Accountability in College Council: How CC can serve marginalized communities

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What does accountability look like in College Council (CC)? This Council’s failure to acknowledge the negligence of duty and the lack of professionalism in the communications of a Council member revealed to the student body the weakness of the CC code of conduct to remove unfit leaders from positions of power. According to the CC Constitution, “Council members may be removed from CC for nonattendance or misconduct as defined by the Council bylaws.” The problems that arose last semester during Council stemmed not from the fact that there is no mechanism for removing problematic members but that this mechanism is dependent on our unclear, outdated and inadequate bylaws. Although several recent bylaws have been proposed and/or passed, including a short code of conduct and an impeachment bylaw, the process of making CC a more accountable institution of power is far from over. 

Accountability should be more than removing problematic leaders. It should be built into the institutional structure of CC, in the form of new bylaws that would set up a variety of clear standards for CC members to be held to. We must ensure that the next Council is made up of members that live by values that include listening to, believing in and meeting the needs of marginalized students on campus. 

There are several concrete steps CC can take to be more accountable to the student body that it is supposed to be serving. One such way is by improving mechanisms of communication. It seems dishonest for class representatives to invoke the opinions of their constituents when there has historically been no easy way for their classmates to communicate with them. In response, we are looking to set up a Google Form, sent via weekly CC emails, so that students can submit thoughts and concerns to their representatives. For students desiring to voice their concerns directly, sending the agenda of weekly CC meetings to the entire student body would allow those with a particular stake in an issue to show up when they are being discussed. And meetings should resume livestreaming for ease of access to important discussions and decisions made during the meetings. Lastly, polling the student body on pertinent issues before their passage as well as holding larger town hall meetings with the student body on a semester basis could provide structured ways of evaluating the efficacy of CC in bringing about desired changes to the College. 

Above all, the only way to ensure that CC serves marginalized students and is held accountable for their actions is to center its actions around the voices of these students. Having been on CC or having worked closely with other CC members, we recognize the disproportionately large influence that CC members wield through their votes. Thus, it would be ideal if the demographic makeup of Council members reflected that of the larger student body so a given community’s needs can be properly represented. However, the authors of this op-ed are hesitant to imply that students ought to run to have their concerns and needs met. Students of color, LGBTQ+ students, low-income students, immigrant students and other marginalized students are preoccupied with a number of other burdens that more privileged students do not face. 

The upcoming tenure of CC is notable in its gross lack of candidates. Many students of color, and women of color in particular, who have historically been deeply involved in CC are not seeking re-election due to burnout. Although we cannot speak to their personal experiences, we can deduce that the particularly high-stress nature of this past semester’s Council contributed to their decision. But beyond that, the class of 2019 and 2020 are each missing one candidate, and class of 2021 has not a single student running. Such lack of student enthusiasm is indicative of brewing mistrust in CC by the student body as a whole. 

Therefore, it is ultimately the responsibility of all Council members – especially those who are currently unaware of the most pressing needs of the community – to acknowledge and address the needs of the students they are supposed to be representing. 

Lili Au ’22 is from Honolulu, Hawaii, Serapia Kim ’19 is a political economy major from Northridge Calif., Jesus Payan ’20 is an environmental studies major from Temple City, Calif., Kai Soto-Dessen ’22 is from Irvine, Calif, Olivia Tse ’19.5 is a psychology major from Cleveland, Ohio, and Linda Worden ’19 is a political economy major from Penticton, British Columbia, Canada.