.
In terms of receiving prescription medications, some of the cheapest medications can only be obtained at bigger pharmacies that are not within walking distance of the college, and some students who need these medications cannot afford to get a premium product from a specialized pharmacy.
Also, most people who need emergency prescription medication are too sick to walk anywhere or to hail a cab and ride it to and from the pharmacy safely.
The college should be more concerned with these students and provide the transportation necessary.
Student life committee has also been working closely with Safety and Security and the new Director of Safety and Security, Arlene Sabo. With the recent rise in the number of on-campus burglaries, Safety and Security has been brainstorming with the VSA on how to be a more effective body and how to help students feel safe at this institution. Arlene has been a very fresh and needed addition to the Safety and Security team. Arlene puts a lot of emphasis on the voices and needs of students.
Although Arlene herself admits that she does not know all the answer and does not know what will please the most students, she is dedicated to making sure she and her team find that answer and implement the necessary steps to reach that point.
Arlene, through suggestion from the VSA and Student Life Committee, has helped push for more lights on certain paths on the campus that are especially dark and unsafe for walkers in the late hours of the evening.
The paths that Arlene and security have been focusing on are the paths along sunset lake and adjacent to the baseball field near the Town Houses. Arlene went on a light walk to identify these spots, and we are currently working together to figure out how to make these light installations possible. I am very excited about the future working relationship between myself and Safety and Security.
For a longer term project, the Student Life Committee is working towards the creation of affinity spaces on this campus for students of color, particularly first year students of color, to learn about race and their place in the race discussion on campus.
This concept came out of the fact that there seemed to be a large amount of support by many members of administration and various offices here at Vassar that supported the idea of creating a space for white people to learn about race.
While we acknowledge that this is a very important concept, there seemed to be no importance on creating a space for students of color to talk about race and their journey while discovering their identities.
Fortunately, many different identity based organizations on Vassar’s campus already have a lot of programming set aside as affinity spaces for various students of color.
Whether we create these affinity spaces or not, Student Life will be working towards supporting the various forms of existing programming already set in place.
Student Life Committee has just begun to get into the gritty details of a lot of important work that needs to be done on this campus. Although there is still so much to be done, we are committed to getting as much of that list completed as possible before our time in these positions has elapsed.