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Students Approve Pay For Top Student Leaders at Plenary

Students' Council members counting paper ballots, collected in laundry baskets, for an amendment.
Students’ Council members counting paper ballots, collected in laundry baskets, for an amendment.

Students passed a resolution at Sunday’s Spring Plenary which would pay Honor Council co-chairs and Students’ Council presidents who qualify for federal work study for up to 10 hours a week.

Alison Marquese ’16, who proposed and presented the resolution, said it would help “decrease financial barriers to student government participation” for students who have to choose between working a campus job and serving on student government.

“For somebody who has to work a part time job to pay tuition, it’s also very difficult to fill those roles. Students who are on financial aid are underrepresented in student government, and if certain categories of students face barriers to leadership positions, our institution is not representative as a whole,” Marquese said.

Some students were concerned that only paying students who receive federal work-study and not all co-chairs and SC presidents might create inequities. Some felt the resolution did not go far enough and that the College should pay students for participating in the Customs Program.

Former HC co-chair Brian Guggenheimer, who noted that he worked two jobs and participated in Customs while a co-chair, echoed concerns that paying some students and not others would be unequal. He also felt uncertain that the resolution was targeting the right problem, or if the role of co-chair is simply “too big,” given rising caseloads.

Many students spoke in favor of the resolution, citing their own experiences or witness friends overwhelmed by the pressure of academic work and student government responsibilities.

The Dean’s Office will fund up to 10 hours a week for four students, the two HC co-chairs and two SC co-presidents.

Students Voting.
Students Voting.

Also passed Sunday was a second resolution revising Honor Council procedures, with the purpose of improving efficiency and removing time-consuming barriers to the Council completing its normal duties:

  • New language that specifies an Honor Council member’s term continues until their successor has been elected, accounting for time in-between HC elections.
  • The creation of a paid “staff support person” to do non-essential work for the Council. This individual can be a previous HC member, graduate assistant or someone appointed by the co-chairs. This position would have no set term.
  • Language stipulating members of Honor Council must provide a three-week advance notice of their resignation, allowing for elections to be held on the interim.
  • A timeline for abstract writing after trials

Many students took issue with the creation of an administrative assistant position to the Honor Council, the details of which have not been set in stone. The students presenting the resolution emphasized that while the position is unelected, the assistant would have no decision-making power and would help with tasks such as assembling juries, printing documents, shredding paper, etc.

Other students felt viewing and handling such information was reason enough to make the position an elected one.

“I really believe Honor Council has a lot of work and this resolution is an excellent step toward that. I don’t think it’s conducive to transparency,” said Maddy Durante ’16. “We need to know who is working on these trials and the kind of work they are doing…[this] seems to be turning the process to a behind-the-scenes one.”

Angelique Bradford ’14 had a problem with opening up the role to graduate assistants hired by the College.

“I hope that this resolution keeps in mind…that that might not be a job for a graduate assistant for a self-governing student body,” Bradford said.

At the start of Plenary, two students offered amendments to the Rules of Order, both of which failed.

Jonathan Laks ’14 presented a resolution asking students to close their eyes and not look around the room during voting, to maintain the privacy of students’ votes.

“In general I’m willing to go up and say whatever but I don’t think everyone feels that way,” Laks said. “And I think people tend to vote in groups…where they come with a group of 10 people or so and all vote the same way.”

Michael Rushmore ’14 proposed an amendment asking faculty, staff and administrators not to be present during Plenary to preserve it as “a safe space for students” without others present.

Rushmore’s resolution was not well received, with many students defending the value of deans and administrators listening to the debate at Plenary.

Asked where student resolutions fit into the administration’s decision making process, President Dan Weiss, who was attending his second Plenary, said “I can assure you that resolutions to the administration are taken very seriously by me and all my predecessors…No president would come here and think otherwise — that would be idiotic.”

He added that, in light of the Board’s recent decision to modify the loan policy, he felt the Board seriously considered a 2012 student resolution in support of the no-loan, need blind financial aid policy, but that the Board also has a responsibility to “the fiduciary needs of the college.”

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