SU passes amendment to disband Class Councils, centralize authority and responsibility

| News Editor

The student body passed an amendment to disband Class Councils by a vote of 537-152, Feb. 16, redistributing most of the councils’ responsibilities to the Student Union Social Programming Board.

After a unanimous vote in the SU Senate and a majority vote in the SU Treasury, the amendment to disband Class Councils was voted on by the student body in a special election. Since 77.93% of the 689 students who participated in the election voted in favor of the amendment, more than the required two-thirds majority, Class Councils will be disbanded, effective March 30. The current responsibilities delegated to Class Councils will be transferred to the Social Programming Board (SPB), which will centralize power in the Executive Branch of the Student Union. Current Class Council members will finish their terms.

Christine Watridge | Student Life

Student Union urged students to vote in favor of the amendment on Instagram and emailed the student body a rationale, which argued that the amendment would address the unfilled and uncontested seats on Class Councils, provide stronger advising for class-specific programming and centralize SU’s advocacy and programming efforts.

“The issue is not with the Class Council representatives themselves, but rather the organization of Class Councils within SU,” the statement read. “Both Treasury and Senate have concluded that restructuring the Class Councils’ responsibilities under the Social Programming Board will allow for stronger advising on class-specific programming and continue to maintain class representation.”

Junior Anne He, the executive vice president of SU, said that there is a “general lack of interest” in Class Councils after freshman year. The Junior Class Council does not exist this year because no juniors chose to run for a position, and the Sophomore Class Council (SCC) only had two of five positions filled through the election. She said that transferring the Class Council responsibilities to the SPB would allow SU to more efficiently fulfill its mission of “Advocate, Allocate, Program.”

“The Social Programming Board is highly experienced in programming and are highly specialized in working to make events as accessible and well attended as they can be,” Speaker of the Senate junior Gaby Smith said.

The First-Year Class Council (FYCC), however, has been highly active since its election in the fall. In collaboration with SCC, FYCC has held monthly mental health panels with topics ranging from imposter syndrome to relationship and sexual violence. FYCC also hosted social events over Zoom, such as Bear-adise, and held a panel over winter break for remote freshmen moving to campus in the spring.

Both Jo Palisoc, FYCC vice president of public relations, and SCC President Miri Goodman were initially disappointed by the amendment.

“I wasn’t surprised that it was something that we’re considering,” Goodman said. “I was surprised that they were considering it at that moment, especially with COVID and because we have had such an effective first-year and sophomore class councils this year. It’s unfortunate that it’s happening now because I would love to keep serving.”

“We were disappointed because Student Union execs believed that Class Councils were expendable,” Palisoc said. “We just thought the inefficiency was somewhere else.”

Palisoc said that she thought the inefficiency was related to a lack of training for Class Council members, and to combat that, the FYCC planned to make a handbook for future Council members. The FYCC had also met with the equivalent freshman councils at other universities, such as Vanderbilt University and Johns Hopkins University, to brainstorm initiatives that could be implemented across universities in order to support freshmen.

“Our main problem with getting rid of class councils was that, especially during COVID, it was important now more than ever that each class had its own representation that was specific to them,” Palisoc said. “No one knows the problems that us freshmen are facing more than the freshmen themselves.”

Smith, however, said that she was not worried about decreased representation of freshmen in the Student Union.

“In my entire time on Student Union, first-years have actually been overrepresented in the Senate, and they comprise well over one-fourth of the Senate body,” Smith said. “We see first-years being especially interested in joining [the] Senate, and we also have Senate committees that are open to the entire student body, and first-years, historically, have been the individuals highly interested in those.”

Anne He added that SPB will create two new positions: Director of First-Year Programming and Director of Senior Programming. Since freshmen and seniors have historically required the most programming and have had the most contested elections, He said that those positions will ensure specific representation for those grades.

Ultimately, after discussions with members of SU’s executive board, both Palisoc and Goodman stood behind SU’s decision to advance the amendment.

“In the end, we know that execs are looking out for Wash. U.,” Palisoc said. “We know that whatever they decide, they’re doing it in the interest of the students. Most of them have been on Student Union for a long time for multiple terms, which does give them reliability.”

“If it needs to happen, I understand completely, and I will support transition,” Goodman said.

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