Senate auxiliary committee legislation will improve student self-advocacy

By Emma Campbell

Opinion Editor

On Dec. 1, 2020, the Washington College Student Government Association passed new legislation allowing students — even those not formally involved in SGA — to form senate auxiliary committees. 

Auxiliary committees differ from standing committees in that they aim to meet short-term goals made to address specific issues. Once the issue has been addressed, the committee disbands.

For example, students from the SGA formed a Constitutional Review Auxiliary Committee to “address concerns surrounding the openness of the hiring and election processes undertaken by the SGA,” according to The Elm. The committee held its final meeting on Monday, Feb. 22. According to SGA President junior Kat DeSantis, the CRA was formed as a trial run, exemplifying what auxiliary committees could look like under this new legislation.

“Now that there are steps to creating an auxiliary committee, students might feel more empowered to start a committee and make real change,” DeSantis said. “If they see an issue on campus that requires greater discussion than what a senate standing committee allows, they have the liberty of creating an auxiliary committee to address the issue. Then they can make committee reports or introduce new business in Senate which gives them an outlet for making change, whereas before they had no standing in senate.”

The senate standing committees — such as budget, student life, and academics, to name a few — are impactful in tackling multiple projects in accordance with their overall objectives. However, some issues may require thorough attention that cannot be given in standing committees.

Before the passing of the legislation on Dec. 1, students who wished to form auxiliary committees had no set guidelines articulating how to go about this. According to DeSantis, this legislation formalizes this procedure by outlining the creation process and describing the “purpose of auxiliary committees in the future.”

The auxiliary committee legislation will also encourage students who feel strongly about a specific issue, though do not wish to serve on SGA in an official capacity, to get involved with the College’s student-led policy discussions. 

“I am hopeful that with the creation of auxiliary committees, students, whether they are in SGA or not, will begin to make changes on campus about topics they are passionate about,” SGA parliamentarian freshman Natalie Wisnoski said. “Auxiliary committees can give the student body a way to address issues that a regular standing committee [can]not.”

Since Dec. 1, students have already utilized the legislation to form auxiliary committees intending to devote effort to the issues they care about. Wisnoski told me about a committee created to address neurodiversity at WC. Secretary of Service and sophomore Community Relations Maegan White formed the Student Town Advisory Committee, which met to generate ideas on how to improve the College’s relationship with the rest of Chestertown. 

WC students are a diverse group, each with at least one local issue they feel impassioned to address. Now, they no longer need to leave this work to SGA executive board members and senators; by forming their own committee, they can collaborate with their peers in SGA while still advocating for themselves.

“This [legislation] allows students the opportunity to take charge on issues they are passionate about and have a permanent channel for them to communicate their plans,” DeSantis said. “Students tend to thrive on guidelines…With a clear process that explains how to create an auxiliary committee, I think students will feel more empowered to start one and make real change.”

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