By the people, for the people: CSG weekly update

Despite the freezing temperatures on the morning of Thursday, February 19, the Chatham Student Government (CSG) gathered for their weekly meeting, where they discussed possible changes to their constitution.

After brief updates from the CSG advisors–during which Zauyah Waite, Dean of Students, announced that Heather Black, Director of Student Affairs & Residence Life, will be taking the place of Stephanie Reynolds, Assistant Director of Student Affairs and Residence Life, as CSG advisor for the time being–updated constitutions were passed out, and the conversation got underway.

The discussion began with the proposed changes to the Undergraduate Budget Committee’s (UBC) constitution which Sam Elbaz, Vice President of Finance, talked through point by point.

The changes included a different name and a shift towards gender inclusive language, as well as changes to policy if members leave the committee and an adjustment in allocations to provide more money for travel expenses.

The UBC voted in support of these changes on Tuesday, February 17. The official vote will be on March 19.

Following Elbaz was Tahmina Tursonzadah, Class of 2017 President and chair of the Constitution Committee, who moderated the discussion of the proposed changes to the CSG constitution.

The first talking point was the proposal to enact a rule limiting each CSG member to three late arrivals, at which point they count as an absence. The CSG was largely opposed to this measure, with many feeling that it was just another policing action.

“I think there should still be some leeway for life,” Class of 2016 representative Nicole Lyons said, citing her experience as a commuter when she mentioned that, “the 7:15 a.m. meeting is very hard to get to on time.”

Likewise, Erin Smith, Vice President of Communications, pointed out that, “if you actually look at the books, [attendance] hasn’t been a red flag.”

The next proposed change was to automatically adjourn meetings when they are attended by less than two thirds of the Senate, which is the necessary number to have quorum–defined by Robert’s Rules of Order as, “such a number as must be present in order that business can be legally transacted.”

Without quorum, the Senate cannot vote on anything, leading the constitution committee to feel that holding meetings without it would be futile.

However, the Senate once again disagreed with this point, citing the fact that issues can still be discussed without quorum, and votes, both formal and procedural, can be tabled for a later meeting.

As Elbaz pointed out, “the frequency that we hold votes is very rare.  We have a lot of discussions that don’t lead to voting.”

Additionally, Jenny Schollaert, Executive Vice President, brought up the point that the constitution is a “breathing document,” saying, “do we want to set everything so much in stone that we can’t change it later?”

The last proposed change was in regards to resignation and impeachments, neither of which are currently in the constitution.

The goal of these additions was to set some guidelines, and prevent abuses of power within the CSG.

This led to discussion about an incident last year in which a student was asked to leave the CSG without any formal proceedings; however Sarah Jugovic, Executive President, clarified this point by explaining that the student in question was issued an ultimatum, and she did not comply, thereby accepting her impeachment.

There were also discussions about leaves of absence from CSG, their maximum lengths, and whether or not individuals should be able to get their positions in CSG back if they return early.

This related, for the most part, to instances of study abroad. There was some confusion surrounding medical leaves of absence until Reynolds clarified that taking medical leave of absence means that the individual is no longer an undergraduate student and that coming back to school requires the student to re-apply.

After an hour’s worth of laborious discussion, the meeting concluded with the a few words from Waite, who spoke to the fact that the CSG was getting, “bogged down with bureaucracy.”

“What you’re doing is recommending managerial matters,” she said. “I want you to understand this very, very much: a constitution for the student government should allow you to 1. govern your Senate, and 2. advocate for the student body.”

“Focus on the big picture,” she said.

This point was illustrated at the very end of the meeting, when Class of 2015 representative Eir Rovira brought up the fact that the school’s compost issues were never addressed, prompting Waite to say, “That is what I’m talking about. That’s the actual advocacy issue.”

The CSG meets every Thursday, and all meetings are open to the public.

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