College Council’s (CC) Amendment Supervisory Committee (ASC) and an ad-hoc bylaws committee will propose significant changes to CC’s constitution and bylaws, respectively. Both documents could potentially be almost completely rewritten and, if approved by CC, take effect during the spring semester.
The new constitutional proposals are the result of an effort by the ASC to integrate a variety of student-submitted ideas to the committee. The ASC received eight separate proposed changes to the constitution, and CC co-presidents Joe Masters ’02 and Sarah Barger ’02 hosted a constitutional convention before Thanksgiving recess to further discuss changes with the student body.
The ASC proposal, which the committee presented to CC on Sunday night, will be debated by CC sometime at the beginning of the spring semester. Currently, the new constitution has a number of significant changes, including guidelines for the number of CC representatives, a change in minority student representation, and a new procedure for a no-confidence vote.
The suggested constitution proposes a method for CC to firmly establish the format of CC meetings. The “rules of order” section, Masters said, will particularly affect and clear up the process for voting on a rule of order and where the resulting rule will be written. The new constitution requires that CC pass new rules of order each semester, which will familiarize representatives with procedures and will not make representatives beholden to previous rules that were established before they were elected.
The entire “Representation” section of the current constitution has been rewritten to alter the size of and representation on CC. While the old constitution calls for 35 representatives, the new proposal does not set a specific minimum number; instead, the proposal allows CC to define housing representation however it deems proper, with the caveat that “the definitions of housing units will be based upon considerations of equality of representation and proximity.”
While Masters said that he does not mind the number of representatives now on CC (35), the new plan does allow CC a certain flexibility in deciding the breakdown of house representatives as campus housing changes. However, the new constitution does maintain that housing representatives remain a majority on CC in relation to other representatives, such as at-large representatives. All told, with other changes in representation as well, CC will never have fewer than 27 members.
The more significant change in the representation section, however, eliminates two at-large campus representatives and replaces them with “two representatives elected at large with a specific focus toward minority concerns.” Masters said, “there was a certain amount of frustration [on the ASC as to how to] express the minority clause,” and that it may ultimately get changed by CC.
However, the gist of having two representatives focusing specifically on minority issues will ensure that CC maintains equitable representation of all student interests.
“The minority reps idea is [that they] would bring issues to the table,” Masters said. In addition, the new clause allows the entire student body to vote for the minority-interests candidates; the current constitution calls for “two minority students, elected by minority students,” although CC has not followed that particular clause in recent elections. As CC Secretary Craig Tamamoto ’02 pointed out, the minority representation clause is just one example of how outdated the current Constitution is.
One aspect that will be closely examined in order to determine the number of representatives is whether or not all student interests remain adequately represented on CC: “Student should read the minutes and see their view represented [regardless of whether or not it constitutes a majority opinion], or CC is too small,” Masters said.
CC will also face less stringent requirements when it seeks approval of amendments by the student body. The new constitution requires that only one third of the campus votes in an amendment proposal, a drop from the 50 percent previously required. Two-thirds of voting students must still approve the amendment for it to pass.
Another important change involves the no-confidence voting procedures and requirements. Instead of requiring that two-thirds of the campus must vote in a no-confidence procedure for it to be valid, the new constitution simply requires that a majority of the campus must affirm the no-confidence motion for CC to dissolve. In essence, the change allows for fewer students to participate in the vote, but still requires a majority of the campus for a no-confidence vote to pass.
Procedures for electing a temporary election committee to oversee the installation of a new CC remain the same.
Even as the ASC moves forward with constitutional changes, CC has formed a bylaw committee to reorganize and streamline its bylaws. While the constitution sets up CC and defines the body’s role on campus, the bylaws exist to clarify areas of the constitution that must be enumerated.
Important sections of the bylaws include descriptions of how CC’s funding structures work, the process for group recognition, and possibly standards for parliamentary procedure.
According to Jonathan Pahl ’03, CC treasurer, a leading proponent of reforming the bylaws, the current document is simply too complicated, repetitive and outdated. CC constantly modifies its bylaws to adjust for conflicts and procedural issues that arise, but there are areas where the bylaws can be cleaned up.
“There’s been an accumulation of rules and guidelines that may have served a purpose at some time, but don’t anymore,” Pahl said.
“The bylaws lack clear organization and schizophrenically cover everything from the trivial (overly detailed rules about the certain aspects of CC meetings) to the important (guidelines for group funding and recognition),” Barger said.
Pahl advertised in the Daily Advisor at the beginning of the semester, seeking additional suggestions for bylaw changes, but received none from the general student body. Thus, the responsibility rests largely with the ad hoc bylaws committee.
However, the complicated nature of the bylaws makes them largely inaccessible to the student body and presents a problem when groups seeking funding, for instance, try to understand the complexities of the rules.
The committee’s main goal is to find areas that are particularly difficult to understand and clarify, eliminate, or completely rewrite the sections.
The bylaws committee has formulated a few changes that alter CC procedures considerably. Pahl noted that there will be a comments period and CC still has to vote on the bylaw changes before any of the suggestions take effect.
Specifically, the committee would like to change CC’s recognition procedures for student groups. Currently, both the college and CC have separate recognition processes: first, a new group must receive recognition from the college, a process that requires filling out a form detailing the group’s organizers and its mission statement.
The group then applies to CC for recognition, a necessary step to receive CC funding.
Pahl would like to eliminate the CC recognition step and instead have CC recognize any group that the college did. To counter the potential for overlap groups, funding would remain at CC’s discretion. Pahl said that ? at least recently ? CC has recognized all groups that apply anyway; he does not see the reasoning behind taking up CC time with a procedure that is largely moot since groups are never rejected.
“These groups are doing worthwhile things” Pahl said. “I don’t think they need CC to tell them that.”
Masters has expressed initial support for the recognition changes, although he said he would like to see CC debate the issue before making a concrete decision. “I think it’s a very appealing idea, but it does eliminate the important connection a group makes with CC at its creation,” Masters said.
Barger, while partially concurring with Masters, noted problems that may arise as a result of CC not recognizing groups: “Recognition by CC may be largely symbolic, but it is an important symbol – one that says that the representative voice of the student body approves of the mission of a particular group. Removing CC’s right to recognize, and placing it completely under the auspices of the College, removes some of the ability for students to have a say in what groups are needed on campus.”
In addition, Barger said, the possible influx of additional groups may force CC to make hard funding decisions and potentially stretch thin an already strained CC budget.
But Pahl thinks that CC should probably be more “discriminating” in its funding; he believes CC sometimes gives groups “de facto funding,” instead of closely examining whether groups actually need the money. Sometimes, Pahl said, CC awards funds to long-established groups that may nonetheless not be following their mission or require the funds requested.
To that end, Pahl would also like to see funding decisions switched from the beginning of the academic year to the end of the previous year. The change, Pahl said, would prevent newly elected CC members from having to make important funding decisions at the beginning of their terms, when they are not yet familiar with funding rules and processes. The change would also allow groups to receive funding earlier in the year.
Another proposed change would consolidate the complicated and confusing funding section of the bylaws. “If we expect groups that we fund to follow the rules set out, then the rules have to be clear,” Pahl said.
“In large part, [the bylaw changes] are a cleanup. There’s nothing [the committee] has talked about ? at least at this point ? that would significantly change anything,” Pahl believes, while noting that recognition procedures may raise some debate.
Pahl said that in addition to making the bylaws clearer for the student body as a whole, the changes are particularly important for CC members, many of whom are confused by the rules. “CC members ask me what sections of the bylaws mean,” he said. “But it’s not my job to interpret [the bylaws].”
The bylaws changes are scheduled for debate during the second CC meeting of Winter Study.