Start. Stop. Continue.
On each of the circular tables were two large posters and Post-it notes in three colors. Last year’s Town Hall had been an opportunity for students to voice their concerns. This year, Student Assembly (SA) decided it had to do more.
On April 29, SA hosted Town Hall 2.0 – this time, not in the Chapel, but in the Annex, with two microphones set up among the tables. Each table held two posters, and each poster (labeled with one of the two main topics) was organized into three categories: start, stop, and continue.
SA President Amanda Kim ’21 opened the assembly by recognizing this year’s Town Hall’s new structure, created to be more conducive to discussing potential solutions. Students, faculty, and administrators attended.
“Last year was our first Town Hall, and it was great for identifying issues on campus,” Kim said. “However, we didn’t get time to discuss potential solutions on campus. That’s what we’re focusing on tonight, next steps for us to take.”
SA Vice President Gianni Hill ’21 outlined the night’s schedule. The topics were chosen by vote of the student body: sexual misconduct and social life on campus, with additional discussions focused on mental health and the discontinuation of Posse Boston.
Each topic discussion began with a short presentation from relevant administrators followed by questions and answers, and small-group conversations at individual tables. Kim and Hill explained that each table was to discuss and write thoughts on the colored Post-its regarding how to stop certain issues, what to start doing to create change, and what should be continued. Every Post-it note was collected and will be read by SA, which will send out the resulting feedback to the student body and administration.
Director of Community Standards and Title IX Coordinator Catherine Berryman and Title IX Education and Compliance Coordinator Cori Smith ’17 began the sexual misconduct portion with an update on investigations into recent reports of the use of date-rape drugs at off-campus parties, information on potential sanctions, an outline of Hamilton’s policies and procedures, and next steps. Students brought up a variety of concerns, particularly the importance of installing more emergency blue-lights on campus, particularly in more convenient and noticeable locations.
Prior to matriculating at Hamilton, one must go through an online sexual misconduct training exercise; some at the Town Hall voiced the necessity of having increased mandatory sexual misconduct programming throughout a student’s four years at Hamilton.
“I think it’s important to have mandates continuously that reiterate similar things and continue the education, because it’s when people forget these things and aren’t reminded of Yes Means Yes, and what sexual assault and misconduct is, that’s when it happens,” Nicole Eisenberg ’21 said. “So I’d be interested in seeing maybe a mandatory online course before you can sign up for classes.”
The second topic, social life and social spaces, began with Kim raising questions: “What kind of spaces do we want on campus? Do we want more formal or informal spaces, and how do we go about doing this safely? How do we provide opportunities for those who choose not to drink alcohol, but also balance that with those who choose to as well?”
Students brought up the desire for more social spaces – both alcohol-permitting and substance-free – on campus, and the potential to transform more places into areas on campus where students can congregate and socialize with one another.
In her presentation and in response to questions, Vice President and Dean of Students Terry Martinez talked about the need to look at spaces on campus, whether they are larger social spaces or smaller gathering spaces in residence halls, to determine which are public, which are private, and the best ways to use them to support student needs. “That has been very successful in Woollcott [Co-op], and I’d like to see us identify other spaces moving forward where we can do that successfully,” she said.
Following the two main discussions, Director of the Counseling Center David Walden updated students on the services offered at the new Joel and Elizabeth Johnson Center for Health and Wellness and how those services are being utilized by students. He then responded to student questions.
President David Wippman spoke on the decision to reduce the number of Posses from two to one by discontinuing Hamilton’s partnership with Boston, and answered questions from current Posse members who expressed frustration regarding the matter. Wippman acknowledged the strong relationship Hamilton continues to have with Posse, and that the College will continue to promote diversity and inclusion on campus in other ways. For example, he said College has worked with the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) for 50 years, and last year began partnerships with QuestBridge and the American Talent Initiative (ATI).
Town Hall 2.0 concluded with Kim urging students to voice their concerns to SA, especially at the public comment periods during weekly meetings.
SA meets every Monday at 8:30 p.m. in the Sadove Conference Room.