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Senators express concerns about community and University response to COVID-19

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Co-chair of the COVID-19 Graduate Student Advisory Committee and second-year sociology Ph.D. candidate Cat Sanchez ’19 shared an open letter aimed to address the lack of community support for COVID-19 guidelines on campus during Monday’s Undergraduate Senate meeting. 

On the same day, the University hosted an on-campus parade with over 100 people in celebration of Stanford women’s basketball’s NCAA championship win. The Office of Student Affairs gave students living on campus special permission to attend, despite quarantine guidelines in place until Wednesday. 

The Graduate Student Advisory Committee’s letter outlines “the importance of community-level response” as opposed to individual decision-making to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on campus, Sanchez said.

In the letter, the committee proposed four practices for students on campus, including testing compliance, honesty and normalizing minimizing contact if experiencing any possible COVID-19 symptoms. If students feel that their mental health and wellbeing are being impacted by COVID-19 policies, the letter encourages students to support advocacy for safer, socially distanced activities, rather than breaking the Campus Compact. 

Senator Tim Vrakas ’21 applauded the tone of the letter and its recognition of undergraduates perceiving some rules as unreasonable. 

“There is a misalignment that needs to be addressed,” said Senator Jonathan Lipman ’21. He proposed inviting Associate Vice Provost for Environmental Health & Safety Russell Furr and Vice Provost of Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole to a future Senate meeting to discuss COVID-19 policies.

Nine senators have signed the letter as of April 5. Senator Alain Pérez ’23 chaired the meeting, as Senate chair Micheal Brown ’22 and deputy chair Danny Nguyen ’22 were absent.

The Senate also passed a resolution to add a referendum on the spring election ballot that will collect input from students about Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) investments. The resolution also adds a constitutional amendment to the ballot that if passed, will make it a permanent poll on the ballot.

The poll seeks to gauge student opinions to advise the Stanford Student Enterprises (SSE) and investment manager in guiding ASSU investment. 

Senator Daryn Rockett ’23 and Vrakas presented five amendments that will be voted on at next week’s Senate meeting. One amendment recommends transitioning Senate elections to a single transferable vote system. The proposed change would transfer a student’s vote to lower-ranked candidates as opposed to disregarding it if their first choice did not receive a sufficient majority of votes. “This would maximize the power of everyone’s vote” and “mitigate the effect of wasted votes,” Vrakas said.

The other constitutional amendments include removing gendered language from Senate bylaws and the ASSU Constitution to promote inclusivity and limit assumptions about gender, clarifying Senate finances and the procedures of the judicial branch. 

If these five amendments pass next week, there will be seven amendments placed on the spring ballot, including the ethical investment resolution passed this week and The Freshmen Senators Act that was previously added to the ballot. 

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Kaushikee Nayudu '24 is a staff writer for The Daily. Contact her at knayudu ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.