Old ec-inform@mit.edu email digests

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Feb 17, 2017

Subject: introducing ec-inform: the newest platform for nonessential discourse

Hi EC-

Part of my job as president is to act as a liaison between EC and other student government organizations like the UA and DormCon. However, there is a lot of information that I get during those extraneous meetings that is not necessarily high enough priority to bring to housecomm, but that you guys might still want to know about. That's where this swanky new email list comes in- about every two weeks (which is how often UA council and DormCon meetings happen) I will send out a sort of digest of things that are happening with EC exec and around MIT in general that I won't necessarily bring to housecomm because they are either lower priority or don't affect EC directly.

This will be the first installment of these emails, and I am sending it out to ec-residents. If you want to continue getting these emails, you should subscribe to ec-inform@mit.edu. Feel free to discuss the content of ec-inform emails on the same thread or on the list (or email me directly), but for this one please make sure you reply to ec-inform and not ec-residents.

Now for the good stuff:

In East Campus

Meetings with the CSL about smoking halls in EC and Senior Haus will resume next week. You'll probably hear about this at housecomm if anything interesting happens.

I've contacted the manager of parking at MIT about designating some motorcycle parking spaces either in or near the EC courtyard to replace the not legitimate spots that our motorcycle-driving residents were just kicked out of. I don't know if this is possible or if it will actually happen, but the guy said that he would get back to me after he looks into what the options are.

In the UA Council

What is the UA council? Well, Sophia Liu (the UA president) explained it as sort of the legislative branch of the UA, which is the representative and governing body of all undergraduates. The Council is a group of dorm representatives (usually presidents) as well as reps from the IFC, PanHel, and the ILGs. We discuss things that the UA exec brings to the table and sometimes vote on them. Meetings are biweekly in W20-400 and open to any undergraduate; for meeting times and agenda items you should add yourself to ua-council-listeners@mit.edu.

We voted to approve a joint statement with the GSC (graduate student council) and PDA (postdoctoral association) that Sophia signed on behalf of the UA regarding the executive order on travel and immigration. This statement, which I can't find online but I imagine will appear eventually, basically condemns the executive order on the grounds that it directly interferes with the ability of some MIT students and postdocs to study here and it negatively impacts MIT's ability to function as an institution. We had a bit of a discussion about how to approach these issues in the future- in what circumstances, if any, is it okay for the UA to make a statement on political issues? This conversation is still ongoing, but we left thinking that it is probably more okay for the UA to make a statement if a political event has a direct and measurable impact on MIT undergrads than it would be otherwise. The GSC has a policy platform (found here) that outlines the things that the GSC is permitted to make political statements about. The UA will probably begin working on writing one of those, so if you have opinions about what things should or shouldn't be on there (and if it should even exist), please let me know. I'm personally kind of uncomfortable with the idea of the UA Public Affairs Committee (which is not directly elected) making statements about political issues on behalf of all undergrads, but we agreed that the UA Council should have amendment and approval power over any statements released, which I feel a bit better about.

There was also a rundown of some of the ongoing issues that the UA committees will be working on this semester. Here are some of the ones that I found most interesting:

  • Implementing a shuttle system where you can call a shuttle to take you between any two points within a defined perimeter
  • Working with the Chancellor and the various deans of education to improve advising
  • Starting a system for S^3 where students could submit and also view evaluations for S^3 staff members to increase transparency and accountability and, hopefully, student satisfaction with S^3 services

In DormCon

What is Dormcon? It's kind of like the UA, but only for dorms. DormCon takes care of CPW/REX, funding for dorm events, facilities and security issues, party registration issues, and so on. DormCon is made up of the exec board and the dorm presidents, but only the dorm presidents are voting members. DormCon meetings are also approximately biweekly and open to all undergrad dorm residents. The meeting location rotates between the dorms; for meeting places and times, you should add yourself to dormcon-announce@mit.edu.

We had a visitor from the MIT Water Club, which is working to install more efficient shower heads from a startup called Nebia on campus. It sounds like they are in the process of putting some in the Z center and hope to expand to some dorms eventually, but I have doubts about whether or not they will be compatible with EC's showers.

Party registration is complicated and annoying so the Risk Management chairs are trying to make it better, but it turns out that parties are different in each dorm and it's hard to be realistic and also legal at the same time when it comes to alcohol consumption by undergrads. The ideal outcome is that we end up with a party registration system that is simple and doesn't punish large events by imposing expensive fees and unnecessary police details but also maintains some accountability if anything at an event goes wrong.

Allied Barton, which is the company that MIT contracts with for security personnel, has a new supervisor- the old guy (Felipe) was replaced with a new guy (Jensen). This doesn't affect EC at all because we don't have Allied Barton security, but if you spend a lot of time at other dorms you might notice.

Lastly, we approved the budget for the spring semester, which includes $10,000 for dorm events (this is part of how Bad Ideas, Steer Roast, and Fred Fest get funded, btw) and $500 per dorm for CPW.

That's all I have for the last two weeks or so. Stay tuned for more!


March 6, 2017

Subject: EC inform vol.2: electric boogaloo

Hi all-

Welcome to ec-inform! We've moved to this list, so people on ec-residents@ who haven't added themselves won't get these emails anymore. The content of these emails is not secret and I am totally fine with non-EC people being on this list. However, I would like to clarify that anything I write here will naturally be a bit biased in one way or another and out of respect for that and for the issues that I will talk about I ask that nothing I say on this list be published in the Tech, especially without my permission. That sounds juicier than it really is- I don't have a problem with the Tech, I just don't wan't to step on any toes by yelling from the rooftops about ongoing projects that involve more people than just me.

In East Campus

EC and Senior Haus exec along with several reps from smoking halls met again with the Committee on Student Life about smoking halls. My own feeling was that this meeting went really well and the members of the CSL heard our side of the story. Two things that I think really resonated with them were that many people actually come to MIT as smokers and quit while they are here and that upperclassmen on smoking halls will actively discourage others from picking up smoking. Something that we tried to emphasize is that effective change in places like EC and SH has to come from the inside, and if we (meaning students and admin) were to all agree that smoking should be phased out from the dorms, that the people on the smoking halls would have to be the ones to come up with and implement that decision rather than it being a ban from above. I'm personally happy with the level of understanding that we reached at that meeting, but there still hasn't been a decision made about smoking and we will meet at least once more this semester.

Senior Haus had their optional drug and alcohol screening last Thursday, and from my conversations with Sabrina Madera (one of their presidents) it went really well. There was a large turnout and it sounds like everyone was satisfied with how their information was handled. With that knowledge, it sounds like this would be a good thing to also do in EC- we'll talk about it at Housecomm on Wednesday.

The last thing is that we have our mostly-definitive list of New House transfers to EC, and Henry and I are in contact with them to talk about what their needs are. We have one small group and several individuals. Right now the plan is to put the individuals through hall rush with the freshmen if they are interested. The only problem with this is that they would need to be here before the regular return date to do that, so I am trying to work with DSL and DormCon to give them all early returns that don't count towards EC's quota.

In the UA Council

The UA Council didn't meet last week, so there isn't a whole lot of news there. UA elections will likely be pushed back due to logistical issues within the UA elections commission, but campaigning should be starting relatively soon.

In DormCon

Something that has been in the works for the last year or two is the REX-Rush agreement, which would be a contract between the dorms and IFC/PanHel regarding practices during REX and greek rush and promoting more cooperation. There are definitely dorms that suffer a lot more from dirty rushing practices than we do and I'm sympathetic to them, but I'm not super happy with the things that IFC wants from us in return. As it stands, here are some of the desires from both sides:

Dorms want:

  • no wearing letters to REX events
  • no taking freshmen from REX events
  • no trash-talking dorms
  • accountability with early returns: if you get one from your dorm, your first obligation is to your dorm, not your frat or sorority

Frats (and sororities, but mostly frats) want:

  • no wearing dorm REX shirts to rush events
  • no taking freshmen from rush events
  • no trash-talking frats or sororities
  • no events with alcohol during frat rush (eg EC parties)
  • no 'mandatory' events held during times that frats have rush events (most hall bonding falls under this)

I'm down with the idea of a REX-Rush agreement, but the last two points are complete non-starters for me and I have no intention of signing EC on to this agreement if they won't give them up. Having a good relationship with IFC and PanHel is nice and I want to be supportive of other dorms who might have more to gain from this than we do, but not at the expense of all of the things that we do during that week that are really important to halls individually and EC as a whole. I also think that we could achieve most of our goals without this agreement if we needed to. I'm definitely not the only one who feels this way and this negotiation is still very much ongoing, so if we do reach an agreement I don't think it will look like the one above.

Another cool thing that DormCon is working on is improving our approach to Gender Inclusive Housing. The way that it is now, the GIH-related questions on the housing forms are not very clear and don't give a great idea of what the point is, which is to make sure that residents of all gender identities are placed in an environment and with a roommate that they are comfortable with. The DormCon i3/RAC chairs are working with Abigail Francis from the Rainbow Lounge on this, and we're hoping to figure out something that will make GIH simpler and clearer for everyone.

Secret Bonus Section!

Many of you may be aware of Trump's recent rollback of Obama's recommendations of protections for transgender or gender non-conforming students. This likely would not have affected MIT anyways, but Suzy Nelson did an interview[1] with MIT news reaffirming MIT's commitment to protecting transgender students and community members. It's a good read if you are interested, and I think it's pretty clear that MIT wants to do all it can to step up when necessary.

Feel free to discuss here or let me know privately if you have any thoughts or questions!


March 24, 2017

Subject line: [ec-inform] pre-digested wankery, delivered right to your inbox!

Hi all-

I realized recently that when creating this email list I missed a valuable opportunity to call it the Dorm Rumor, after EC's dorm newspaper that ran in the 1930s and 40s. That was back in the day before EC and Senior Haus counted as separate dorms. If you want some spring break reading, here[2] is an archive of some old issues of the paper (thanks dannybd!)- it makes for a pretty interesting read.

In the past ~3ish weeks since my last ec-inform digest, a few things have happened around campus worth talking about. Skip ahead to the UA section if you want to hear about elections, the upcoming changes to saferide, and the UA policy document, and skip to the dormcon section if you're here for the latest wankery about the new dorm. Otherwise, we'll start with some internal EC dealings.

In East Campus

Optional drug and alcohol screening will be coming to EC shortly. Exec is meeting the week after spring break with Don Camelio, who is the Director of the Office of Community Development and Substance Abuse, to plan the event. There will probably be food and free stuff associated and maybe you'll learn about some resources that you didn't know about before.

We will be meeting sometime in the next month with the CSL on smoking, and this should be the last meeting of the semester. I think at the end of that meeting or afterwards we will hear the conclusions that the CSL drew and how they might be implemented. The CSL is an advisory committee only and it does not have the power to enact policy, but the VPSL and Chancellor seem to take its analysis pretty seriously. On the same tack, I'm trying to get in touch with someone at MIT Medical who can give me publicity materials for some of MIT's smoking cessation programs. Medical offers four weeks of free nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges as well as five free phone counseling sessions through the quitworks program, and since I didn't know about this until a few weeks ago I assume that there are others who hadn't heard about it either. I think that leaving flyers with that kind of information (along with information about S^3 support for people quitting smoking) left at desk could be useful for anyone who wants to use those resources. On a more political level, it will also drive home the point to the CSL that we care about the health of our community and don't actively encourage smoking even though we want to support everyone's right to do what they want with their own bodies.

I assume everyone on this list has heard about the idea of making the courtyard clothing optional, which was brought up at housecomm on wednesday, so I'm not going to recap all of that again. We're going to talk about it as a dorm, draft a policy, and then vote by hall on whether or not we want to send this to referendum. Be warned, though: even if this passes within EC, I have a lot of doubts about whether people higher up than us will let it happen. Regardless or how likely or unlikely it may be, I still think that this is a good discussion to have, because it is forcing us to face some differences and disagreements that have long existed within EC and look at how those situations should be resolved.

Exec is currently working on planning the EC retreat, which is an annual meeting (though it didn't happen last year) of hall representatives where we get together for a few hours to talk more in-depth about big-picture things. We are working on putting together an agenda, but mostly we want it to be driven by what the residents think is important. One broad thing that I'm thinking about starting a conversation about is self-preservation, so to speak: with changes coming to campus in the form of a new dorm and future renovations, what can we do now to best ensure that EC is around for a very long time? How to we make our value to MIT clear so people in the upper administration don't want to lose us or the East Side in general? Obviously that's a complicated question especially because the challenges we face are often hard to predict, but its one that I'd like to talk about if you guys are open to it.

In the UA Council

Andrew Bartow, the UA communications director, is working on increasing engagement between the UA and the undergraduate population at large. This has been an issue in the past because the UA has a lot of committees and works on a ton of projects, but information about these projects might not come out until decisions have already been made. Andrew has created a new mailing list, ua-informed@mit.edu, that will share updates from committees to its subscribers. I highly recommend adding yourself to it. Engagement with the UA and other student government organizations if crucial and I hope that Andrew's efforts will be repaid with a higher level of participation in the UA and understanding of how it works. If ec-inform isn't giving you all of the info that you want (I hope it isn't, you should always want more!), you can learn more about how MIT politics works in the following places, amongst others:

  • UA minutes
  • DormCon minutes (not up to date, but I've poked the secretary)
  • IFC minutes (not up to date)
  • GSC minutes
  • Faculty meeting minutes
  • The Tech

We discussed a new draft of the UA policy document at the last council meeting. I was involved in the revision process and it looks pretty good. There are some points in there that are clearly outward-facing (like opposing policies that prevent international and/or undocumented students from attending US universities) and some that are clearly inward-facing (like a right to privacy in electronic records and living spaces, and a right to adequate health services). The council is pushing for this document to be sent out to all undergraduates for review and I think it won't be voted on until then, so everyone should be able to get a chance to send their input to their relevant voting representative (for most of you, that would be me). This document will provide a foundation and a guide for the UA to make statements about developments inside and outside of MIT, but those statements will also probably need unanimous or almost unanimous approval of the council in order to be published.

We heard from Daysi Gomez about the upcoming changes to the SafeRide system. As of right now, what is going to happen is that late at night, the normal shuttle system will be replaced with an on-demand ride service that will operate within a certain geofence servicing Cambridge as well as parts of Boston and Somerville and perhaps other surrounding areas. My understanding is that a primary reason for this is that the current shuttle system can be a bit unreliable and it also does not stop by many living groups, which puts people in a position where they might need to walk 15 or 20 minutes alone at night. The on-demand service should fix that, but the shuttle service will continue during the day. This is going to start in the fall. I'm definitely not an expert on this topic, so if you have very specific questions I would recommend directing them to Daysi (gomezd), who is a point person on this project.

Finally, UA elections are happening! This spring we will be electing a new UA President and Vice President as well as all of the individual class councils. As far as I know, the candidates for UA President are Sarah Melvin, Daysi Gomez, and Malte Ahrens, but the petitions are not due until later today so I suppose someone else could still theoretically come out of the woodwork. All three of the candidates are extremely qualified and I'm excited to see a more heavily contested election, which is something that we have not had in a while. I'm going to refrain for now from sharing my own thoughts on who my pick is (though I will probably do so later on), as I want to strongly encourage everyone to engage with the candidates once campaigning starts on April 3rd and hear what they have to say. Each of them deserves a chance and they all will find your input valuable. I expect them all to make appearances at EC at one point or another, or you can probably reach out to them by email as well.

In DormCon

Unfortunately I'm going to have to keep this section a bit short because I punted writing this email for the past few days and now I've gotten carried away and need to leave for the airport soon, but DormCon's big topic of last night was the newest developments on the upcoming Vassar street dorm. We on DormCon are all pretty united in our dissatisfaction with how a lot of our input seems to have gone out the window, and the new dorm will now be a dining dorm with ~450 beds and, as of the latest news, very few cook-for-yourself equipped kitchens. We are working hard on fighting back on this, especially because at some point non-dining dorms (including EC) will be swung through the new dorm for renovations. Unfortunately the timeline is quite short, but we have put together what I think are some good arguments that the DormCon president and VP (Kate Farris and Yuge Ji) will be taking to the people involved in the design process.

That's all for now, and stay tuned for more. As always, feel free to email me if you have any thoughts.

Have a great spring break!


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