College Council (CC) debated numerous issues ranging from student group funding to re-recognition of The Mad Cow at its first meeting of the year last Wednesday night. CC also recognized Students for Community and Action in the Midst of Tragedy (SCAMT).
The meeting began with introductions of the newly elected house representatives and discussion of parliamentary procedure. Co-presidents Sarah Barger ’02 and Joe Masters ’02 welcomed them and stressed the importance of students communicating with their representatives and vice versa since they view student advocacy as the main role of the CC.
Healy Thompson ’03 and Anna Swisher ’05 then asked for recognition of their group SCAMT. According to its mission statement, “SCAMT is a group that formed when people from many different groups and organizations came together to be involved in the efforts to take action, build community and offer relief in response to the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001.”
The statement also noted that the group “will not be dissolved when the direct effects of these tragedies are over,” but will remain in place in case of further tragedies.
Several CC members questioned the need to officially recognize the group. In response, Thompson said that in addition to free DA ads, the capacity to send Daily Messages and all-campus e-mails, and the opportunity to ask for CC funding, “being recognized by College Council offers cohesiveness to a group of students that have come together from many different groups and organizations. Furthermore, recognition offers a sense of legitimacy to our fundraising efforts.”
Thompson later added that “there’s something about College Council recognition that makes the group feel even more real.” CC ultimately voted 19-4-2 to recognize SCAMT.
Barger then spoke about the addition of open discussion time at the beginning of meetings during which non-CC members can bring up issues. She noted that after this time, however, debate would be strictly among CC members.
“The new guidelines seek to delineate between discussion, which includes visitors to council and CC reps, and debate, which always involves a proposal, and is limited to CC members exclusively,” Barger said.
Previously, she noted that there had been a “blurred line between representatives and visitors to the CC” due to the way meetings used to be run.
In addition, she said that CC had recommended that new issues be postponed for at least a week after discussion so that representatives can speak with their constituents before making quick decisions.
She said that “the Mad Cow incident last year highlighted the faults of the previous meeting structure” although it was not the only reason for the new arrangement.
The Mad Cow
Discussion then turned to rerecognition of the campus humor magazine The Mad Cow. Last spring, CC derecognised the group for its publication of articles that several students suggested were racially insensitive.
Craig Tamamoto ’02, CC secretary, began by presenting a motion to “revoke the decision made on May 9, 2001 to derecognize The Mad Cow.”
“[Last spring’s decision to derecognize] did not serve to address any of the aggrieved parties’ concerns,” Tamamoto said after the meeting. “In essence, it only clouded the issue of racial ignorance and misunderstanding with assertions of the violation of free speech.”
Barger echoed Tamamoto’s thoughts, saying “I’ve come to think that revoking recognition didn’t solve anything, that it only shifted the argument from diversity and respect to the [argument about] freedom of speech.” She continued, “I know that there are many people who feel that revoking our decision is the only way that we can start moving towards actual positive change, and I think I agree.”
The discussion about The Mad Cow included varying points of view. Josh Ain ’03, editor of The Mad Cow, spoke at the beginning about the unpopularity of the earlier decision, saying that “a large number of students did not feel represented in what CC decided.” He added that he felt that the decision has serious implications regarding freedom of expression at Williams.
Some discussion addressed the name of the magazine, with questions regarding a name change or the evolution of a completely new group. These ideas, however, were not completely fleshed out due to the complicated logistical changes necessary.
A central point of debate was the conflict between free speech and the maintenance of a safe environment for all students.
Masters explained that while “no CC recognized publication should live in fear of derecognition by an arbitrary Council decision … students must have some recourse if they feel personally attacked or unsafe because of another student’s (or students’) actions.” He continued on to voice the opinion of many Council members that steps need to be taken to ensure that both sides of the debate are recognized and dealt with in case something similar were to occur again.
A vote of censure against The Mad Cow was also discussed. This would be “an official mark against a group that can be cited in the future and that can be used as evidence by aggrieved students in any proceedings concerning the actions of a group,” according to Masters. The general goals of this course of action would be both to reprimand the group and to make a recommendation to the administration as to how to deal with specific students, which is not something that CC does.
After extensive discussion, CC decided to table a vote, passing a motion by Nick Kerr ’04, MinCo representative, due to concern that CC would act too quickly and without fully understanding constituents’ views.
Ain discussed his group’s views, saying, “We at The Mad Cow are disappointed that CC did not swiftly rectify the terrible decision it made last year. … Tabling the discussion for a week will give house reps a chance to speak with their houses, which can only lead to a better informed council.”
Finally, the CC created an amendment supervisory committee (ASC) whose members would be designated by an appointments committee after a self-nomination process and which would be empowered by the CC to hold a constitutional convention in order to discuss possible changes to the CC constitution. “I see the role of the ASC as helping to guide a multitude of suggestions by a variety of students into some proposal that can be placed on a ballot as CC referendum,” said Masters.
After the Finance Committee (FinCom) presented its suggested subgroup allocations, CC made changes to funding amounts to two of the eight subgroups.
Funds totalling $1,250 were shifted from the general fund to the nationals fund. Also, $250 was slashed from the activism subgroup, specifically Greensense’s budget, due to the organization’s retroactive request for money to pay for a speaker last year. A proposal to transfer $1,000 from the general fund to the spiritualism subgroup was not approved. CC also approved the waiving of the budget submission deadline in light of the Sept. 11 tragedy.
Furthermore, three organizations â€“ the real deal, Canboulay, the steel pan band, and the fencing team â€“ were placed into the publications, music and athletics and tournaments 2 subgroups, respectively.
Usually, student groups are admitted into the subgroups the spring after they have been funded for two consecutive years.
According to Jonathan Pahl ’03, CC treasurer, these three groups should have been admitted into the subgroups last spring. Instead of waiting to add the groups this spring, CC approved their inclusion this semester as a one-time exception to the bylaw.