New constitution on ballot

Students taking part in next week’s College Council (CC) elections will also vote on whether to update the CC constitution. Continuing the process started by their preceding CC Co-presidents Ami Parekh ’01 and Todd Rogers ’01, Joe Masters ’02 and Sarah Barger ’02 have overhauled the constitution, changing many of its articles and rewording others for clarity and precision. Major changes include the number of representatives to CC, the introduction of Rules of Order to be followed at meetings, change in the specification of minority representatives and the separation of the Appointments and Elections committees.

“Although they may not seem enormous, [they] are actually very big changes,” said Masters.

Though much of the proposed constitution was finalized during a constitutional convention last November, the proposals were based on several months of discussions. Last spring, Barger and Masters held four open forums on the structures of campus government. This was “to discuss the failures and promises of the structures that were currently in place, in accordance with the Ballot Initiative passed by the student body,” Masters explained.

This fall, CC created the Amendment Supervisory Committee (ASC), a body independent of CC to solicit and compile suggestions for constitutional change. The ASC ran the constitutional convention in November and presented a final proposal to CC in December.

“CC discussed and changed the proposals over Winter Study, and at the end of Winter Study proposed to put what you see on the ballot,” Masters said.

“The proposal is to replace the entire former constitution,” explained Masters, “even though a lot of the original language is maintained. It could be framed in terms of amendments, but I think the ASC determined there would be at least 15-20 amendments that way (including the rephrasing and reformatting).”

One of the major changes to the constitution will require the co-presidents to present the Rules of Order for procedure to CC at the beginning of each semester, to be adopted based on a simple majority vote as the first order of business each semester.

In addition, the constitution has been simplified and requires that CC be composed of 13 year-long representatives and at least 14 house representatives.

“Specifically, the number-of-reps change allows us to re-draw districts so that we can have elections for positions that ‘make sense,’” said Masters. CC hopes for higher participation in elections and for representation that is much more logical, he explained.

The constitution also proposes to change the nature of minority representation from “two minority students, elected by minority students,” as the previous constitution read, to “two representatives elected at large with a specific focus toward minority concerns,” thereby opening minority issues up to all voting students rather than minority students alone. Also, the Appointments and Elections Committees will have separate duties, allowing the elections to be supervised by an independent body, as specified in the bylaws. The Elections Committee currently has several CC members, which will not exist under the new constitution. The new constitution will also allow CC in camera sessions by a 75 percent vote of CC members in order to consider appointments.

In response to problems of abstention encountered over the past year, the constitution has changed voting requirements on amendments and dissolution of CC so that voting against a proposal is more powerful than not voting at all. Currently, abstention can influence elections greatly and annul referenda in their entirety, since 50 percent of the student body must vote in order for a referendum to be validated. The new constitution creates a system by which the majority of the student body must vote no-confidence, rather than the majority of those voting. In addition, those petitioning for CC dissolution must perform all publicity for the vote, and CC must provide the petitioners with access to CC election tools.

In addition, specific guidelines have been changed regarding qualification for positions on CC and for those holding the positions. Only one of the co-presidents will be allowed to chair each meeting, and the secretary’s explicit responsibility as Council Parliamentarian will be removed. In addition, the treasurer will be required to have served on the Financial Committee (FinCom), or have been approved as an appropriate candidate for treasurer by a two-thirds majority in council based upon the applicant’s qualifications.

CC will also be able to elect replacements for officers who resign their positions.

Unclear points in the previous constitution have been clarified in the new version. The new proposal moves elections to the second week of spring semester. Upon approval, the constitution will take effect and new bylaws and rules of order will be approved. Membership changes will not take place until spring 2003, due to the timing.