Changes Could Limit Student-Admin. Talk
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 03:01
On Sunday, Jan. 20, Student Council proposed several changes to the Student Government constitution and the Student Council bylaws — last updated 10 years ago — in order to more accurately reflect the current operations of Student Council. In the current constitution, under “Powers and Duties,” the Student Life Committee is designated to meet with senior staff and administrators, including the president of the College, to “discuss issues regarding campus life and to make suggestions regarding its improvement.” But a proposed amendment would revise or remove the section in order to better represent Student Life’s actual operation, according to Dean of Students Hank Toutain.
Toutain described this change as “creating a bit more freedom and, in fact, reflecting reality,” in that members of Student Council and Student Life have not met with administrators nearly as much as the current wording of the constitution calls for.
“I think the intention was to remove that rather prescriptive language which doesn’t change [Student Council’s] ability to meet with them; it just says you don’t have to do it once a month, or you don’t have to do it in this way or at that time and so forth,” Toutain said. Student Life Committee chair Kelsey Mazeski ’13 declined to comment on the matter.
Student Council President Faith McDuffie ’13 agreed with Toutain, and said the rewording might have to do with decreased student awareness of administrators’ schedules. “If ever [Student Council members needed] to meet with [senior staff] they would meet with us,” she said. “It could be just part of things getting busy and students not really knowing the full potential of Student Council.”
Campus Senate co-chair Monty Clark ’13 and Business and Finance Committee co-chair Sam Baker ’13 agreed that administrators are readily available. “The first thing [Toutain] did when I got this position was give me his contact information so if I need to call him at two o’clock in the morning if necessary I could,” McDuffie said. “If ever I need to meet with them to talk about a student issue, they are right there.”
Baker said that administrators are “as accessible as they need to be. I’ve never found myself in a position where I was like, ‘Man, if I could only get some more of so-and-so’s time.’”
But it seems that student officers rarely feel the need to meet with members of the administration. According to President S. Georgia Nugent, several years ago students expressed concern that they weren’t informed enough of administrative business. This prompted senior staff members to schedule regular meeting times with various student committees.
“In a few cases people took advantage of it and in most cases they didn’t,” Nugent said. “So it’s sort of hard if you reach out and say, ‘Fine, I’d be happy to talk to you,’ and then nobody shows up.”
Last September, Student Council struggled to fill vacant positions. That month’s Student Council minutes reflect the existing officers’ anxiety that business as usual could not go on.
Minutes from Sept. 2 stated that several faculty and student committees, such as the Academic Infractions Board, wanted to begin meeting but couldn’t because of empty seats. Application deadlines were extended on Sept. 9 and 16 due to lack of interest. Several academic appointments were delayed because the chair of Academic Affairs was absent from a meeting. On Sept. 16, Campus Safety, Housing and Dining and Junior Class Committees continued to express hopes of adding to their small memberships.
When new members were finally elected, McDuffie noticed they had a tendency to get information only from “what the previous guy told them,” leaving room for error in the performance of their duties. “Not a lot of people actually went back to the constitution to see what their jobs were,” McDuffie said.
In a similar vein, the Student Lectureships Committee, which previously held a voting seat on Student Council, will be made into a student organization under Student Life due to lack of sufficient interest and organization. A proposed change would merge Student and Faculty Lectureships, partially because of concern that there would not be enough interest in the coming years for it to remain afloat.
An instance in the past when not enough voting members were present to approve a budget prompted Council to consider adjusting the number of members required to hold a vote — also known as quorum. Because not enough people were present at the meeting, an emergency meeting had to be scheduled so that funds could be allocated. The bylaws were revised to make the council president able to vote in case only the required eight other members are present and there is a tie.
“Usually in these emergency situations with quorum it’s not a huge issue [under discussion],” McDuffie said. “If it was, I hope and pray that everyone is there to have a say. ... I think people may have to take the job a little bit more seriously but also there’s times where we did meet quorum or instances where ... people just got really really busy.”