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Photo by Leo Brainard '26

Fall 2023: A Post-Plenary Rundown

By: Zhao Gu Gammage, Paeton Smith-Hiebert, Cade Fanning, Sofia Malaspina

On the afternoon of Sunday, November 5th, a line of students snaked from the Gardner Integrated Athletic Center (GIAC), trailing around the Alumni Field House. Students waited eagerly to begin Fall Plenary, which involved voting on three resolutions and the ratification of the alcohol policy. 

The hassle of Spring Plenary 2023, which lasted four hours and where failure to remain at quorum resulted in the first Special Plenary since 2018, loomed over returning students. Following performances from Bounce and HaverRitmo, Students’ Council announced that quorum had been reached after only 15 minutes, and, according to Students’ Council Co-President Maria Reyes Pacheco ‘24, was not lost once during the proceedings.

Emma Almo ‘25, one of the Students’ Council Co-secretaries, also stated, “We were above one thousand people the entire time, and you need nine hundred for quorum.”

Significant changes have been made to the Plenary process since last year. Since voting online in the GIAC had proven frustrating due to Wi-Fi issues, informal voting returned, with papers being raised instead. Many, including sophomore Avani Marmer, believed this switch made the voting process more efficient. 

“I know sometimes we think that the online voting, in theory, would work better, because it’s maybe more exact, but that doesn’t really take into account how slow the wifi can get.” Marmer said, “I think the paper voting was part of what helped this be so quick.” 

Additionally, two satellite rooms were created—one in Sharpless Auditorium and the other in Conference Room 203 on the GIAC’s second floor—to provide separate, more accessible spaces for students who needed them. 

The satellite rooms streamed Plenary on Zoom, with audio from the GIAC accompanied by the Plenary slideshow. Although around 100 students filled the satellite room in Sharpless Auditorium, it was strangely quiet and felt isolated from the rest of the student body. The Zoom audio was difficult to hear unless a student in the GIAC spoke directly into the microphone. Most students were quietly doing work on their laptops, while those who wished to participate in Q&A and pro/con debate typed in the Zoom chat. 

Photo by Zhao Gu Gammage ’25

Votes were counted first in the satellite rooms through informal hand-raising. Students over Zoom voted second, in an online Google Form, and those in the GIAC voted last via the raising of packets, a marked change from previous plenaries where the satellite rooms voted last. 

In preparation for this Plenary, IITS had informed Students’ Council that electronic voting would not be a plausible option for a crowd of this size. Further, with the many frustrating halts caused by the sluggishness of the Wi-Fi during voting periods in Spring Plenary, Students’ Council decided to forgo the electronic voting system altogether. 

“Given how many issues we had last Plenary with electronics, which caused us to stop so many times, we thought this year we would move to paper voting,” commented Almo.

Although Students’ Council was prepared to switch to voting on a Google Form if necessary, they never had to resort to this option.

After Students’ Council Co-Presidents Jorge Paz Reyes ’24 and Reyes Pacheco read the State of the Ford address, they opened the floor for community comments, a new section they added where any student could voice anything to the student body. Although they had allotted 10 minutes for community comments, with each contribution lasting two minutes, this section lasted a bit longer, with six students contributing, half of whom commented about the ongoing violence in Israel-Palestine.

Nearly 20 minutes later, the Co-Presidents presented the Rules of Order. Following their acceptance, Students’ Council transitioned into the presentation of resolutions. 

This Plenary’s resolutions were relatively uncontentious, with no student debating against any resolution and no amendments proposed. Except for one abstention on Resolution 1, votes in the satellite room were unanimously for each resolution.  

The first resolution, presented by the Community Outreach Multicultural Liaisons (COMLs), advocated for both pairs of COMLs to be elected in the April elections, as opposed to a pair of COMLs being elected every semester. This resolution aims to give COMLs more time to be trained. The resolution did not receive any questions, and no perspectives were offered during the pro/con debate, allowing the resolution to be passed smoothly within seven minutes. 

The second resolution, which was the first resolution since 2021 to be sponsored by Students’ Council, proposed changing the format of elections. The resolution also updated the Honor Code to reflect current changes, such as adding the new Office of Race and Ethnicity Education, the Board of Managers representatives to Students’ Council, and the Facilities Fund to the Honor Code. This resolution also passed without contention.

The last resolution, which advocated for gradual increases in the student minimum wage, garnered the most concern and engagement. The resolution, presented and sponsored by Oliver Wilson ’26, advocated for creating a task force to negotiate raises to the student minimum wage. This wage increase provoked students to ask questions, such as whether an increase in staff wages would also be considered and whether the wage increase would also increase federal work-study amounts. This resolution also spurred other students to worry if other college costs, like tuition, would increase. 

Despite these concerns, no one spoke against the resolution, and it passed as well. After the resolution passed, Election Coordinator Michael O’Connell stated that it passed unanimously.

Moving to the ratification of the alcohol policy, there was a more lively pro/con debate, with Chris Maffucci-Fitanides ’27 voicing the Plenary’s only con. His opposition, which was an alcohol-themed iteration of “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” garnered much amusement from the audience. 

As students quickly left the GIAC and satellite rooms, a waffle food truck awaited them in the South Lot. The event, which lasted a little over two hours was one of the quickest in recent years. This speed was in part due to some students in the GIAC being skipped over during the question and pro/con debate sections of certain resolutions. 

After the tumult of the last Plenary, Students’ Council Co-President Reyes was thankful that this one went smoothly. “I love that the community engaged, I love that it was participation, and that it went so smooth.”

Correction: This article originally stated that Jack Crump stated that the alcohol policy passed. Jack Crump did not say this, Michael O’Connell did. The Clerk deeply regrets the error.

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