A recent Wesleyan Student Assembly proposal that would prohibit seniors from voting in the WSA presidential and vice presidential election failed unanimously last weekend.
The proposal, introduced by the WSA’s Constitutional Review Committee, was discussed and voted on Sunday, April 19. It was intended to omit a one-line statement from the WSA constitution that allows seniors to vote in this election.
WSA coordinator and chair of the committee, Bradley Spahn ’11, supported the failed proposal.
“I think it’s important for members of the WSA to actually represent the people that vote for them and having seniors vote creates the potentiality that a senior coalition could put a candidate into office that would serve after all those seniors would have graduated,” Spahn said. “The drawback is that you could get a president or vice president in office who didn’t actually represent the student body. It would represent the old student body, not the current one.”
However, the majority of the WSA did not support the motion and chose to continue to allow seniors to vote for WSA president and vice president.
“The assembly clearly supported it [allowing seniors to vote],” said WSA president Mike Pernick ’10. “A minority opposed it, and we had a full and thoughtful discussion, had a vote, and in the end the assembly made up its mind. I think the assembly did the right thing.”
Each year, the Constitutional Review Committee convenes to review the WSA constitution and its bylaws. It was during this time, when the committee may decide to make revisions, that the proposal originated.
“At the beginning of the year, I noticed a lot of small problems with the constitution and bylaws that I wanted to make a point of changing before being done as coordinator,” said Spahn. “As Chair of the Constitutional Review Committee, I decided one of those things I wanted to change was to restrict voting for WSA president and vice president to those classes they would represent. Seniors would no longer vote.”
During the WSA meeting, the assembly began to debate the issue, considered by some to be a contentious subject. According to Spahn, a small number of WSA members felt that seniors should not be able to vote in order to ensure that the WSA represents solely those who voted for them. With seniors voting, the president and vice president would not accurately represent the current student body.
WSA vice president Saul Carlin ’09 remains convinced that the senior class can make educated decisions concerning WSA elections. He questions, however, whether seniors will consider the consequence of their vote, as they will graduate from the University before experiencing the results of their decisions.
While Pernick does not feel the debate was necessarily contentious, both Spahn and Carlin recalled the issue being controversial.
“There was a vigorous debate because we are strongly committed to hearing all points of view, and we have adopted Robert’s Rules of Order, which determine the course of our debates and protects the right of minorities to voice their opinions,” Carlin said. “In this case they voiced it strongly and it shows that the system works.”
According to Spahn, some members of the assembly initially agreed with the minority and supported the amendment; however, they were won over by a few of the opposing members of the assembly.
“I think that the fight was led by seniors now who really wanted future senior classes to be able to continue to make a mark on Wesleyan even after they graduate,” Spahn said. “I think the most persuasive argument was that seniors argued they were more informed voters so they would make better choices.”
The proposal was ultimately defeated unanimously in the assembly. According to Pernick, there was a vocal majority within the assembly that did not support the amendment. In addition, Pernick felt that the amendment itself was illogical.
“The proposal failed because it was logically inconsistent,” Pernick said. “It prohibited seniors from voting, under the guise that whoever is elected should get to vote. It was logically inconsistent. I think seniors have the most experience of what has worked at Wes and what hasn’t.”
Although Carlin was in favor of the amendment, he fully supports the assembly’s decision.
“There’s the notion that the WSA president and vice president serve all students, everyone who ever was or will be at Wesleyan,” he said. “We serve the student body as an institution and graduating seniors are as much a part of that institution as students currently here.”