About the Vassar Student Association
Welcome to the Vassar Student Association (VSA), Vassar College’s student government. Founded in 1868, the VSA plays a central role in programming and policy making at all levels of the College. Every student attending Vassar is a member of the VSA. Students are represented by dozens of elected leaders working on a wide variety of activities and issues. The student government’s influence pervades all facets of the College experience, acting as a liaison between students and faculty, administrators, alumni, and trustees. It also serves as a galvanizer, a structure through which students may come together and freely express their sentiments with the rest of the campus. An understanding of the VSA structure can prove invaluable in making the most of the Vassar experience. There are three primary elements of the structure that operate in tandem to ensure representation of student voice. You can learn more about our history, and read our Governing Documents.
THE EXECUTIVE BOARD
The Executive Board is comprised of six elected students—the President, Vice President, Chair of Equity and Inclusion, Chair of Residential Affairs, Chair of Academics, Chair of Organizations, and Chair of Finance. The President is the chief executive officer of the VSA, and focuses on overall management of the student government. The Vice President manages the day-to-day work of the Student Association and is responsible for ensuring the Constitution and Bylaws are followed. The Chair of Equity and Inclusion serves as the primary liaison to the Campus Life and Diversity division, Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office, Title IX Office, and Office of Accessibility and Educational Opportunity. The Chair of Residential Affairs serves as the primary liaison to the Dean of the College division, working with all non-academic student services, and chairs the Board of Residential Affairs, which is composed of all house presidents. Students’ academic life is the responsibility of the Chair of Academics, who coordinates with the Dean of the Faculty division. The VSA’s 120 student organizations are managed by the Chair of Organizations, who works with the Campus Activities Office to schedule hundreds of events each month. Our budget of approximately $700,000 is overseen by the Chair of Finance, who works with Accounts Payable and the Finance Committee to ensure the fiscal health of the VSA. Together, these six students meet daily with administrators, faculty, trustees, and other student leaders. They serve as the link between the student body and the Senior Officers of the College, sitting on virtually all of Vassar’s most active committees. Learn more about the Executive Board, and please consider stopping by open office hours.
The Vassar Student Association Senate is the VSA’s chief legislative body. Comprised of 24 elected student representatives, Senate includes three senators elected from each class year, two College Planning Senators elected at-large, the elected chairs of the three VSA standing committees, as well as the seven members of the Executive Board. Together, these representatives discuss and decide upon a wide variety of issues affecting the student body. Most importantly, perhaps, Senate has responsibility for allocating the VSA’s budget to organizations and events. The Senate also hears reports from committees, administrators, and student leaders in order to foster broad-based discussion on changes to College policies. The VSA President chairs meetings of the Senate, and votes only in the event of a tie. These meetings are open to members of the College community, and take place each Sunday at noon in the Davison House multipurpose room. Any student is welcome to attend a meeting and raise issues during open discussion.
Beyond the Executive Board and the Senate, students elected at large sit on a wide network of committees. There are three broad types of committees with student representatives, VSA Committees, VSA Boards, and College Joint Committees.
1. The eight VSA Committees are comprised largely of Senators and College Planning Senators, and are chaired by elected Co-Chairs: The Organizations Committee (chaired by the Chair of Organizations), the Academics Committee (chaired by the Chair of Academics), the Finance Committee (chaired by the Chair of Finance), the Operations Committee (Chaired by the Vice President), the Equity and Inclusion Committee (chaired by the elected Co-Chair of Equity and Inclusion), the Programming Committee (chaired by the elected Chair of Programming), the Planning Committee (chaired by the elected Chair of Planning), and the Health and Wellness Committee (chaired by the elected Chair of Health and Wellness). Issues are usually discussed within these specialized committees before being discussed by the Senate. Most decision-making has its preliminary rounds in these committees. Students with concerns about any of these broad areas are encouraged to contact the chair.
2. The VSA Boards are large bodies composed of representatives from many different aspects of campus life and the Student Association. Their members are composed of Senators and College Planning Senators whose briefs are pertinent to the business of that committee and specially chosen representatives from relevant student groups. The Boards generally do not meet as frequently as Committees and have a broader focus that is more removed from immediate decision-making and directed more towards planning and oversight. The four VSA Boards are: the Board of Student Affairs (chaired by the elected Co-Chair of Equity and Inclusion or the Chair of Academics), the Board of Activities (chaired by the Chair of Organizations or the elected Co-Chair of Finance), the Board of Strategic Planning (chaired by the Vice President), and the Board of Residential Affairs (chaired by the Chair of Residential Affairs). Of these, only the Board of Residential Affairs, composed of all House Presidents, meets weekly and has a similar purview to the VSA Committees.
3. Joint Committees are a testament to the joint governance structure maintained by Vassar College, which ensures that all constituencies have a place in decision-making. Joint Committees are generally chaired by faculty or administrators, but include active student members who discuss and debate issues alongside full-time College employees. The topics of these committees can range from programming initiatives (like the Arlington Special Events Committee) to widespread student life issues (through groups like the Committee on College Life). Vassar’s committee structure can be difficult to navigate. Some committees have overlapping mission statements, and others do not make their missions clear. Resolving these redundancies and inefficiencies is among the highest priorities of the Executive Board, although changes involve extensive collaboration with the faculty and administration.
In the meantime, not sure where to take an issue? Contact the VP for Operations, who will be able to direct students to the appropriate committee to consider a certain concern.