On Sunday, April 8th and Monday, April 9th, Whitman students will have the opportunity to approve a constitution expected to clarify and enhance the relationship between them and the student governing body.
The new constitution is the latest in a line of actions ASWC has undertaken to restructure itself, following the recent adoption of a multiple-vice president model, legislation altering the relationships between ASWC Senators and clubs, and the institution of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. The document, which has been made available for students to read here, was created in response to confusing and contradictory language in the previous constitution that was seen as hampering ASWC’s ability to perform its duties.
“[ASWC has] gone through a few different constitutions,” ASWC President AnnaMarie McCorvie stated. “The most recent constitution was rewritten about maybe six years ago, but a lot of it was copy-and-pasted from the constitution before it. So it had a lot of inconsistencies in language and in rules; it contradicted itself a few times, and it certainly contradicted our by-laws.”
McCorvie also noted that the current constitution is also badly formatted, making it literally difficult to read, which only increased the problems.
McCorvie and Gautum Produturi subsequently devised a new governing document, intended to be shorter, streamlined and more understandable compared to prior constitutions, as well as a better statement of ASWC’s priorities as a representative body. The document was then revised by a specially formed Strategic Planning Committee, before then being presented to the full Senate on April 1st.
“The biggest change is it’s readable now, which seems silly, but it’s so important to us,” McCorvie said. “It also has our values laid out in it, values like advocacy and empowerment and inclusivity and equity – these things that we think of [as] essential to our work but were written down nowhere.”
“It also has language about keeping the student fee as low as possible while still… funding clubs and WEB and stuff like that,” McCorvie added. “So I think it does some really good work of solidifying some of the stuff we’re already doing.”
McCorvie expects that this constitution will prove to be a positive, long-lasting change for ASWC, and noted that she and the Strategic Planning Committee emphasized the notion of longevity in creating the new document. The new constitution clearly and cleanly presents the various components of ASWC while remaining broad enough to both facilitate internal restructuring and respond to external change.
The vote on the new constitution by the General Assembly (a.k.a. the student body) represents a unique opportunity for students to influence ASWC beyond the selection of new leaders.
“If you are someone who thinks that ASWC is sometimes inefficient, or bureaucratic, this is something you should be voting yes for,” McCorvie stated. “[I]t’ll make us more efficient at spending our money, it’ll make us more efficient as a Senate body having meetings, and it also is just part of a larger project to make ASWC more accessible.”
The document, which has already passed the Senate in a vote of 19-0-0, requires a two-thirds vote of twenty percent of the student body to be ratified.
“[R]epresentative democracy is tough, and it’s weird, and it’s confusing,” McCorvie noted. “[B]ut this is one of those times where you [the student body] do have direct power, so I would encourage people to utilize it.”