Last Sunday, October 24, the student body gathered for the first in-person Plenary since Spring 2020. Reviewing just one resolution to amend the Students’ Constitution, the student body approved it and ratified the Alcohol Policy in just under 80 minutes.
The frequently embattled tradition was suspended in Fall 2020 due to the student strike and was moved online the following spring. These delays meant that this was the first traditional Plenary for over half the student body. “I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Ileana Rodriguez ’25, “but it’s cool that students are able to actively participate.” Mimi Lavin ’24 echoed this sentiment: “I’m excited to hear about all the new rules since I’ve never been to an in-person Plenary before.”
Any concerns about student turnout were quickly dispelled. With 900 students needed to reach quorum and begin proceedings, there were a promising 600 students already present at 2 pm, the official start time. As the S-Chords a cappella group and Bounce dance team performed, the necessary additional students arrived. Just 16 minutes later, quorum was reached, with around 60% of attendees in person at the Gardner Integrated Athletic Center and 40% opting to take advantage of the new virtual option on Zoom. This stands in stark contrast with previous years, when students could wait for hours to hit quorum.
Many students expressed relief and surprise at this record-breaking timing. “I was a little nervous about freshmen and sophomores not coming because of Customs being disbanded, but the community really came together,” said Lyvia Yan ’23, Students’ Council Co-Treasurer. To many upper-level students’ surprise, proceedings were off by 2:25 pm.
Plenary began with a land acknowledgment by the Community Outreach Multicultural Liaisons (COMLs) Aissatou Seck ’24, El Bartsch ’24, and Jorge Paz Reyes ’24, followed by an acknowledgment of BIPOC students who have done work on this campus, citing both the 1972 strike and 2020 strike. The COMLs also addressed the history of the Honor Code being weaponized to harm students of color.
After the COMLs finished speaking, the Students’ Council Co-Presidents Amolina Bhat ‘23 and Sam Aronson ‘22 introduced themselves and began official proceedings. They presented revised rules of order, which abbreviated pro-con debate and removed time for friendly amendments, which are now supposed to be determined prior to Plenary. After some issues with a new electronic voting system—mandated by last year’s election reform resolution—the rules of order passed unchallenged.
The only resolution, which removed outdated clauses from the Constitution and permits Students’ Council to update certain procedures without amending the Constitution, was then presented by Sam Aronson ’22 and Nick Lasinsky ’23. Although the opportunity was presented, no students came forward with any questions or to participate in the pro-con debate, so the resolution moved to a vote, where it was approved without significant opposition.
The final vote, concerning the Alcohol Policy, was met with more challenges. Several students expressed concerns about the Policy during the pro-con debate, citing what they viewed as its limited effectiveness. “The goals around the Policy are not being met right now,” said Maggie Doubman ’22. JSAAPP Co-Heads Lara Deuber ’23 and Gusty Helson ’23 addressed these concerns, stating that although JSAAPP is “working with the deans and other parties to make changes to the Policy […] it’s important to ratify it for now.”
After debate closed, however, the Alcohol Policy was easily ratified. “We appreciate the concerns people have and are working through changes for the spring,” said Helson, after ratification. Deuber added: “The people who voted against ratifying the Alcohol Policy should reach out to us with their concerns.”
Many were surprised to have completed the agenda in just an hour, after years of lengthy and tumultuous Plenaries. Caught off guard as well were Students’ Council, who had booked a post-Plenary food truck for students almost two hours after the event actually ended. “It surpassed all of our expectations,” said Bhat, as students began filing out of the GIAC. “[Sam and I] want to say thank you to everyone who showed up.”
Correction: This article originally had the incorrect date for Plenary. It took place on October 24, not October 26.