Senate Weekly Beat: Sustainability, Constitutional Changes, and Student Voices
Since the Senate meeting on Jan. 23 was the first meeting of the semester, everyone who attended the meeting and signed in is now a senator and can participate in the motions of the meeting. After this was addressed, a motion to approve the minutes took place. First, Sam Becker ’19 gave a few words regarding the addition of CMC's Sustainability Fund of $5,000 for which students can now apply. A student can be granted up to $2,000 to pursue a sustainability project. More information is available on the Roberts Environmental Center’s website.
Next, the Senate secretary was voted upon to replace Sami Malas ’19 and the possibility of a stipend for the position was tabled for another time.
Following this, Grace Lee ’17 presented a request to attend the 55th UN Commission on Social Development. It was motioned to give her part of her proposed budget with the stipulation that she would return to CMC to discuss what she learned and how it may apply to other CMC students.
The bulk of the meeting consisted of discussion regarding the constitutional changes that are in the process of enactment. A PowerPoint sent out to the entire CMC student body detailed the various proposed changes. Many changes are being made due to their insignificance in the current ASCMC as opposed to when the Constitution was first created. However, some Senate members expressed that they perceived some of the changes listed as insignificant as important.
One change that inspired discussion at the meeting was the move to take senator representation out the Elections Committee. Nicky Blumm ‘17 pointed out that the senators historically have not been as active within their place in the Elections Committee when there are no active elections. Sidd Mandava ‘17 expressed his opinion that the senators still play an important role in voicing their wishes in the Elections Committee, as they may bring to the group's attention something occurring in Senate. Haley Goodman ’17 built on Mandava’s point when she addressed the fact that incidents that may affect students on campus should not be occurring behind closed doors, and thus the inclusion of Senate members would allow for those members to represent a large number of student voices. Additional Senate members brought up the argument that these positions have allowed for and should continue to allow for underclassmen to participate in the Elections Committee.
Another heavily debated topic at the meeting was the fact that the Dorm Activities Chair is not a full officer, or someone who votes on the Executive Board. The DAC is a position that is voted for rather than appointed, and many Senate members voiced that they saw the DAC as an opportunity for student voices to be better expressed in Executive Board decisions should the DAC be added as a full officer. Given that there are currently nine full officers and that only odd numbers have been historically permitted in order to avoid ties, adding the DAC would upset this balance. However, Goodman pointed out that there is already room for a tie in the case that any odd number of full officers choose to abstain from a vote. For this reason, the odd number argument was not enough to stop an additional full officer from being added, especially one who may be able to represent the views of students better as a voted position.
In addition, a sub-discussion explored the topic of accountability. Some Senate members argued that because the full officers typically only serve one year, there is no accountability in terms of re-election by the students and therefore less need for these officers to be elected rather than appointed. Other senators objected this by arguing that there are more reasons to be accountable than simply re-election. Furthermore, some felt that if accountability is only existing through the prospect of re-election, this itself could raise concern.
The last main point of debate was over a slide containing all “Extraneous Clauses” to be removed. As it turned out, many senators did not find all of these clauses to be extraneous which sparked the rest of the night’s debates. The senators found most concern over the proposition that “legislative power of the Senate” be removed. Further discussion upon this topic concluded that most of the powers that the Senate currently enjoys would remain intact. However, the prospect of “legislative” powers is currently not being used in the Senate and are therefore irrelevant.
Those senators who contended with the removal of this clause seemed glad that many of their powers would remain, but they felt that its blatant removal needed to be dissected more closely to be sure that the Senate retained the powers it needed and that the changes were as transparent as possible. Thus, a motion was called to table the discussion until next week’s Senate, as well as the motion to start next week’s Senate early in order to fully unpack how removing the contentious clauses would impact the Senate or whomever said clause concerned.
The motion, which also called to adjourn the meeting, was passed.