SA passes Referendum Reform Act, clearing path to potential ballot measures


At the Oct. 13 meeting of the College of William and Mary’s Student Assembly, senators  passed two bills and received an election commission update by the SA Elections Commission Chair Will Ryu ’21. Senators also went into a closed session which lasted around 45 minutes. 

First senators passed the Referendum Reform Act, which outlined an amendment change to SA’s Constitution regarding SA’s ability to pose referenda to students. Currently, the constitution restricted SA to providing referendums on an election ballot. Since SA elections currently occur on a semesterly basis, the new amendment changed the language allowing the Senate to use a referendum when deemed necessary. 

The amendment states, “The ballot platform can also be used to pose referendum questions for the student body at any point in the year, given that the referendum complies with guidelines.”

Senators unanimously voted for the amendment without discussion.

Subsequently, Senators discussed and voted on the Pass/Fail Fall 2020 Referendum Act, sponsored by first-time Sen. Randy Riffle ’21. The bill relied on the successful passage of the Referendum Reform Act, as it proposed providing a referendum outside of an election  to the student body concerning student opinions on the College implementing additional pass/fail policies for the fall 2020 semester.

The bill asks two questions that try to gage students’ current stress levels during the COVID-19 pandemic and asked students’ views on expanding the College’s current pass/fail policy. Both questions allow for a student to select a response that most applies to them. 

The first question asks, “Do you feel that you have experienced more stress, in either your academic or personal life, this semester as a result of the accelerated semester, online teaching environment, COVID-19 pandemic, and/or national calls for racial equality?” 

The second question asks, “If you are an undergraduate student, do you think William & Mary should expand the current opt-in Pass/Fail system to be two elective, COLL, major, and/or minor required courses rather than the one elective course currently offered?”

The second referendum point garnered questions among senators like Sens. Rory Fedorochko ’22 and Gloriana Cubero Fernandez ’24, who wondered if the question’s language was clear and accessible enough for all students to understand. Ultimately, Riffle accepted friendly amendments from Fedorochko that clarified the language. 

Senators also wondered if a third question should be asked about whether students would plan to use the extended policy, even if supported it. However, Senate Chair Meghana Boojala ’22 reminded Senators that it is important to protect the most vulnerable students when making these decisions, and that she didn’t want administration to be influenced by the third question upon receiving the data. 

After debate, senators voted in favor of the referendum. 

At the beginning of the meeting, Ryu provided the Senate with an update regarding SA’s elections, explaining that the commission is working on better defining campaigning rules due to the increased use of digital media as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and providing debates for non-presidential elections.


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