October 27, 2009
Whenever bylaws come up we can expect to be in for a real yawner. The recent hullabaloo between the Student Assembly and the Honor Council is no exception, despite the amplitude of the sound and fury in question. Even so, your indefatigable Flat Hat endeavors to take on this mountainous molehill of an issue: We believe that despite the possible appearance of misbehavior, in this instance disregarding a student referendum is no miscarriage of democracy. The Honor Council may do so, but it should still implement a compromise solution to the problem in its bylaws raised by this referendum.
The SA submitted to the student body a referendum concerning the percentage of the five-person Honor Council nominating committee required to disqualify a Honor Council candidate. Currently, four votes against a nomination means a candidate is barred, and the referendum called to increase the requirement to unanimity. This committee has one student member who is not affiliated with the Honor Council, and two representatives from both the Honor Council and the administration.
The senators’ concern was that the non-affiliated member’s ability to stand up for the student interest was compromised by the four-fifths requirement. Since the other four status-quo representatives could form a voting bloc to reject any candidate, in our current system it is conceivable that a reformer who is unpopular with those in power could have a difficult time getting elected.
Has this happened? Is this a major issue to be concerned about? Who knows. This referendum was passed by the SA two days before it was put to students, so there was no time to create a campus dialogue prior to the referendum. Students voted in a vacuum, without context, and those who wrote the question got the answer they hoped for. The slapdash way this was put together suggests to us that, as many have been saying, ego rather than genuine will for reform is at the heart of this conflict.
Going forward, the better solution has become clear to reasonable minds on both sides of the aisle. The Honor Council should add to its nomination committee another student at large, and the requirement for disqualification should change to five-sixths of the committee. If this change is made, there will be equal representation from the student body, the Honor Council and the administration, and no person will have the ability to block the rest of the committee’s will.
We agree with the sentiment of Bailey Thomson ’10: Our student leaders have “bigger fish to fry.” Perhaps it’s time they attend to them.
Editor’s Note: Editor-in-Chief Miles Hilder did not contribute to this week’s Staff Editorial.