The Ad Hoc Constitution and Bylaws Committee presented a potential new structure for student government at a general meeting last Thursday, which included reducing the size of the organization by nearly half, restructuring committees and the election of executive members for the calendar year as opposed to the school. year.
One of the main points of contention at the meeting was the proposal to reduce the number of student government committees from nine to five, a move that would eliminate sustainability and equity and inclusion (E&I) committees and combine Greek life, sports affairs and student services. committees into a student life committee.
This proposal met with objections from members of the E&I and Sustainability Committees. Matt Tadesse ’24, president-elect and current E&I representative, expressed concern that without a standing committee, student government would not fully fulfill equity initiatives.
Additionally, Remy Oktay ’24, a member of the sustainability committee, said that although he was initially surprised and concerned about the possibility of eliminating his committee, after a productive conversation, the two parties reached a compromise.
Four days after the meeting, the ad hoc committee on constitution and bylaws sent the general body of student government a revised draft that reinstated the E&I and sustainability committees but retained the student life committee, bringing the total number of committees to seven.
“It was great to see that the committee, [which] had clearly put a lot of time and work into this project, was very open to change,” Oktay said.
Another aspect of the proposal suggests moving away from a structure run by standing committees to one that uses ad hoc committees, which are temporary and project-based.
Rather than individuals joining student government to be a member of a specific committee, they could regularly get involved in different projects that interest them, according to Trebor Maitin ’24, ad hoc member of the constitution and bylaws committee.
This structure is not unknown to student government. Until a constitutional change in 2015, the organization used a similar project-based approach. According to the Director of Student Engagement, Vanessa Pearson, the current Ad Hoc Constitution and Bylaws Committee took benchmarks from this previous constitution.
In addition, the proposal planned to reduce the number of student representatives in the group. From Thursday morning, the Constitution stipulates that the student government must not have more than 36 members. This year, there are 57 members including 27 seniors. The Ad Hoc Constitution and Bylaws Committee wants to cap the total number of student government members at 27 and institute equal class-year quotas.
Lia Charles ’22, vice president of student government and a member of the ad hoc committee on constitution and bylaws, explained that having too many members made the organization less effective.
“It’s easy to get lost in the weeds. You are not given a reason why you should care about student government, care about your involvement,” she said.
Ross Coleman ’22, a member of the Budget and Ad Hoc Constitution and Bylaws Committees, explained that the change in the size of the organization is, in part, a response to consistently low attendance rates at meetings of the general body.
“You’ll go to a general meeting where everyone is supposed to be there, and you’ll be lucky if half the members show up,” he said.
Coleman added that having a small group of engaged members would increase efficiency, which remains the central pillar of the committee’s proposal.
To further prioritize engagement, the committee also hopes change the timing of the election cycle to fulfill a term of a calendar year rather than an academic year.
As a result, students would be eligible to serve beginning in the spring semester of their freshman year and could not hold office in the second semester of their senior year. Seniors would be allowed to act as non-voting members in their final semester if they wished.
While the revisions have addressed some initial concerns about the proposal, members still have apprehensions. Greek Life director Hank Scheffler ’22 agreed that the proposed model would make the organization more efficient in completing projects, but felt it would result in less communication with the student body.
On Thursday morning, the general body did not vote on which parts of the proposal are approved, with each individual aspect getting a separate vote, rather than a combined decision. Any changes must then be approved by faculty and the board, which the committee hopes to do at a joint meeting on May 2.
Current student government president Flor Caceres ’22 said some members thought the deadline was too short. She doesn’t expect it to be a problem if the issue is pushed back to the fall semester and stressed the importance of reaching consensus.
Tadesse finally expressed optimism for the future of student government.
“Already, there are productive collaborative efforts underway, so I’m very confident that we’ll be able to create a really productive and positive environment for the fall ahead,” Tadesse said.
Disclaimer: Editor-in-Chief Lucie Lagodich ’22 is Director of Student Government Sustainability, and Associate Editor Trebor Maitin ’24 is a member of the Ad Hoc Constitution and Bylaws Committee. Neither contributed to the writing or editing of this article.