A Divided Senate

Proposed Bylaw Changes Lead to Debate

Holden Andrews, Editor in Chief

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Bridgewater, Va. – The Bridgewater College Student Senate ended in turmoil as a result of their last meeting on Monday, Oct. 28. Questions were raised about changing the bylaws, the process for communicating such proposals and the role of advisors during discussions. 

According to the meeting minutes, there were four new bylaw amendments proposed by eight senators. The eight senators include Noah Combs, James Dorsey, Parker Estes, Roberto Gonzalez, Grace Kellar, Luke Morgan, Naomi Reynolds and Fiona Lane-Sweeney. 

These amendments included changes to how committees are governed by the senate’s bylaws, how much power the executive board and individual committees have and changing the language used in some of the other amendments to take oversight from the executive board and give it to individual committees.

The only bylaw to be passed was as follows:

Amend ‘General oversight over Committees’ to define ‘General Oversight’ as: 1. the duty to ensure the proper procedure is implemented in all committees as outlined in the Constitution and bylaws; 2. the ability to advise committee chairs and members; 3. the power to direct the committees to adhere to the provisions outlined in the Constitution and bylaws.  

The other three amendments were tabled until the next meeting.

According to Dean of Students and Student Senate Advisor Leslie Frere, there is no problem with proposing bylaw changes. 

She said the problem came when a group of senators wanted to revise bylaws that would cause fundamental changes to how the committees are governed. 

Another issue is the manner in which the changes were brought up, as they were given to the executive board only 30 minutes before the meeting.

Typically, an advisor reviews the changes before they are brought up in front of the entire senate. While this is not a hard and fast rule, it is helpful for transparency and open communication, as well as a courtesy.

Frere believes that most of the fireworks from last meeting were growing pains of having an organization like student senate that is frequently updating the way they operate.

Senator’s Response

Student Senator and Bridgewater junior Grace Kellar is a part of the group of eight senators who created the changes to the bylaws. She said that the reason for the bylaws not being sent to the executive board and advisors until 30 minutes before the meeting was due to “time constraints, as the senator who had the complete copy was in class and working until that time.”

Kellar said that there was never any intent to be anonymous or hide which senators were behind the proposed changes, and that all they were trying to do with the updated bylaws was get rid of “grey areas” in the language of the bylaws. 

She claimed that the changes to the current bylaws will make decision-making and defining who holds power more transparent.

On the left is how Kellar says the senate process works now. The executive board has the final say over what is shown to the senators in meeting. 

On the right is how Kellar believes the language in the bylaws would change the system so that the senators would see what decisions the committee has made, instead of seeing decisions made by the committee and then potentially revised by the executive board.

The role of Eagle Productions president as a member of the senate executive board was also called into question during the meeting. While the removal of the position from the board was not asked for, senators did point out how current President Jacob Smith obtained his position was not the same way that the rest of the executive board did.

Smith said that he received his position on the executive board through an interview process, which is outlined in the EP constitution. According to Smith, the language used in Eagle Production’s constitution is much clearer than that of student senate’s, and he believes that this is where revision is needed.

The conduct of the advisors of the senate was called into question after the meeting had adjourned.

Social Media Push-back

A since-deleted claim on Instagram stated that the advisors “actively engaged in discussion against the amendments by repeatedly providing incorrect information, demeaning senators, and implying that there was a sinister motive behind the amendments.” 

Frere stated that she believes that she did not act or speak in a demeaning or bullying way, but that the fact that she did speak up could cause discomfort from senators who are not used to her voicing her opinion in meeting, or from those who may not know she can do that since she usually does not. 

Frere said that under normal circumstances, the advisors take their role as “silent advisors” very seriously. According to her, a silent advisor is there to speak only when necessary. “Most of the time, I would prefer to sit and listen,” said Frere.

Regarding the critical post on social media, Frere was disappointed.

“No matter what is said about me, if anyone feels disrespected by me or my actions, please come talk to me,” said Frere.

Kellar said that she believes the advisors acted undiplomatically and that they let their emotions cloud their judgement. 

“The advisors used incorrect information when talking to senators about their reasons for not approving of the bylaws. But I do agree that senators and committee members do not have the proper training to make all the decisions we have to make.”

Kellar believes that receiving some sort of training will stop issues like this from occurring in the future.

Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Representative Brett Lysohir, who was present at the meeting, said of the advisors’ conduct, “They were acting in everyone’s best interest.”

The next student senate meeting will be held on Monday, Nov. 11, at 7:00 p.m., in the Boitnott Room.