Senate GBM Recap, March 25 and April 1

The Senate general body meeting on March 25 discussed special allocations for Lunar Gala and recommendations for housing and bathroom changes to support the trans, intersex, and nonbinary (TIN) community.

Last week’s Senate general body meeting on April 1 discussed the work of the Commission on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression, adjusted fiscal budgets, and election ratification meetings.

Lunar Gala is an annual student-run fashion show with more than 130 people involved in its production. Because of COVID-19, the show will be virtual this year, and tickets to attend are free. They filmed their performance a week earlier and found that there were unexpected costs in renting the media equipment to film. The Joint Funding Committee (JFC) had previously allocated media equipment funds to Lunar Gala, and, under bylaws, the JFC was not able to reallocate funds for the same purpose, so Lunar Gala instead requested the Senate to fund their unexpected costs, which is permitted under bylaws. The special allocations request passed 13 to 0 to 1.

The Senate's Business Affairs Committee also introduced two resolutions in support of the TIN community. One resolution was endorsing a document written by Business Affairs in support of all-gender housing at Carnegie Mellon. The document recommends making all-gender housing the default option for students and making single-gender housing opt-in. It also recommends renovations to communal bathrooms in housing, such as making floor-to-ceiling bathroom stall walls, and changes to the roommate selection process to ensure the safety of TIN individuals against roommate violence through single-occupancy housing. The document stated that "An all-gender default resists society’s current gender binary which is harmful to members of the TIN community, without inherently exposing cis- and gender-conforming students to violence." Business Affairs had conducted an earlier survey and found that 68 percent of the student body would either be interested in or would have no preference in all-gender housing. The resolution was passed 12 to 0 to 1.

Another resolution requested the Senate's endorsement of "Actionable Steps For All-Gender Equity at CMU," a document written by Carnegie Mellon's Trans, Intersex, and Nonbinary Alliance (TINA). In addition to wanting all-gender housing as described in the document written by Business Affairs, TINA requested renovating bathrooms in campus buildings to add all-gender single-stalled bathrooms to promote the safety of members of the TIN community, allowing for chosen and legal names and genders to be more easily updated within university information systems, promoting health resources and TIN bias training for students, and more. The resolution was passed 12 to 0 to 1.

Last week, guest speakers Roberta Klatzky and Jonathan Caulkins presented the work of the Commission on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression, created in response to the university-wide debate around the hiring and actions of Richard Grenell. They mentioned that there were three subcommittees within the commission: one for creating forums for discussion around the topic, one for discussing "points of discomfort," as Klatzky said, related to academic freedom and freedom of expression, and another for discussing policy creation related to the topic at Carnegie Mellon.

Senators asked the speakers questions about the diversity of the commission, the boundaries of acceptable speech at Carnegie Mellon, and whether hiring should consider social media platforms that hirees use and the audiences that they reach. The speakers asserted that departmental diversity had been taken into consideration when choosing the committee, the members of which are published online. Caulkins said that it was difficult to determine when to penalize academics for holding invalid beliefs that are unrelated to their field and that cases where academics did hold beliefs counter to norms in their field sometimes help promote scientific advances. Caulkins added that an issue the commission had to face when considering statements on social media in the hiring process is that hirers could be biased by the individual's personal life instead of solely considering professional qualifications.

The Finance Committee also presented a resolution on reducing Senate committee budgets for the fiscal year of 2021 due to COVID-19. Overall, the fiscal year budget for 2021 was reduced by about 40,000 dollars to a total of 160,000 dollars.

Senators also passed a resolution 19 to 0 to 1 affirming the resolution for a joint meeting of the Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Assembly. The meeting would ratify the results of the student government election, which is currently running, and elect the executive chair of the Activities Board. Students can vote in student government elections here.