Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) voted against two constitutional amendments this week: one that would have made all students eligible to run for BSG president, and another that would have allowed juniors studying abroad to serve half-year terms as class representatives.
The first amendment would have allowed students who haven't previously served on BSG to run for BSG president if they attended a certain number of meetings. Vice President of BSG Affairs Dustin Brooks '08 said the idea of broadening student eligibility came up in the beginning of the year.
Following weeks of debate and revision, the amendment failed in a 14-to-11 vote, with one member abstaining.
The discussion centered on the need for experience and institutional memory of BSG's workings. At-Large Representative Sophia Seifert '09 thought that a new president, foreign to BSG's procedures, might not know the most efficient way to lead the body.
"Whenever someone enters a new role, it takes time, energy and a bit of trial and error to figure out how to make it work," she said. "I can only imagine how much time it would take were the entire officer team, particularly the president, new to the organization."
Class of 2009 Representative Ben Freedman countered that "the body as a whole should have an understanding of past debates and concerns," but the entirety of such knowledge need not reside with the president.
"BSG is a student government and, as such, any student should be able to run for any office," he said.
Vice President of Student Organizations Stephanie Witkin '07 said she was torn on the issue, but that she believes anyone theoretically should be able to run.
She said experience is important, but that while this year has been "very successful," there are other effective ways to run the body.
Similarly, BSG President DeRay Mckesson '07 expressed concerns about the possibility of becoming too "insular" in the long run, suggesting that there are a number of student leaders on campus who could do the job well.
Community Service Council Representative Emily Keuthen '08 agreed and said, "I don't want us to fall into the trap that stability is necessarily a good thing."
"We want to be open to change and I think we want to make it open to as many people as possible," she said.
Class of 2007 Representative Torri Parker said that any student is eligible to serve as president; he or she only needs to commit to serving on BSG one year in advance.
"I don't feel it cuts off the option to anyone. With that said, I do believe that the person who serves as president should have a year of experience," she said.
Class of 2007 Vice President Tony Thrower, who is not a BSG member, said that "motivation and desire can outweigh" any lack of experience in a candidate.
"I think it should be up to the community to decide who has the best vision for the school," Thrower said.
"For BSG not to pass this amendment shows their sheer distrust in our ability to choose what is best for our campus," he added.
Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster said that the issue "deserves the attention of the full student body."
"I can understand the appeal of students who have experience with BSG, but confining the pool of candidates to these students alone significantly reduces the pool of eligible talented leaders," he said in an e-mail.
Freedman added, "Tonight, BSG let down the student body. BSG voted against the students and voted to exclude leaders from the ultimate leadership position on campus."
In other business, another amendment planned to split the junior class representative positions into one full-year seat and two half-year seats, to accommodate juniors studying abroad for a semester.
BSG members had a lengthy debate concerning details of how elections would be held, how to run for the half- or full-year seats, and special cases and circumstances, but ultimately did not reach consensus on logistics.
The amendment did not pass, short by one vote, with 20 votes in favor; Clark Gascoigne '08, Nate Tavel '08, Keuthen, Alex Lamb '07, and Kata Solow '10 opposed, and Jacqueline Abrams abstaining.
Mckesson said that during the meetings, he felt there was "an overwhelming consensus" to create such a position for juniors.
"I think us not passing the amendment was, at best, irresponsible. For us to talk so much about how this position is so important and how the junior class is so special, for us to do what we did tonight, was irresponsible," he said.
Witkin said, "it would have been more important to put aside the details of the amendment to include more individuals and juniors studying abroad."
Brooks said the much-debated amendment was "lost in the details."
"I'm extremely disappointed that the opportunity for students going abroad to serve will not be in place. I really think that the sentiments of the vast majority of the people in the room support the general idea and that's what's so frustrating about it failing," said Brooks.
Overall, however, final votes were made on a number of amendments, and Mckesson said "the majority of the meeting was extremely productive."
Among other amendments, one passed to move the senior class elections to the fall of senior year and another passed to hold spring elections for the class officers at a later date than BSG officers.