Behind the scenes with the Upper School Council

Cardwell: Hi, I’m Alexandra Cardwell and today we’ll be discussing an Upper School Council meeting.

Cardwell: It’s safe to say we’re all familiar with the Upper School Council, better known as USC. It may be the case that you hear of them every day, whether that be announcements at assemblies or at house cup events. But what do they do behind the scenes? What goes into planning these events and announcements? Today, I am taking you inside a USC meeting to see what goes on behind the closed doors of the upper library conference room.

Cardwell: I went to USC’s November 15th meeting. The group, like other elected and selected groups, typically meets during X-period on Tuesdays. I had a glance at the council’s agenda before the meeting, so I had an idea of what was on the docket. First up, a revisit of a budget request made by the Engineering Club. Also on the agenda was an update on the USC website, a discussion on the recent mentor-mentee meeting, and updates from subcommittees of the group.

Cardwell: USC Co-President Tenzin Bawa starts off the meeting.

Bawa: So, I think the first thing on our agenda is another budget request from Engineering Club.

Cardwell: For the revisit to their budget request, one of Engineering Club’s co-presidents, senior Ben Chen, came equipped with a slideshow for round two. Chen came to USC because when he went to the science department…

Chen: They were like ‘no’.

Cardwell: According to Chen, the science department rejected the request because they prefer to use their budget for things that will represent the SPA community well outside of SPA’s walls.

Chen: So, these are the materials that we want to buy. Firstly, plywood. With inflation these days, prices are getting more and more expensive. So, it’s around 40 bucks a pop, but we might need two. So I kind of estimated 70 dollars there. Silicone, because we need silicone. Um, it’s about 10 bucks. Quick release mechanisms, um, that’s also for part of our project. And the paint sealant, like FlexSeal. And then, batteries, but the school might have that. Um, and I kind of estimated these because I’m also willing to spend a little bit out of pocket and because the prices might change as well depending on how much like, paint we need and silicone we need, so yeah.

Cardwell: These materials are going to be used for a boat that the club is building.

Cardwell: Following his request for more budgeting, Chen was asked to leave the room so the council could discuss the request and their own budget. With a budget of 1000 dollars, USC must carefully deliberate how much funding will clubs receive, as a large portion of their budget is going to the prize for the winners of the USC house cup. As treasurer, sophomore Annie Zhang updated the group on their budget

Zhang: Tenzin, I’m writing a proposal to actually get more budgeting, so like, I don’t know, it just wasn’t added to the agenda, but yeah.

Bawa: Sure.

Cardwell: Feeling more confident that more budgeting may be on the way, after a new proposal had been drafted, the group took a vote.

Bawa: Okay, so if you’re in favor of giving 100 dollars to Ben to reimburse him that amount raise your hand [inaudible laughter/talking]. Okay this passes. Wooh. Okay, can somebody get Ben?

Cardwell: Chen and the Engineering Club prevail and are successful in getting their funding.

Cardwell: Following some more discussion on budgeting, the focus shifts to the website.

Bawa: Yes, we have a website, but I need to update it with profiles. So, make sure all of you send me a picture of yourself, your pronouns, and a quote on why you are on USC and what hope to achieve, basically, so we can put it on the website. So, please send it to me as soon as you can.

Cardwell: After discussing the website, focus shifts to the last main part of the agenda, subcommittees, which include the dress code, t-shirt cannon, feminine hygiene products, and the lunch line.

Bawa: Do we have any updates from the student board liaison [on the] dress code, t shirt canon, femine hygiene products, or lunch line?

Cardwell: Senior representative Maya Sachs shares updates from the dress code subcommittee.

Sachs: Yeah, so, um, we have a few things. So first for dress code, um, we, I don’t know if we checked in, like, last time, but we had a meeting with Mr. Jaffee and that went really well. Um, he was pretty supportive of trying to revise the dress code, however, he didn’t necessary know the exact next steps. But he suggested that next we met with the faculty–there’s like a faculty committee that just talks about stuff that goes on in the school–so we met with them for probably an hour and we had a really important discussion about how teachers view the dress code and like, whether teachers want revisions or not. And it was pretty much a general consensus that teachers felt uncomfortable, like, dress coding students for showing too much skin, like, they felt like that wasn’t their role. Um, so the teachers were really supportive of the change of the dress code. So now what we’re doing is we’re working in collaboration with Action for Gender Equality (AGE) and AGE is going to send out a form to students trying to understand how students feel about the dress code just to get a ton of data so that when we bring this up to Dr. Romans and Dr. Ottley we have a ton of student data, and we’ve met with the teachers, to kind of show, like, this is something that not just USC wants, not just AGE wants, but everyone in the community wants.

Cardwell: After Sachs updates the council on one of the subcommittees she is a part of, Cerena Karmaliani updates on her subcommittee, one of much debate during student election time at SPA, the feminine hygiene products

Karmaliani: Basically, I have to still figure out who’s currently doing it, and what I’ve gotten is that they’ve restocked it [the feminine hygiene products] once and that no one’s actually like, re-done it because no one actually uses any of it [the products]. Um, and so I have to figure out how I am going to figure out how much is going to be used because if it’s not used right now, it’s pretty hard to get data on that. So I’m thinking a form, but I don’t really know how to, um, gauge interest in a form from this kind of issue. So I’m gonna try and figure that out. I’m also talking to the nurse about it because she had some suggestions. So that’s where I am at right now.

Cardwell: Following Karmaliani’s updates, talk shifted to that day’s tutorial meeting on sexual aggression at SPA.

Sachs: Yeah, so the idea is that the tutorial meeting is not like, a one and done, like, um, it’s more to start the conversation and get input from the student body, not just us on the committee. And then we’ve been doing a lot of work, we’re trying to change the reporting system to make it a lot more transparent, and [we’re] really examining the handbook seeing what policies we can change. Um, we’re trying to figure out the legal parameters, because until, like, one of these things occurs it’s kind of unclear what the school can and can’t do to support victims. But it’s more than just this tutorial, this tutorial is to get everyone’s voice heard, so that we can really include them in our committee and in those conversations.

Cardwell: After USC was done sharing updates on subcommittees, it was back to the budget,

Zhang: So basically, I just plan to meet with like, the business office about raising our budget because like, more clubs and affinity groups are actually becoming aware that like, ‘oh, we can request budgeting,’ and since COVID is kinda like, dying down and we’re getting into like, the swing of things, a lot more groups are going to be hosting more events probably, so they’ll be needing a budget, and then because of House Cup, that’s already like 500 plus dollars. And that’s literally half our budget, and then just now hearing about the t-shirt cannon, that amount might be part of that too. And that’s another part of our budget. And then Ben just came in and requested 100 dollars, so now we’re at like, a little under 400 dollars.

Cardwell: Unfortunately, with their budget, USC is likely not going to purchase the 800 dollar t-shirt canon.

(Jack) O’Brien: Um, this t-shirt canon, we’re probably not going to buy the 800 dollar one, putting that out there. There’s this nice water balloon launcher that’s, uh, 24 bucks, that might just be what we end up with, alright?

Cardwell: Tenzin concludes the meeting by looking to the future. Speaker day is on the horizon in mid-April, so planning has to start now.

Bawa: And then, next on our agenda, we have speaker day. So as an explanation, every two years USC hosts something called speaker day, um, and some day in the middle of April, we’ll get a bunch of speakers from outside of school to talk about some kind of topic. So until April, we have to figure out what our topic is, start requesting speakers, and set up the whole school to be fitted with like, different rooms and speakers and a schedule. So we have to start working on that soon, so I was just hoping to open this floor up now to discuss what ideas we might have for a topic for this year’s speaker day.

Cardwell: Maya offers a good idea for the theme of speaker day while connecting to past work USC has done so far this year.

Sachs: I think this year it might be cool to do one on like, gender, sexuality, stuff like that, and um, specifically kind of with the theme of like, trying to create change in our community and changing the culture. Um, that might be cool.

Cardwell: Overall, in their 45-minute meeting, USC accomplished a lot, from approving budget requests to discussing their future objectives. If you ever want to attend a USC meeting, they are always open to any student.

Cardwell: Once again, I’m Alexandra Cardwell and thank you for listening to this podcast. Be sure to check out other podcasts in the podcast section of the RubicOnline.

Music Credits:
“Abstract Science” by Coma Media (found on

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License