In an effort to improve its representation of the student body, the Wesleyan Student Assembly Senate passed new legislation on Sunday, Nov. 8 that will enhance students’ abilities to directly influence the legislation that make it onto each meeting’s agenda.
Resolution 4.37 will set up new protocol for students to introduce resolutions directly to the Senate. It passed by a measure of 23-0, with four votes abstaining.
Previously, students interested in introducing legislation—such as petitions that have gained popular support through signatures—had to find an elected WSA member to sponsor the bill and present it on their behalves. The resolution acknowledges this situation, amending section 5.05 of its bylaws to provide a mechanism by which these students can directly submit their proposals to the WSA.
WSA Senate member Jacob Maiman-Stadtmauer ’19 introduced the resolution as a way to provide a pathway for the often-confusing process. He feels that this will provide a measure of transparency to the WSA’s legislative processes.
“Personally, I’m really excited about this resolution because it makes the WSA more transparent and democratic,” Maiman-Stadmauer wrote in an email to The Argus. “Through crystallizing and publishing the process for the WSA responding to resolutions we’ve been able to make the Assembly that much more transparent. Additionally, through allowing the larger student body to directly propose solutions to problems or bring new problems to light through resolutions, we’ve been able to make the WSA more democratic.”
Student-introduced resolutions must meet a set of eligibility requirements in order to be considered. First, all pieces of proposed legislation must be formatted in the same way as all Senate member-introduced resolutions. Students who have trouble meeting this requirement are encouraged to meet with the Chief of Staff in order to ensure their proposal is properly written.
Current Chief of Staff John Henry Vansant ’18 elaborated on the role he will play in drafting legislation.
“As the Resolution specifies, my role as the Chief of Staff will be to facilitate this effort by assisting ‘the author/s of the proposal to change it into appropriate form,’” Vansant wrote in an email to The Argus. “Since the WSA votes on resolutions, petitions need to be translated into resolution form. The Chief of Staff’s role is then to alleviate this burden of having to format a petition by helping students out with the editing. The WSA recognizes that procedures should not inhibit student voices from being heard, so my role as Chief of Staff is to make sure that petitions will be introduced and discussed without any setbacks.”
Second, each resolution must obtain a minimum number of student signatures, determined by voter turnout and subject to change from year to year.
“[The] number of signatures required will be set equal to the number of votes that the elected Wesleyan Student Assembly member who was elected with the least number of votes garnered,” Resolution 4.37 reads.
While this process may appear overly intricate, Maiman-Stadmauer explained that this particular requirement was determined in the interest of democracy.
“This formula may seem complicated, but we felt that if a student could be given the full privileges of any senator with a given number of votes, there’s no reason that students shouldn’t be able to introduce resolutions with a number of supporters equal to that,” he wrote.
Students whose proposals meet the standards outlined by the document will also be responsible for presenting their resolutions to members of the WSA. This increased level of direct student non-member participation in the WSA legislative process was instituted with the overall goals of the WSA in mind.
“Through allowing the larger student body to directly propose solutions to problems or bring new problems to light through resolutions, we’ve been able to make the WSA more democratic,” wrote Maidman-Stadmauer. “This resolution will also make the WSA more democratic by allowing the larger student body to have a direct and formal say in the WSA through more than just the [biannual] elections. This resolution builds on the recent steps in the last year or so towards becoming more democratic, transparent, and responsive to the student body.”
WSA President Kate Cullen ’16 looks forward to seeing the positive impact this resolution intends have on the University.
“I commend Jacob for bringing this resolution forward and pushing all of us on the WSA to think more critically about our commitment to transparency, accountability, and greater civic engagement,” said Cullen in an email to The Argus. “This new resolution well exemplifies those values and I am excited to see what opportunities it will bring for open discourse.”