Previously, on SGA: Guest-starring Sheryl Tynes, Megan Mustain and Jennifer Henderson

The following covers the meeting on Oct. 19.


Before the meeting, Vice President Donya Ahmadi provided nuts and chocolates for the senators and Advisor Jamie Thompson as a treat.

Climate Check:

President Danny Nguyen placed a 10-minute limit on climate check.

Sophomore Senator Harrison Tinker opened climate check with an informal survey to determine which senators had reviewed a document he had shared with the senate. The document in question was compiled by a constituent and highlights the necessity to support higher-need students on campus through items like the affordable textbook initiative. Senator Tinker stated he wanted to discuss the document in more detail at the next meeting.

Sophomore Senator Ani Siva expressed support for Senator Tinker’s statement and offered updates on two initiatives that he is heading. Senator Siva invited any interested senators to join a meeting with Laura Ramsey, director of Student Accessibility Services (SAS), on Oct. 20 to discuss collaboration efforts and a meeting on Oct. 24 to discuss water bottle stations in dorm buildings. The latter meeting will be with Ernesto Gonzalez, associate director of facilities services; Bret Biance, director of residential life and Jim Baker, senior director of facilities services.

Sophomore Senator Ella Charbonnet asked Chief of Staff Emily King and Senator Tinker to fill out the demographic information survey. Senator Tinker stated that he had, and President Nguyen stated that Chief of Staff King had as well.

Advisor Thompson asked if any senators would be interested in volunteering with the TU Voter Engagement Task Force from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Election Day (Nov. 8) to help guide students who were planning to walk to the polls. President Nguyen stated that he and junior Senator Danae Barkocy volunteered as guides during the 2020 election and had fun.

President Nguyen expressed surprise when no other items were raised during climate check, stating, “no wonder the weather is cold,” and reminded the senators that concerns can always be raised through SGA’s what to fix/fund (WTF) survey.

Q&A with Sheryl Tynes, Megan Mustain and Jennifer Henderson:

Sheryl Tynes, vice president for student life; Megan Mustain, provost and vice president for academic affairs and Jennifer Henderson, associate vice president for academic affairs: student success opened the Q&A by introducing themselves, explaining their roles on campus and how their individual positions come together to work towards improving student life and academic experiences on campus. Mustain explained that academic affairs intersects with every part of student life: including facilities, sustainability and textbook costs. Tynes took a moment in her introduction to shout out Advisor Thompson, stating she reads about the advice given by Advisors Thompson and Demi Brown to the senators in the Trinitonian every week, and encouraged the senators to appreciate their advisors. In response, Advisor Thompson held up her chocolates and stated that “clearly they do.”

Senator Siva began the Q&A by asking the panel how they could go about creating a support system for Resident Assistants (RA) that both acknowledges a RA’s heavy workload and accommodates a professor’s academic freedom.

Mustain began by acknowledging that she did not have a solution and would likely be limited by her frame of reference were she to come up with one. Mustain explained that a good place to start would be to ask the institutional research office to look at data from RAs for the last five to 10 years and see if their jobs have an impact on academics. Mustain stated that even if the data did not show any negative effects on academics, it does not necessarily mean that RAs aren’t suffering; it is important to listen to anecdotal evidence and personal experiences to find a way to find a way to move forward. Tynes contributed, stating that she hoped RAs felt comfortable reaching out to faculty and professors to ask for flexibility and support. Tynes also said that both she and Mustain have reached out to faculty in the past to ask faculty to give flexibility and grace to RAs. Henderson suggested setting up conversations between professors and students or SGA, as hearing from students themselves can have more of an impact than hearing from faculty. Mustain concluded that they want to create an environment in which students can raise their hands and ask for help, but also make it so that students are automatically supported and don’t need to ask for help.

Senior Senator Ameer Mustafa, raised a concern about the dynamic between RAs and Residential Life Coordinators (RLC) based on his personal experience as a former RA. Senator Mustafa noticed that when issues are brought to RLCs, they would either take over the situation and leave the RA in the dark or tell them not to worry about it and not listen to the RAs ideas. Senator Mustafa asked if there were any plans to fix this dynamic.

Tynes invited Senator Mustafa to talk more on the subject after SGA. Tynes also explained that during the pandemic Residential Life staff had a 100% turnover rate and that Rachel Boaz Toppel, assistant director for residential education, is the only one person to have been there for two years. Tynes apologized for Senator Mustafa’s experience and stated that she isn’t making excuses; however, she wanted to emphasize the staff are young professionals who are still learning. Advisor Thompson suggested that President Nguyen connect the details about RAs previously discussed at past meetings to the points that Tynes raised.

Senator Phillips asked each guest to share a project that they are working on that they think the student body would be interested in.

Mustain stated she was excited about the current search of 22 tenure-track hires. Mustain explained how they would be using this opportunity to implement Trinity’s first-ever cluster hire – a hiring strategy in which separate departments will search for candidates who are not only experts in their field, but also have a research interest associated with the cluster. This strategy ensures that new professors are hired along with eight other hires who have a shared research interest from different departments. Candidates are applying to Trinity specifically because of this hiring method. The not-so-secret motive of implementing this strategy to diversify faculty within departments, by bringing underrepresented faculty members in with a community. After finishing her explanation, Mustain challenged the other guests to “top that”

Henderson detailed a project she is working on with Advisor Thompson to create a pass/fail credit class called “First-year Life Lab.” This class would be taken during a student’s first semester and give students information about life on-campus, community-building, identity exploration and study skills. Advisor Thompson added that these classes would most likely consist of the same cohorts as FYE and asked for SGA feedback on the proposed class.

Senator Siva raised concerns about course curricula; specifically, that Chinese language courses are structured with the assumption that students studied Chinese in high school and that there’s a lack of communication from Chinese professors on student expectations —–- and that the computer science department curriculum is focused on SCALA, a specific coding language that isn’t relevant to modern coding. Senator Siva asked how they should go about fixing these issues.?

Mustain advised students to talk to the department chairs, stating that department chairs are interested in student opinions. Mustain recommended that students who are uncomfortable approaching the department chair or feel like they are not being heard, should talk to Henderson, who will then reach out to the department chair.

Tynes closed out the Q&A by encouraging the senate to continue the discussion surrounding open educational resources (OER) which SGA has been working on for 10 years and to pass the baton onto younger students to ensure that initiatives don’t get dropped as people graduate. Tynes stated that they are working in small increments to get processors access to more affordable materials and textbooks. Tynes said she knows students worry about the cost of higher education and they are looking into ways to make things as accessible and free as possible for students.

Officer Reports:

President Nguyen reminded the senators that those who RSVP’d for the alumni donor breakfast should have received information about the location and time, and that it would be appreciated for senators to show up to the Alumni Weekend tailgate after.

President Nguyen also shared that he had received confirmation from Greek Council and Trinity University Student Ambassadors about collaborating for the Trinity tailgate on Nov. 12.

President Nguyen updated the senate on the Apple project, which is still in its exploratory phase, and stated he would be sending out a digital tech survey as a Qualtrics form. He also stated he was interested in asking the Trinitonian for assistance in this project, but did not elaborate further.

In addition to the tech survey, President Nguyen will be sending out a survey to gauge student interest in making Plan B more accessible on campus by integrating it with an initiative by Marcy Youngdahl, director of integrated counseling & health services, to install vending machines for pharmaceuticals on campus. Youngdahl is currently doing research for the project, is engaged with Bruce Bravo, senior director of conferences and auxiliary services and needs help connecting with students who are interested in this initiative. President Nguyen stated he would be including TU Pro-Choice in this initiative, since it was initially their idea. Advisor Thompson suggested that President Nguyen also include senior Meg McDonald, president of TU Pro-Choice, who initially reached out to SGA.

Vice President Ahmadi updated the senate on the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) stoles, stating that they were looking into cords for winter commencement and stoles for spring commencement.

Legislative Relations Chair (LRC) Dario Leal announced that he will be starting a mentorship project and is looking for students to help out with the initiative. Treasurer Caterina Mora Adrover, first-year Senator Sameed Aijaz, senior Senator Elizabeth McNeely and Senator Siva expressed interest.

LRC Leal also recently met with State Senator José Menéndez and reported to the senate that the district would love to come and talk to SGA in order to get their input and hear any plans or projects.

Communications Chair Caleb Aguiar reminded senators to sign up to do an Instagram takeover.