On Sunday, May 3, the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) held its annual bylaws review session to integrate constitutional review changes into next year’s assembly.
There were differing opinions on what the requirements would be for those seeking to join the WSA House of Representatives. One proposal was to allow student groups, sports teams, and Greek Houses to automatically appoint representatives, and allow any students not affiliated with them directly the option of receiving voting rights after attending three meetings. A second proposal was to only allow students to become representatives after they had attended three meetings.
Those who spoke in favor of the first proposal argued that offering automatic membership to representatives of student groups, sports teams, and Greek life sent the message that the WSA was now more open and inclusive. Those who spoke in favor of the second proposal argued that it streamlined the membership process and prevented conflict of interest from students who are appointed from two different groups, for example, a student who is appointed from their sports team as well as from their identity group. The first proposal was passed by the assembly.
Another change to the bylaws dealt with Senators who have unexcused absences from General Assembly meetings. In the past, it was at the discretion of the coordinator to start impeachment proceedings against any WSA Senator with three or more absences. However, this forced the coordinator to single out individual Senators, which resulted in zero impeachment proceedings this past year despite low attendance to General Assembly meetings. The new bylaws state that any Senator with three unexcused absences will automatically be faced with impeachment proceedings, thus removing the coordinator from the equation. This proposal passed.
The coordinator position itself was discussed and changed in the new bylaws. There were two proposals centered around the role that the position, now called the Chief of Staff, plays in WSA meetings. Currently, the Chief of Staff is the moderator of meetings, which is routinely a source of contention at the WSA. Members noted that at times previous coordinators lacked impartiality, had conflicts with the Executive Committee, and suppressed discussion.
The first proposal suggested that the Chief of Staff position should be very similar to the coordinator position, but with greater emphasis on communicating WSA discussions to the campus and assuming some logistical duties from the President. Those in favor of this proposal agreed that the Chief of Staff’s ability to question the power of the President and Vice President was valuable. The Chief of Staff would prevent the President’s views from dominating the discussion and silencing dissenting opinions. Supporters of the proposal also agreed that the Chief of Staff should be impartial and neutral during heated discussions.
The second proposal would transfer many of the moderating duties to the President and regulate the Chief of Staff to a more administrative position during WSA meetings. Those in favor of this proposal stated that the President is directly elected to the position, and thus should be the one to lead General Assembly meetings. Additionally, it was pointed out that most student governments have the President run assembly meetings. The first proposal passed.
Finally, a proposed change to the bylaws examined the composition of the Senators authorized to attend trustee board meetings. Historically the group consisted of the Executive Committee, which is the President, Vice President, and committee chairs, equaling eight members total. The proposal would take four of those seats and transform them into positions elected by the WSA each semester, instead of automatically being given to committee chairs.
Those in support of this proposal stated that it would allow more representation of the student body to the trustees, and would help get rid of the assumption held by some students that the Executive Committee is the ultimate power broker on campus.
Those against the proposal stated that continuity at the trustee level is important, and that those elected to be committee chairs (now called committee coordinators) are elected to their positions with the knowledge that they will be representing students to the trustees. Those against the proposal also stated that institutional knowledge is important in order to make an impact, and committee chairs are most informed in that area. A modified proposal was passed.
Due to the constitutional and bylaw changes, there are now only seven members on the Executive Committee (now called the Leadership Board). One Senator will be elected by the WSA to fill the eighth chair for the year. However, those authorized to attend the trustee meetings are highly encouraged to talk to students to hear what the desired changes are.
Additionally, there was a call for greater transparency to inform the student body of upcoming trustee meetings.