CC, Goodrich committee debate the future of student governance

Members of College Council and the Goodrich committee met Sunday evening to discuss the interaction between the two groups in Goodrich governance and to evaluate a Goodrich Bylaw/Mutual Arrangement proposal, which defines this relationship. Conflict centered around the right of College Council to review decisions of the Goodrich committee.

In the current proposal, drafted by Ryan Mayhew ’01, College Council can veto a decision made by the Goodrich Committee only with a four-fifths vote of College Council. Co-President Bert Leatherman ’00 objected that this clause would unfairly privilege Goodrich over other college organizations and unnecessarily prevent action by Council, which might not be in the best interest of the student body. College Council needs a two-thirds majority to veto the decisions of other organizations.

Goodrich Coffee Bar Manager Sargeant Donovan-Smith ’99 argued that the four-fifths majority clause was needed to preserve the committee’s autonomy, anticipating debates over the current absence of alcohol in Goodrich and the locking of the resource room.

“College Council will never be responsible to the employees or the space in the way the committee is,” said Donovan-Smith.

The group made minor changes to the proposal, but will not decide what vote will be needed to overturn a Goodrich Committee decision until the Goodrich Committee has met to discuss the issue. The proposal will be discussed at next week’s College Council meeting. In order to become effective, the proposal must be approved by a four-fifths majority of College Council and a four-fifths majority of the voting members of the Goodrich Committee.

Mayhew drafted The Goodrich Bylaw/Mutual Agreement Proposal as a starting point for discussion. The introduction states the intent of the proposal “to create ties between College Council and the Goodrich Committee.”

The pivotal debate of the evening concerned this relationship, as addressed in the final section of the document. Currently, the College Council may, by a simple majority vote, require the Goodrich Committee to reconsider a decision. The committee must meet prior to the next College council meeting to take the Council’s objections into account, and vote to affirm or reject their original decision. The committee chair must report the decision at the next council meeting. At that meeting, the council may vote to veto an affirmed decision of the committee by a four-fifths vote.

Todd Rogers ’01, At-Large Representative for the class of 2001, suggested that the process is too hasty. He suggested that tabling the issue for a week after discussion of the Goodrich committee’s policy arises in council would promote better informed voting. This way, the Goodrich Committee could present their views at the next week’s meeting, before College Council decides to ask them to review their decision. Some present expressed concern at the lengthening of the process, but all ultimately agreed that adding an extra week would make voters more responsible and allow CC representatives time to consult their constituents.

While Donovan-Smith felt strongly that a four-fifths vote for veto was needed to preserve the autonomy of the committee, Leatherman and others wanted to ensure that there were checks against the authority of the committee, and that the student-body’s voice on issues concerning Goodrich could be effectively represented through council.

Carrie Ryan ’00 suggested that the issues most likely to be brought up by Council were allowing alcohol into Goodrich and leaving the resource room unlocked. These issues, noted Ryan, would have an easy majority vote of the council, since council members and their constituents are unlikely to understand the reasons for keeping Goodrich dry and locking the resource room.

Donovan-Smith spoke from the perspective of a manager, insisting that College Council members should not have the authority to decide such issues unless there was a super-majority (as in a four-fifths vote), since the impact of a change like allowing alcohol into Goodrich would influence Goodrich managers and employees who would have to clean up the mess the next morning.

“We shouldn’t assume that College Council will make the right decision,” said Donovan-Smith.

“If the Goodrich Committee has made a decision, it should be hard to change,” agreed College Council At-Large Representative Heather Matthews ’02. “It will be a socially responsible decision.”

Leatherman protested that demanding a four-fifths majority for the veto of Goodrich policy privileges it over other student organizations, whose policies Council can veto with a two-thirds vote. “I don’t think it is in the best interests of the students,” he said, asking whether the managers were considering what is best for the campus or what is best for themselves.

Leatherman concluded the debate by declaring that this meeting was not an appropriate place to vote on this issue, and left to the Goodrich Committee the task of articulating and unifying their viewpoint, to be presented to College Council at a later date.

The Proposal

After introducing its purpose, the proposal goes on to outline the composition of the Goodrich Committee and the Goodrich Administrative Group.

The Goodrich Committee is composed of at least twelve members, who are to elect a committee chair at the beginning of each school year. This chair must be a student who is not employed at Goodrich, which makes Goodrich managers ineligible for the position. The voting members of the committee will consist of 4 students selected by the College Council Elections Committee from nominations submitted by the student body at-large, the SAC chairperson, one student selected from the College Council At-Large Representatives, one member of Freshman Council, the College Council Co-President or Treasurer and the four Goodrich managers.

Mayhew called the College Council At-Large Representative “the committee’s link to College Council.”

There was some discussion over the ambiguity of assigning a Co-President or Treasurer to the committee. Donovan-Smith emphasized the importance of consistency of membership, and advocated the admission of a clause stating that whichever officer joined the committee would need to remain a committee member for the entire school year.

“One of the biggest problems this year with committees is that the attendance wasn’t consistent,” said Donovan-Smith. “I would prefer that there was some language [specifying] that they can’t switch mid-year.”

Leatherman and Mayhew agreed to the importance of a full-term commitment and will alter the proposal.

The committee will also include a non-voting member, the Williams College Activities Coordinator.

The proposal also creates a Goodrich Administrative Group, composed of the Goodrich Managers, a CC At-Large Representative, the CC Co-President or Treasurer, and the Williams College Activities Coordinator.

Debate arose over the power of the Goodrich Committee to review decisions for the Administrative Group. As drafted, the clause reads “The Administrative Group shall be empowered to make all decisions, which directly affect the day-to-day operation of the Goodrich Hall Student Center. All such decisions are subject to review by the Goodrich Committee.”

Donovan-Smith protested that only policy decisions should be subject to review by the Goodrich Committee, in order to protect the privacy of personnel issues.

“I would work within the framework that the Goodrich Committee establishes,” she said, “but I would not bring personnel issues to the committee.”

Mayhew brought up the possibility of complaints against the managers by Goodrich employees, suggesting that the seven person Administrative Group, in which the four managers have a majority, would be biased in addressing complaints. In that case, said Mayhew, bringing personnel issues to the committee might be appropriate.

Donovan-Smith protested vehemently that the dean’s office would be a more appropriate place to direct such complaints, expressing the concern that the committee is too public a forum for such discussions. Bringing complaints against managers to the committee could severely damage the manager’s reputation and command of respect.

“That’s another 15 people you go to class with every day,” she explained.

Leatherman agreed that it is unnecessary to monitor managerial complaints through the Goodrich Committee.

“There’s already a check because we hire and fire managers,” he said.

A fourth section of the proposal enumerates the duties of the Goodrich Committee, which include frequent meetings, project management, gathering student body input, and reporting monthly to the College Council.

Leatherman wondered whether it was necessary to have a 10-minute discussion of Goodrich built into College Council’s already busy monthly agenda. Matthews and others insisted that Goodrich was not the thing to cut from the agenda. Leatherman conceded.

A fifth section enumerates the powers of the Goodrich Committee, stating that those powers reserved to the committee are not liable to review to College Council.

These powers include hiring and firing, determining salaries and Goodrich Coffee Bar policies and pricing. These powers are primarily financial, and are reserved to the committee because the committee has a responsibility to keep the coffee bar solvent regardless of student demand.

This section is followed by a statement of the ultimate authority of the dean on any question related to Goodrich. There were several objections to the inclusion of this clause, the most basic being that the ultimate power of the dean is implied, and need not be included in the document.

Leatherman expressed concern that the clause would give undue power to the Activities Coordinator, who is hired by the Dean’s office. “I’d hate for it to be implied by this clause that the Activities Coordinator is the boss,” he said.

Mayhew worried that the clause would imply that complaints or policy disagreements would be trafficked to the dean’s office after being addressed by Council, and pointed out that although the dean’s office has ultimate authority over College Council, the College Council constitution contains no such clause.

Donovan-Smith argued for the inclusion of the clause, saying that “keeping Goodrich in student control depends on a good relationship with the dean’s office.”

The phrase will most likely be revised, but included, in the final draft.

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