CC bylaws should be clarified, observed

The College Council seeks, by its allocation process to encourage the active expression and exchange of the widest range of ideas, beliefs, and perspectives. Therefore, the funding of the activities of expressly political organizations and expressly religious organizations will be evaluated in consideration of the following stipulations:

1. Council funds may not be used to directly contribute to political campaigns, external political organizations (not limited to political parties) or external religious organizations.

2. Council allocations may only fund group meetings of campus religious or political organizations which are open to all well publicized to the campus community.

We begin this week’s editorial with a quote from the College Council bylaws. The interpretation of this section lies at the center of the debate around Council’s refusal last week to recognize the Ephs for Bill Bradley. Anxious not to set a precedent that might lead to future abuses, and interpreting section A of the above bylaw to mean that Council could not in good conscience recognize an organization dedicated to the support and ideas of an individual political candidate (instead of a political party, for example), the Council chose to deny recognition, depriving the organization of, among other things, free DA messages (enjoyed by all CC-recognized groups) and the opportunity to seek funding. Although Council members may be applauded for their earnestness, and excused for their confusion, they must ultimately be reproached for their decision.

We have mentioned in previous editorials the inconsistent attitude CC seems to take towards its constitution and bylaws, most recently witnessed in the debate over funding for the Literary Review. In this case, Council would do well to read its own bylaws.

True, their general tenor is open to debate. The bylaws promise “active expression and exchange of the widest range of ideas, beliefs, and perspectives,” and while it seems entirely reasonable to interpret CC’s refusal to recognize Ephs for Bill Bradley as antithetical to this spirit of free expression, it is an ambiguous construct at best.

There can be no ambiguity, however, surrounding the funding issues CC cited in denying the group recognition. Many Council members expressed concerns that by paying for van fares Williams students might take to volunteer for Bradley, CC would be indirectly funding the Bradley campaign. Frankly, this misses the point and ignores CC bylaws, which stipulate only that Council funds may not be used for direct contribution. No one on the Council mentioned the threat of direct funding – because it apparently does not exist – so it is clear that the body operated not out of constitutional principle but out of a misplaced fear of political involvement.

As a matter of fact, though, in rendering its decision, the Council should have ignored not just issues of indirect funding, but issues of funding altogether. Recognition and funding are two distinct concepts, and while the former is often a step towards the latter, it is by no means binding. Simply put, the Council put the cart before the horse, worrying prematurely about potential problems with funding and, in the process, denying an ostensibly well-organized group with broad appeal the simple and important privileges it grants almost as a rubber stamp to other student groups.

We would like to point to an applicable section in the Council bylaws to support this obvious assertion, but the truth is that none exists. This affords the Council an excellent opportunity to reassert its commitment to its own constitution. Co-president of College Council Bert Leatherman has assured us that he is working on drafting amendments elucidating the essential role of recognition. We commend him for realizing the importance of better defining this gray area, and we urge the Council to adhere to its sense of constitutional propriety by recognizing Ephs for Bill Bradley when it reconsiders the issue at its nexy meeting and then – and only then – judiciously addressing the organization’s funding.