Referendum shot down by council
October 27, 2009
The College of William and Mary’s Honor Council voted to reject the Student Assembly’s Honor Council Referendum 18-3 with three abstentions Sunday. Andrew Rudd ’11, John Pothen ’11 and Michael Vereb ’12 voted in favor of the referendum, while Bailey Thomson ’10, Chase Hathaway ’10 and Will Perkins ’11 abstained.
The referendum was voted on in the Oct. 1 campus-wide SA elections and read, “The Honor Council’s Nominating Committee decides each year if a student should be barred from running for the Council. Should the Nominating Committee need to reach a unanimous decision before rejecting a student from running for election?” 69.14 percent of voters believed the Honor Council should reach a unanimous decision. 1,254 students voted.
Currently, candidates may be kept from the Honor Council ballot if four of five nominating committee members vote against them. The council’s nominating committee must approve candidates by a 4 to 5 vote. The nominating committee consists of one administrator, one faculty member, two members of the Honor Council and one student unaffiliated with the council.
Since the Honor Council decided against adopting the referendum, a compromise has been discussed among members of the Honor Council and the SA. Rather than changing the Nominating Committee’s voting policy, the compromise would add an additional student unaffiliated with the council to the committee, bringing its total members up to six and requiring five votes to bar a student from running. A member of the SA is expected to present the compromise to the Rules Committee of the Honor Council sometime this week.
“I think the compromise better serves the at-large student body,” Thomson said.
Some members of the Honor Council took issue with the manner in which certain members of the SA approached the referendum.
“There was a lot of frustration,” Thomson said. “The referendum was approved the day before the vote, and there was inadequate time for the student community to be informed about the referendum … We value the opinion of the student body, but we felt that there had been a skewed representation of the referendum to the student body.”
At Thursday’s SA Policy Committee meeting, Sens. Steven Nelson ’10, Erik Houser ’10, Curt Mills ’13 and Justin Duke ’13 sponsored a bill entitled ‘The Cooperative Honor Council Reform Act,’ which encouraged the Honor Council to adopt the referendum. Although the measure was proposed, it was not voted on by the entire senate.
Prior to the vote, the council expressed concern that adopting the referendum would place too much power into the hands of one person. SA Vice President Ryan Ruzic J.D. ’11 disagreed.
“Is that a realistic concern?” Ruzic said. “Probably not. Most people should be able to run for the Honor Council.”
Some SA members expressed frustration that the council did not adopt the referendum.
“It’s pretty clear that 70 percent voting for the referendum is a mandate to adopt [it],” Nelson said. “I find it bewildering and poor decision-making that they didn’t make the change.”
Houser echoed a similar sentiment.
“I was discouraged by an irresponsible disregard to an overwhelming student opinion,” Houser said. “[The Honor Council] looked at that and said they didn’t care.”
Some parties in both the SA and the Honor Council have said they believe the current debate over the referendum has turned into a battle of a more personal nature.
“When a student goes before the Honor Council, their whole life is in their hands,” Ruzic said. “The disruptive part of this whole process is that some people are taking some very common sense changes and [requests for changes to] the system as a personal attack.”