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ACESS staff express frustration with SGA, ACE chair and events coordination

As of March 1, the completed SGA all-campus events calendar for spring 2019 has not been released to the College community. The calendar is supposed to mark Harris, Gardner and film events open to students and sponsored by Sudent Governement Association for the semester.

On Feb. 13, a tentative schedule was emailed out to students by the All Campus Events Chair Selah Mystic ’19. However, of the 17 Harris and Gardner events listed, 12 were listed as “TBD [host needed],” an unusual number of blank spots for this late into the semester. Without delineated hosts or themes, it is unclear whether events will be occurring, often until shortly beforehand. The lack of transparency and communication from SGA to the student body regarding the events calendar has resulted in uncertainty, not just for students attempting to plan their weekends, but for All Campus Events Student Safety (ACESS) workers that rely upon working at these events as a source of income.

Assembling the events calendar is the job of the ACE chair in collaboration with student hosts, the SGA cabinet and Michael Sims, the department head of student activities and the director of campus center operations. In the past, the job of ACE chair was shared by two students, however SGA budget cuts led to the collapse of the role into a single position, currently held by Mystic. The ACE chair works alongside the ACESS co-directors, currently Dajon Coleman and Gabby DeRoche, both ’19, to discuss scheduled events and what kind of student security ACESS will need to staff.

For Coleman, the uncertainty of the events calendar has created much frustration amongst ACESS workers. Beyond the delay in the release of the calendar, Coleman also said the large decrease in the number of ACE events itself preventing ACESS from being able to fully utilize their staff of 40 students.

Coming into this school year, the ACESS directors increased their staff in order to avoid issues having enough students to staff the anticipated number of all campus events. They based their expectations for the events calendar on past years, where there were often two ACESS-staffed events per weekend.

ACESS workers are required in their roles to work one shift every month. Yet due to events shortages, this has been difficult for many of the 40 employees to maneuver. “It’s kind of impossible to schedule all that correctly and give everybody the amount of hours that the need,” said ACESS worker and staff chief Chavely Calleja ’21. Calleja herself has still been able to work her mandated one shift a month, but notes hearing complaints from many of the ACESS staff she works with, including some students who haven’t been scheduled in three weeks.

Similarly, Coleman said the lack of events and therefore lack of shifts has lead to ACESS not being able to meet the commitments they made regarding shifts to students in the hiring process; “when we were promoting, we were like, ‘Yeah, you’re going to get at least two shifts a month,’ now it’s like you get one a month maybe.”

Calleja noted that the ACESS staff is also made up largely of minority students already facing burdensome structural inadequacies at the hands of the institution. She stated many ACESS employees rely upon their security positions for work study, while others need the shifts to finance things like trips home for the upcoming spring break. While the ACESS staff is frustrated and invested in the issue of getting events on the calendar, there is not much they can do.

“ACESS isn’t in charge of putting on events, they’re just in charge of covering events that need security for students, so we kind of depend on the ACE chair to put on events so we can be employed. It’s kind of sad, because we don’t really necessarily have that much control over it. We can protest as much as we want, but if nothing is being done then we just don’t have jobs for the weekend,” Calleja said. “There are weeks where we just don’t have events, and that’s not ok.”

In addition to the issues providing ACESS staff with shifts, Coleman also spoke on the impact more broadly on the safety of the student body, as he believes there are now more off-campus parties, which can promote more unsafe behavior without the trained staff there to help if needed.

According to a completed copy of the SGA calendar that Mystic sent in an email to The S&B, there are 10 Harris and Gardner events scheduled for the semester, with Carnival Harris on April 6 being the last. At the time of the interview, Mystic said the email would be sent to students “soon,” but the all-campus email has not yet been sent.

For Mystic, a large part of the problem in both assembling the calendar and sponsoring all campus events has been restrictions placed upon SGA from administration, specifically from Sims. According to Mystic, Sims informed her that more than one event cannot occur in the same space on the same day. Therefore, if there is a cultural event or concert in a space earlier in the evening, ACE cannot host a Harris or Gardner event that evening. Mystic claims that due to the enforcement of these spacing restrictions, “ACE has had half of the events that it would normally have cut off.” Sims could not be reached for comment.

Mystic also said that an issue has occurred in attempting to host events the way that the student hosts would like them to be hosted, such as being able to book initially requested times and spaces. She also noted that while there may not be Harris events happening after April 6, there will still be other events occurring such as Drag Show, Spring Waltz and the Tithead film festival.

On the shrinking of the position from two people to one, Mystic does not believe the role is too much for one person to handle. She served in one of the ACE co-chair positions both semesters last year, and said she“definitely was prepared to get into the position nicely.”

SGA President Myles Becker ’19 has presided over the shift in the ACE chair from two people to one, and noted that “I think perhaps we might have overlooked the transition period of going from two to one, and even through this process I realized how much Selah does in ways that I don’t think I understood before.” Part of the reason for the position cut was the 60,000 dollar budget cut that SGA faces next year in order to finance the Associate Director of Student Activities position the College announced for the 2019-2020 school year.

Becker said that moving forward, SGA is considering tiering the ACE chair position to alleviate some of the “breadth” of the position. Both Mystic and Becker emphasized the amount of work that the ACE chair does behind the scenes that can lead to students being frustrated without understanding why things are taking time to be coordinated.

SGA is considering placing the film portion of the role under the auspice of a student at large, but keep the ACE Chair one central role. Mystic said that this tiering and dividing is a good idea moving forward because “there’s only so much work that one person could do.”

Lana Katai ’21 has experienced frustration with the ACE chair in both her position as an ACESS employee and as a student attempting to host an event. When she and a group of friends attempted to reach out to Mystic to host an event, they were initially told that they couldn’t host on that day, but their emails requesting other times went unanswered. Days later, they were told by Mystic that all the available hosting slots had been filled, despite them having responded to her initial email within “five minutes.”

“In my experiences, my emails haven’t necessarily been responded to in a timely manner,” Katai said. “That made it kind of hard to want to host an event, which is something that any student here can do and I feel like that should be a relatively easy process.”

Katai said the lack of transparency and coordination on the part of the ACE chair and SGA has been disheartening and affected many areas of the student body.

“People need to know about sub free events, people need to know about food events, people in ACESS need to work all-campus events.”

This weekend, the CBS showcase scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday was postponed due to “scheduling conflicts.” Katai said she believes that this is again due to the ACE chair not fulfilling their duty.

“As a Black student here, we have so few events that are just for us to have, like as CBS, as just Black people gathering together, and to have one event that is really central and important to the community just fall through because of scheduling events, that’s just really frustrating, that’s disappointing.”

For Katai, Coleman and Calleja, these issues have infringed on the very nature of all-campus events. The lack of communication and transparency has made it impossible for students to properly use the resources that SGA and ACE hold.

On Feb. 28, Amari Brooks ’20 began distributing a petition for the replacement of Mystic as the ACE chair. In accordance with the SGA Constitution, Article three section B subsection eight, a petition signed by 200 students for the removal of a cabinet member will go before the Student Senate to vote on for approval. Two-thirds approval is required to remove the cabinet member.

The petition has been converted into the form of a Google Form, and provides a space for students to express their personal concerns with the ACE chair. Student concerns include the lack of timely response from the ACE chair regarding events scheduling, inaccessibility, changing of event dates without explanation and the ACE chair skipping meetings and office hours.

On the issue, Becker said, “SGA is aware of the concerns of students and is actively working to create a stronger support infrastructure so as to ensure that student all campus events in the future are able to schedule in a timely fashion.”

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