By Cassandra Sottile
Elm Staff Writer
Washington College’s Student Government Association made changes to their constitution and bylaws, in a referendum on Friday, April 28. According to Parliamentarian Ashlyn Gardner, “The constitution and bylaws were amended to improve the overall coherence and clarity of the documents, with amendments primarily consisting of grammatical, usage, and technical fixes as well as transitioning fully out of using gendered pronouns.”
There were significant changes to the constitution. For example, in Section 2, the number of senate representatives from each class is now prescribed by the minimum amount given in the bylaws, as opposed to the number of residents in a dormitory building. The deadline for senator petitions was also changed to no later than the third Monday of the fall semester.
Guidelines for the election of the speaker of the senate were laid out in the amendments to the constitution. According to Section 8: “The speaker shall be elected the week before spring break; each senator, excluding the nominees, shall vote by secret ballot for one of the nominees, and the speaker shall serve in their position either until the next scheduled speaker election, impeachment, or voluntarily vacating office.” Should the office of the speaker become vacant, the parliamentarian would call the next senate meeting to order, move for new elections, and give the gavel over to the new speaker; the parliamentarian will also serve as acting speaker in the temporary absence of a speaker.
The parliamentary authority of the senate, derived from the 11th edition of the book “Robert’s Rules of Order,” has been updated.
The executive power of the SGA is now vested in the executive board, which consists of the president, vice president, the director of communications and office management, and the secretaries of all departments, with the president serving as the chair of the executive board. Elections for the president and vice president will now be held one week before spring break, and they will take office at the second senate meeting after spring break.
Gardner mentioned the omission of gendered pronouns as a common amendment to the constitution. For example, in Section 4 of the executive powers clause, rather than saying “The president shall be the chief executive officer of the SGA with the vice president serving as his/her principal assistant,” the constitution now reads “The vice president will serve as their principal assistant.”
Under Article III, Judicial Powers, the number of members, operations, and procedures of the Honor Board is no longer prescribed by the SGA, but only by the student handbook and faculty authorities. In addition, the chair of the Honor Board will be elected by a majority vote of the sitting Review Board rather than being selected.
Guidelines for what happens should the Honor Board vacate their office were also laid out under Section 3: “If the Honor Board chair vacates their office, the remaining members of the Review Board appoint a successor by a majority vote. If the Review Board vote is a tie after five ballots, the vote shall be put to the senate with the candidate receiving the most votes assuming the office immediately.”
Appointments of secretaries and the director of communications and office management must be filled with a vote by the Review Board.
Only one section was dedicated to the financial controller [Section 5 of Article II Executive Powers]: “The financial controller shall be appointed by the previous Review Board and serves as the principle executor of the student activities fee and shall have the power to distribute funds as the senate prescribes. The financial controller shall also advise the senate on all actions concerning SGA funds and work to maintain the health of the SGA’s monetary position through advocating fundraising and responsible spending.” The guidelines for the financial controller are now Sections 5, 6, and 7 under Article IV, Review Powers.
Guidelines for the selection of the financial controller by majority vote of the sitting Review Board were also laid out:
“If the financial controller vacates their office, the remaining members of the Review Board appoint a successor by a majority vote. If the Review Board vote is a tie after 5 ballots, the vote shall be put to the senate with the candidate receiving the most votes assuming the office immediately.”
Class presidents are no longer responsible for all class funds, but rather advise the class treasurers, who are ultimately responsible for class funds.
The last changes to the constitution concern impeachment proceedings. If an officer is impeached, they now have a hearing with the senate serving as a jury in the manner as prescribed by the bylaws. An officer found in violation is able to appeal to the Review Board on the grounds of unfair or improper trial procedures; the Review Board needs a two-fifths vote to accept the appeal, and a four-fifths vote to overturn the three-fifths decision of the senate.
Amendments were also made to the bylaws. The speaker of the senate now serves on the organization committee and holds no vote as opposed to the vice president holding no vote in the committee. On the budget committee, all SGA sponsored organizations seeking additional funding now apply to the financial controller.
On the environmental committee, the secretary of the environment now serves with three senators to oversee the spending of funds allocated to the environment budget, where this was previously done only by the three senator minimum.
Voting in SGA elections will no longer take place in the Casey Academic Center, but rather in Hodson Dining Hall. Should a candidate put up campaign paraphernalia within 50 feet of the polling area on election day and the material is not removed, the candidate may be disqualified by a majority vote of the Review Board. They also cannot actively campaign in person within those boundaries.
Under Article V Honors and Awards, instead of including the procedures the Review Board follows for recipient selection and prize under every section award: “The Review Board, in deciding a recipient, shall weigh a candidate’s proven ability to conceive, organize, and execute academic and extracurricular activities that have benefited the entire WC community. A certificate shall be given to the winner, as well as any rewards, cash or gift, which shall be decided by the Review Board and the Office of the Registrar. If there is a strong consensus, two recipients shall be chosen.” These changes are now listed at the end of Article V Awards.
Under Article VI Classification of a Recognized Organization, “All undergraduate students at WC shall retain the right to apply for SGA recognition, sponsorship, and protection in the form of a special interest group or a campus club by the terms specified in Article VI of these by-laws.”
Criteria for an active club under Article VII Campus Club Deactivation was made more explicit in Section 1.
“Active clubs must have an employed faculty or staff advisor on campus, hold a meeting at least once every two weeks [excluding academic honor societies], must hand in attendance sheets with all members’ signatures every semester to the organizations committee for proof of membership, have an active officer team, sponsor at least one all-campus activity on campus per semester [again does not apply to academic honor societies], have a minimum of ten active members every semester, and file a consistent spending report to the financial controller at the end of every semester. Should the campus club have a negative balance with the Business Office, then the club must have a plan and put forth visible effort toward recovery.”
“With an updated constitution and bylaws, the executive board, the senate and the student body have a much clearer understanding of where responsibility lies,” SGA President Melat Kiros said. “The purpose behind the changes made is symbolic of our continued efforts to promote transparency and accountability within the SGA.”
SGA Vice President Brandon Gross echoed Kiros’s statement, “One of the points that I wanted to personally address in my platform of becoming vice president of the SGA is to create accountability for the executive board and the senate.”
Gardner, who was responsible for the changes to the constitution and bylaws, said, “Changes have been made within the last five years, for example the transition from dorm-based ‘senatorship’ to class-based. These changes have been brought together and fully integrated into the document to improve the overall flow.”