This is part of a series of briefs from The Argus to summarize issues discussed at the weekly General Assembly meetings of the Wesleyan Student Assembly.
For the past three weeks, the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) General Assembly meetings have focused on reviewing and implementing changes to the WSA constitution and by-laws.
The proposal to provide a stipend for work-study WSA members was transformed into a constitutional amendment in order to allow the entire student body to vote on it directly. The amendment would provide 25 percent of a WSA member’s work study as a stipend to recognize the time the average WSA member spends per week fulfilling their student government duties. The goal is to provide a modest reprieve for students who are required to work a certain number of hours each week in order to increase the diversity of the WSA.
Much of the discussion centered on when the students would receive their stipend and the sources of funding for the stipend. The funding will come from reducing the number of printed copies of The New York Times, trimming the WSA office budget, and reallocating money from the WSA special projects fund. Other concerns were raised over whether the money would serve as an effective incentive, if the stipend should be for every WSA member regardless of financial aid status, whether or not the money could be used more effectively elsewhere, and whether or not other student groups could state their case for providing stipends for their work study members. The motion passed and is on the ballot this week.
The other major issue over the past three weeks has been restructuring the WSA itself. The proposal has been put forth by incoming President Kate Cullen ’16 and Vice-President Aiden Martinez ’17 and attempts to integrate a greater proportion of the student leadership across campus into one body.
At the heart of the proposal is renaming the current WSA the WSA Senate, alongside which a WSA House will be established. The House would consist of one student from each student group, sports team, Greek house, etc. Additionally, any University student can automatically become a full member with voting rights by attending three meetings. Discussion around this proposal centered on the sustainability of a potentially large assembly, what the role of the house would be, and who would lead the meetings. This measure passed and is on the ballot.
Another significant change proposed was changing the election process for the Student Budget Committee (SBC). Cullen and Martinez proposed that SBC members would be elected directly by the student body, as opposed to the current system where students are elected to the WSA General Assembly, who subsequently elects members of the SBC. Currently, members of all WSA committees are elected by this process. They supported their proposed changes to the SBC election process by arguing that with respect to the amount of power the committee has over student groups and their funding, the students should have greater control over the selections of its members.
The counterarguments to the changes included concerns about the viability of a directly-elected SBC. WSA members noted that the SBC requires its members to be proficient in the demands of the job, and a poorly-constituted SBC could cause significant problems on campus. The potential for corruption in the elections process, corruption in the funds distribution process, and the amount of damage a dysfunctional SBC could inflict on student life at the University should the committee be directly elected were raised as main concerns. This caused this proposal to be overwhelmingly defeated and does not appear on the ballot this week.
The final major point of Cullen and Martinez’s proposal centered on the changing of the internal structure of the WSA itself to be more responsive to student demands. This includes implementing a liaison system, rather than a pre-determined committee system, to allow committee chairs more flexibility with their resources and responsiveness to students’ desires. It also carves out working-groups addressing the most critical issues on campus, which are composed of Senators and House members to ensure maximum WSA attention and integrate all students who are interested in working on the issue. The proposal passed and is on the ballot this week.