Student Council positions may be overhauled

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

When Joella Fink ’07, Co-President with Tom Evnen ’07 of Student Council, was elected at the end of last spring, she had a certain goal in mind.

“When I stepped in, I was really hoping to reform Council to make it more efficient and accountable,” says Fink.

For Fink and Evnen, this meant changing the current student council system and amending the Student Council constitution. The current student council has rotating Co-Presidents with staggered terms. This means one Co-President is elected in the spring semester and one in the fall.

“A system with Co-Presidents is useful because the stagger means that someone will always know what’s going on since someone has always served for at least one semester,” says Fink. “But that also means the person who is elected later would end up deferring to the Co-President who is already in term, even though their platform had been more recently supported by the student body.”

This confusion and ambiguity over the roles of each Co-President created what Fink says was not “the best system for actually accomplishing something on Council.”

“There was a lot of ambiguity and confusion, sometimes tension, about who was in charge of things like the agenda, or who was trying to steer Council in certain directions,” says Fink. “The system was at best vague so that often Council was stalemated. It seemed almost schizophrenic.”

The solution Fink and Evnen came up with was to propose a vice president and president system in lieu of Co-Presidents.

According to Fink, the student council has been “very supportive of the proposal,” which was introduced last Wednesday. For now, concerns are focused on the definition of the vice presidential role and other logistics.

“The bigger question is what the vice presidential position should look like and whether it should have slightly different responsibilities from the Co-President position,” says Fink, “We want the Vice President position to be as important as possible, without detracting from the President’s primary responsibility in representing Council.”

For now, Student Council is suggesting the vice president take on the role of “protecting the constitution and making sure the procedures are being followed. The position will also involve working with the president to ensure everyone’s views are being expressed.” That job currently rests with the secretary but Student Council “figured it belonged with a position like vice president.”

Another issue being debated is if the vice president should be elected in the middle of the academic year. This would allow at least one member to be in a position of control who has at least a semester’s experience who can support the President in whatever issues might come up.

The reform will be advertised this coming week and voted on at the student council meeting next Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. in Science Center. For the amendment to be added to the Student Council constitution, it needs to gain two-thirds of the vote. Until the amendment is voted on, the current election for the new co-President will be suspended.

According to Fink, if the amendment is passed, the new system with the vice president will be put immediately in place. Evnen, whose term is ending this semester, would continue to stand in that position until elections are held for vice president during the beginning weeks of the spring semester. The election would be announced the Monday classes start.

“We’re all really optimistic about it,” says Fink of the possible reform, “We hope this makes someone responsible for Council. Hopefully everyone [will want] to accomplish things and the system will work.”

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