By Cecilia Cress and Olivia Montes
On Wednesday, Feb. 23 and Thursday, Feb. 24, the Washington College Student Government Association Senate Congressional Review Committee hosted the first two auxiliary meetings of the spring semester in the SGA Office.
According to the preliminary email sent on Feb. 22, these meetings were designed to continue “discussion[s] on reforming the class officer system and/or replacing it with an elected cabinet system.”
According to Parliamentarian and Chair of the Review Board sophomore Natalie Wisnoski, the current class officer system consists of a president, vice president, treasurer and secretary. Their responsibilities largely consist of running at least two events per year, one involving service; engaging with their fellow classmates; and hosting an open house at least once per semester.
“A change to a cabinet structure has been proposed because while the current class officers system does its job…post-COVID-19, students do not necessarily want to attend or take part in events that the class officers have been planning, leading to essentially a drainage of time and funding, and we don’t want that for anyone involved,” Wisnoski said. “So what students have expressed this previous semester…is they want to focus more on advocacy.”
To achieve this, Wisnoski proposed creating a cabinet structure made up of four presidents — one from each class — and three to four special interest chair liaisons suited in a specific topic. Special topics proposed include Public Safety, Buildings & Grounds/Residential Life, and Americans with Disabilities Act.
According to Wisnoski, each president and liaison would serve under the SGA Executive Board for one academic year. Their responsibilities would include attending monthly meetings, as well as “reach[ing] out to fellow classmates and hear[ing] their concerns” as means of further advocating for their peers.
“[This emphasis on student advocacy is] to promote a better experience for their classmates here at WC and making themselves more approachable,” Wisnoski said. “We’ve seen that [advocacy] coming out of COVID-19, and it’s just a new need that we’re trying to address here on campus.”
Each position would have a one-year term and would be up for reelection in the spring.
During each meeting, participants proposed having each officer and liaison nominated and undergo an interview process to inspect their qualifications for the position. Other suggestions included having both officers and liaisons communicate with students, faculty, and staff members alike regarding specific topics held by these chairs, and further outreach between officers and liaisons and the rest of the student body.
Despite the work ahead, several students remain optimistic regarding this proposal.
“I support this adjustment to the current class officer system unreservedly and whole heartedly,” SGA Secretary of Academics senior Kyle Rufo said. “Currently, the class officer positions are outdated and ineffective at engaging and representing their peers in a meaningful way. This new cabinet system would still allow for publicly elected class presidents who would serve individually as a class spokesperson while allowing for additional involvement in the capacity of special interest chairs that anyone can serve as dealing with particularly relevant campus issues.”
“At its foundation, this new system would not take away from student advocates, but rather streamline this system to ensure that all concerns are met with prompt and efficient action,” Rufo said.
For freshman Public Service Liaison and President of the Class of 2025 Stephen Hook, this proposed system will further help “improve the student experience in the most effective manner possible.”
“My experience serving as the freshman class president has exposed me to many of the issues this amendment is working to solve, and I am dedicated to seeing it implemented during my time here,” Hook said.
“The proposed changes are a huge step toward increasing the effectiveness of class officers and expanding the role of advocacy that class presidents take part in,” he said. “With this new structure, issues among a class will be addressed more quickly due to having only one point-person rather than four.”
As of time of print, this proposal is being written up and is set to be introduced to the Senate as soon as it is complete, hopefully by the end of the next economic cycle in April, according to Wisnoski.
For amendments to the SGA Constitution to be ratified, they need to be voted upon and approved by the Senate, and then, if passed, by referendum, usually during the presidential-vice presidential elections, according to Wisnoski.
If passed, this new system will not go into effect until the 2022-2023 academic year. In that case, Wisnoski said that they would continue to use the current class officer system and improve it as the year unfolds.
“We’re all really hopeful that this is something that’s either passed relatively shortly or down the line, because we really do think that it would improve the general student population’s college experience, knowing that they had class representatives who they could count on,” Wisnoski said.