In a start to its review of College Council’s (CC) constitution, the Amendment Supervisory Committee (ASC) received amendment proposals from six students and two complete revisions of the CC constitution from another student. CC established the ASC to process amendment proposals and oversee the revision process.
The deadline for the submission of amendment proposals was Wednesday, Oct. 31.
On Nov. 1, the ASC met to review all of the proposals before preparing for the next step in the process, an open “town hall” meeting for students to discuss the proposals with committee members.
“Hopefully most of the proposal authors will be there [to field questions],” said Joe Masters ’02, co-president of CC and an ex-officio member of the ASC. The meeting is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 11, from 4-5:30 p.m. in Goodrich living room.
CC, the ASC and the proposal authors will then debate the amendments at a Constitutional Convention scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 17. If necessary, the convention will be extended by one day. The convention may then send a set of amendments or an entirely new constitution to the entire student body for a referendum.
According to Masters, the names of the proposal authors are currently being withheld in order to prevent any biases from affecting the forthcoming debate over the authors’ recommendations.
Several proposals recommended the creation of a judicial body to review the actions of CC and to intervene if any of its actions were deemed unconstitutional. The composition of the group varied greatly between proposals.
“This doesn’t necessarily have to be a college ‘supreme court’ but rather perhaps an officer’s position that does not vote on Council affairs,” one author wrote.
Ironically, another author used the term “supreme court” in describing a judiciary body that would be entirely separate from CC. “[The ‘supreme court’] should be elected at the same time as the CC representatives, and it should try to be as representative and democratic as possible in its composition,” the author wrote. “It should be prestigious and have perks as to attract a good number of candidates.”
The author also recommended that the “judges” be as insulated as possible from campus politics and indicated that a training process may be necessary to adequately prepare them to rule on bylaws.
The judiciary proposals essentially agreed that the judiciary body should be outside the control of the CC but not powerful enough to dominate the council’s functions.
The author who recommended the creation of a ‘supreme court’ also addressed the CC election process. So that CC representatives elected by only a few people do not “undermine the legitimacy of CC as a whole,” the student suggested a minimum percentage of voter turnout should be required for a house or class to elect its CC representative, and there should be no minimum number of representatives in the CC.
Another proposal recommended that the constitution’s description of the Minority Coalition (MinCo) representatives to the CC be changed from “two minority students elected by minority students the previous spring” to “two students elected at large with a specific focus toward building a more welcoming and inclusive community as pertains to relations with MinCo and its subgroups.” The author cited the arbitrariness inherent in deciding who is or is not a minority student, and the discrepancy between the wording in the current constitution and the fact that the entire student body currently elects MinCo representatives.
One lengthy proposal listed several reforms for the CC’s recognition of and allocation of funding to student organizations. The author suggested that funding for a student group be allocated according to three criteria: the number of its student members, the type of service the group provides, and to what degree the group fills a unique niche in campus life.
The proposal went on to recommend that CC and all of its constituent groups be “obligated to abide by the Viewpoint Neutrality Doctrine, as specified by the Supreme Court in the case of University of Wisconsin vs. Madison.”
“The Viewpoint Neutrality Doctrine,” the author explained, “states that funding may not discriminate on the basis of the sentiment expressed in the speech of a student group. This Doctrine should apply in terms of both funding and recognition.”
The author concluded by saying that CC should abide by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and that CC should never cross its responsibilities as an advocacy body and as “the ultimate administrator of all student groups.”
Another proposal addressed the rules governing votes of no confidence in the CC. The amendment would require that any student organization that met the requirements for holding a no confidence vote be given access to “all venues. . . that are available to and employed by CC in any of its elections. . . in levels comparable to those [in] which the CC utilizes them.”
The author mentioned all-campus e-mails, advertising space on campus and JOSE (CC’s online voting system) among the resources that must be made available. However, use of these venues would be restricted to “the duration of mandatory publicity of the vote specified by the constitution.” Additionally, the amendment would hold the CC responsible for the costs associated with the no confidence vote “provided such costs are at or below the level of a comparable-size vote held by the College Council within the past year.”
In addition to the six students who turned in specific proposals, one student submitted two separate but similar revisions of the entire constitution. According to Masters, the proposals both attempt to clarify many of the ambiguities that exist under the present constitution and streamline its structure, while also making substantive changes in several areas.
Both versions would require the CC to adopt rules of order “as the first order of business each semester.” Currently, the CC attempts to adhere to Robert’s rules of order, but its observance of the rules is neither formalized nor required by the current constitution.
Both revisions of the constitution would require each incoming first-year class to read and vote to affirm or not to affirm the CC constitution. If the first-year class votes to affirm the constitution, it may then elect its CC representatives; if it votes to reject the constitution, it may propose amendments or an entirely new constitution. The entire student body would vote on any changes put forward by the first year class no later than the third week of spring semester. Whether those amendments were accepted or rejected by the student body, the first year class would elect CC representatives after the vote.
Both versions would also change the requirements for referenda to pass. Under the current system, a referendum passes if one half of the student body votes and two-thirds of those voting vote in favor of it. According to Masters, this system has created difficulties because those students who are against a particular proposal are torn between voting against it and not voting at all. Under the proposed system, a referendum would pass if one third of the entire student body and two thirds of the voters voted in favor.
The two proposed constitutions differ in the qualifications for membership in the CC. In the first proposal, each class would elect a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer, all of whom would be CC members. There would still be one representative from each housing unit and a Junior Advisor (JA) representative. Nine of the positions in the current CC would be eliminated: the four at-large representatives, the three class representatives and the two MinCo representatives. Under the second proposed constitution, the CC would consist of the presidents of all campus housing units, and the procedure for choosing the four CC officers would be left to the CC’s bylaws.
The first proposal would also make significant changes to the composition of the CC’s Elections Committee and Appointments Committee. The two committees currently have the same membership, which consists of one of the CC co-presidents, the CC secretary, the at-large representatives, the class representatives and the MinCo representatives. According to Masters, the current arrangement is “unconstitutional as it stands.”
The proposed changes would set the membership of the elections committee as “any senior officers and all senior class representatives.” Additional members could be “appointed through the appointments process” provided that they are not “personally running for or directly interested in the outcome of any election they oversee.” The appointments committee would be composed of the four CC officers and the president of each class.