At a weekly College Council (CC) meeting last night, two resolutions for the abolition of CC were discussed; voting on both resolutions has been tabled for next week. At the Oct. 29 meeting, a non-binding strawpoll ruled in favor of CC’s abolition and replacement with some form of alternative student government.
The first resolution, crafted by 2020 class representative Adly Templeton ’20, would abolish CC and replace it with a new student government of no more than 10 members. The new representative body’s purpose would be restricted to the distribution of money to student groups and the appointment of students to student-faculty committees. The resolution dictates that the “projects” component of CC would become part of the Great Ideas committee, which would be incorporated as an RSO, as would “successful programs which are unrelated to the core purpose of College Council,” such as pub night. Templeton’s resolution also recommends that proposals for the structure of the new government be generated by small groups of students who would be selected by way of self-nominations.
Templeton said her motivation in drafting the proposal stemmed from many of the issues raised at the town hall on Oct. 22. “Everyone knows that about 80 percent of College Council meetings are a joke, so nobody runs for College Council, and most of the people on College Council now aren’t there because they won an election but because they were the only people that wanted to run,” she said. “But College Council is still in charge of a massive pile of money, which it currently distributes in a poorly designed and very biased process, and the people managing this are one step above unelected.”
She said she hopes to cut CC down to its core functions so that members can focus on making changes to the funding system. “If we remove the fluff that only serves to pad resumes and make council members feel important,” Templeton said, “then we can hold competitive elections and elect the people who will start to fix the funding process.”
Templeton pointed out that reaching a consensus on what a replacement to CC should look like is far from easy. “College Council does have a bias toward indecision, partially because of the dynamic of the meetings and partially because the room is so big,” she said. “The problem is that there are a lot of details to work out. That’s why I wrote this resolution: You had a bunch of people raising their hand and saying they wanted to abolish College Council and no movement towards putting that into effect.”
2021 class representative Shreyam Misra ’21 said he put forward the motion to table Templeton’s resolution so that CC members would have a chance to give feedback on it or draft their own variations. “My motive to table the bill was to give Council members an opportunity to work together to refine the resolution or propose their own,” he said, calling Templeton’s resolution “a rushed attempt at solving a complex problem.”
Misra took issue with Templeton’s proposal to reduce the size of CC for concerns relating to diversity that were also raised at the town hall. “Dramatically slashing the number of council members directly conflicts with the concerns of institutional racism raised at the town hall: By making College Council even more exclusive/harder to get into, we are further alienating students who already feel disenfranchised,” he said. “We’re making it harder for minorities to get a seat at the table, harder for students who are not part of large groups/sports teams on campus to have a say, and harder for students with limited previous Council/leadership experience to try and drive change on campus.”
Vice President for Student Affairs Benton Leary ’20 stressed the importance of ensuring that CC is accessible to students of marginalized identities. “The burden of changing things is unfortunately levied on those most negatively affected by the system,” he said. “The bureaucracy that comes with being an elected person is not worth it for people who want to get stuff done.”
Misra drafted his own resolution, basing it in large part on Templeton’s but with several key differences. Misra’s puts special weight on the “projects” component of CC, suggests incentives for CC members, and emphasizes diversity, especially when it comes to the Financial Committee. Misra’s proposal also reduces the number of representatives by cutting the number of grade reps to three per grade except for the first-year class and preventing candidates for executive positions from running on joint tickets. Finally, it aims to increase participation on student-faculty committees by allowing students to apply on a semesterly rather than yearly basis.
Leary spoke highly of the intentions behind the two proposals. “They get at two key points,” he said. “Adly’s is that the system is not representative… any decisions that it makes are illegitimate in a way. Shreyam’s gets at the point of saying that we need representation, particularly for marginalized people… [for whom] the physical and emotional burden of being here is a significant barrier.”
While the resolutions are limited in their power to reshape CC due to the procedures surrounding amendments to CC’s constitution, Leary underlined the importance of recognizing the problems that the resolutions aim to remedy. “The concerns raised here are incredibly valid, and any new form of government that doesn’t address… these issues is going to fall prey to the same issues that the current CC does,” Leary said. “I am glad that CC is discussing these issues in such a frank, congenial and productive way, but ultimately it is going to be the student body’s input and approval that will be needed for a new form of student government.”