CCSGA Full Council Passes Amendment Mandating One Semester of Experience, or Significant Participation, for Presidential Candidates

Last Thursday, CCSGA Full Council passed an amendment to the bylaws that requires future student body president candidates to serve on CCSGA for at least one semester. The legislation also allows for a presidential candidate to have simply attended a minimum of six Full Council meetings and three Executive Council meetings within the past academic year without being an elected member of CCSGA. The amendment passed with seven “yes” votes, three “no” votes, and two abstentions.

The amendment grounds the necessity of CCSGA experience for performing as president in the argument that “The president is someone who must manage a team of approximately 25 people to make sure that the CCSGA, as a whole, is delivering on the promises made and functioning at its maximum capacity.” Some members saw an unused potential over the past year that they feel the president should have tapped into. First-year Lily Weissgold, who proposed the bill, expressed the necessity of details like knowing the Robert’s Rules of Order.

Photo by Aaron Cronin

Weissgold expanded on the rationale of the bill saying: “Some functional know-how of how CCSGA operates on a day-to-day basis is an imperative to being an effective leader both of the student body and of the governing body. I believe that the learning curve is simply too steep to waste valuable time educating a new leader on the basic functions of student government. I think this legislation will both increase the efficacy of CCSGA in the future and legitimize our student body on this campus.” The proponents of the legislation emphasized experience for future generations of CCSGA, feeling that after at least one year of serving they better understand how demanding the president’s job is and how best to ensure an effective government in the face of those demands.

When asked about her perspective coming into CCSGA as an outsider, president Annika Kastetter attested to the steep learning curve of entering the position but focused on the dedication and commitment needed to prepare for the role of student body president regardless of previous experience. Kastetter spent the summer preparing for her position and building her contacts with the administration and community members the president must work so closely with. She explained that the technical things can be learned outside of experience on CCSGA, and leadership roles in other capacities can build the skills needed to run meetings.

When asked about her perspective coming into CCSGA as an outsider, President Annika Kastetter attested to the steep learning curve of entering the position but focused on the dedication and commitment needed to prepare for the role of student body president regardless of previous experience. Kastetter spent the summer preparing for her position and building her contacts with the administration and community members the president must work so closely with. She explained that the technical things can be learned outside of experience on CCSGA, and leadership roles in other capacities can build the skills needed to run meetings.

Regarding the legislation, “Obviously, there were things that didn’t go well this year, no one’s hiding that, but that wasn’t a product of a lack of experience,” she said. Kastetter said the mistakes this year were not inherent to her newness to CCSGA, and when asked by junior class representative Wynter Scott if it would be easier for an incoming president to take over the position if they had experience, she said “I don’t think it would have been any different had I had CCSGA experience. I still would have taken the time to plan and organize.”

“I have served as Advisor to CCSGA for several years and I have always been impressed with their professionalism, their leadership, and their initiative. Each year, they have worked with their peers to discern and address student concerns and launched successful initiatives to educate about, and address, these issues.  This has been another successful year for our student government,” said Dean of Students Rochelle Mason in a statement earlier this week.

At the meeting, students and CCSGA members raised concerns about the effects of the legislation on CCSGA and the student body. President-Elect Dorsa Djalilzadeh spoke out about the new legislation, stating: “How the bill has been structured, I think overall can exacerbate and worsen the image of CCSGA as an inclusive body that is exclusive to certain people, and that is one thing that I want to work really really hard to really completely get rid of; and I think is one of the biggest issues for CCSGA’s image. My fear is that if this bill goes through we will be deterring a lot of great potential… and I don’t want to limit that and I don’t want to leave certain people outside of that narrative.”

Newly-elected Vice President of Inclusion Sam Fesshaie agreed. “I don’t think that a fresh perspective is something that should be overlooked or undervalued,” Fesshaie said. “I feel that serving on CCSGA may insulate certain members from certain issues that are occurring on campus.”

Senior Drew Turley attended the meeting with a series of questions to probe the validity and motivation of the legislation. He raised the issues of why executive positions are not included in this bill, why the knowledge of Robert’s Rules of Order is necessary to the president’s efficacy, and who will be excluded by this legislation. “It appears that the effect of this amendment is to insulate the people who already wield a measure of power within CCSGA as members of CCSGA to continue holding that power. I’m at a loss at how those proposing this amendment might have failed to recognize its potential impact of discouraging and dissuading participation and inclusion of students from historically marginalized backgrounds,” he said, questioning the council.

Weissgold recognized the importance of CCSGA being accessible to the student body and emphasized that a potential presidential candidate could fulfill the requirements for attending meetings within two blocks.

The discussion turned to identity politics when Turley questioned the timing of this legislation weeks after the presidential election where Djalilzadeh, a queer, Muslim woman with no CCSGA experience defeated Steven Ortega, who has served on CCSGA for three years. The CCSGA members supporting the bill took offense to this and pointed out that the council had discussed the idea of a similar bill as early as October of 2016.

Before the vote, Kastetter told the council, “If you come in, if you’re committed, if you learn and if you listen to what people have to say, and if you take the time to plan over the summer, I frankly do not see this being a problem.” Kastetter spoke to the necessity of a new dynamic each year as an inherent aspect of annually elected student government and a mechanism to keep the student government from becoming insular and static.

“The implications of this will echo. This body seeks to insulate itself from participation in more than one way. If you consider applying these conditions to other executive positions, its troubling especially when we are situated in the context of an educational institution where the four years that we spend here are meant to be a learning experience,” Turley reminded the council. 

Voice your opinions to the current CCSGA administration on the CCSGA website.

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