Many were disappointed in what they believe was a lack of student opinion in the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Context. The newly elected senators voted 34-11 to pass a resolution that paused the work of the CACHC at the Senate’s final meeting of the school year last semester. The resolution caught Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter’s attention before ASB President Dion Kevin III had a chance to issue a veto or approval.
“The bill’s goal was increased student input,” senior ASB senator Hunter Story said. “Like we saw this summer, with the parking rules and the parking prices, executive action without any student input is not the right route.”
Vitter released a response to the resolution, authored by Sens. Coco McDonnell, Hunter Story and Brady Kies, within days of it passing through the ASB, and the committee continued its work.
“First, I would like to recognize and thank the students of the ASB for their service in student government and being active participants in the life of our campus,” the statement began.
Vitter reaffirmed his and the CACHC’s commitment to hearing what students had to say, standing by his decision to continue the committee’s work.
“Unfortunately, the ASB resolution and discussion around the resolution were based upon inaccurate information. Since I first announced on March 29, 2016, that I would establish the CACHC, we have been transparent and open with our communications with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends,” he wrote.
Kevin said he did not formally issue a veto after Vitter’s outspoken rejection, and the CACHC released its final report July 6.
The final report, a 49-page document, outlined Phases 1 and 2 of the committee’s work and listed seven contextualization recommendations for sites considered in Phase 1. The committee recommended the Johnson Commons “namesake be specified through adding ‘Sr.’ to the name currently displayed on the building,” and recommended “unanimously to rename Vardaman Hall during its immediate renovation.” The committee recommended contextualization for five other campus buildings.
“The work of the CACHC represents that commitment in action – informed by expertise and conducted with respectful candor,” Vitter said in the July 6 statement.
As the commitee completed its job over the summer, some members of the ASB Senate felt even further left out of the discussion. Sophomore ASB Sen. Brady Kies said he is not sure where the resolution stands since the committee continued its work but plans to formulate the next step with the bill’s co-authors as the semester gets underway.
“First of all, we need to be better informed when committees like this are formed,” Kies said. “I think that will get students interested, and we can get momentum behind students having more of a say. It would also be nice if the ASB president would follow through on a campaign promise and support student representation, unlike the contextualizing resolution.”
Sen. Story said he and a group of senators have unified around an agenda based on increasing student inclusion in the government. Story said he plans to begin using online surveys to better connect with students and to hear what changes they’d like to see on campus.
Kies said he and other senators worked together on improving the Senate rules this summer, building on the precedent set at the spring semester’s final meeting.
In that final Senate meeting, senators also voted 33-11 to pass a bill calling for an invocation at the beginning of each meeting.
“I was very proud of the Senate before break,” Kies said. “We hope to work together and get more things done for the student body. We also hope to have a good relationship with the ASB executives and their staffs to get the most beneficial legislation passed.”
Junior accounting major and ASB Sen. Tristan Estrada said senators plan to hold social forums this semester to get a better idea of what students want.
“I know in the past many senators weren’t able to directly get involved with the students, but this year, senators are going to be holding forums,” Estrada said. “This will give the student body an opportunity to get to know their senators better.”
Other ASB executives elected last semester are also looking forward to following through on their campaign promises. Attorney General Dillon Pitts said he hopes to see more students interacting with ASB this year.
“I set a goal last year when running for my position to increase voter turnout and campus involvement,” Pitts said. “Hopefully, this year will bring an increased voter turnout and more interest in what the Associated Student Body has to offer.”
To kickstart the year, ASB is sponsoring Creed Week during the second week of classes to celebrate upholding the UM Creed on campus. Kevin said the week, beginning this upcoming Monday, will bring speakers to campus, including future Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill, and will be highlighted by a pep rally that Wednesday. These events are open to all students.
“Some of my closest friends come from being a part of the Associated Student Body,” Pitts said. “If I had not attended Creed Week events, joined freshman council and participated in other ASB events, I am not sure if I would have met some of my dearest friends.”