This past week, Lawrence University Community Council’s Referendum 2014-b was approved by faculty and staff and went into effect as of Monday, April 7. As a result of 2014-b, the constitution of LUCC no longer requires student representatives to be on campus for the entire year. It now allows students who plan to study abroad to run as a member of a slate of up to three students, with one student being the representative for each term. Along with many other benefits of the change, LUCC believes this will give more students the chance to represent the Lawrence community in the LUCC General Council.
This is the second major constitutional change after Referendum 2014-a in Jan. 2014, which changed the number of representatives from 14-16, paving the way for class-based representation rather than district-based.
After the first re-formatting of the election process, the issue of study abroad students not being able to run was brought to the attention of LUCC. A cabinet member interested in being a representative said they knew they were “automatically out” of the running because they planned to study abroad the following year.
“We were frustrated that so many students were being excluded from LUCC for what seemed like no reason at all,” said 2013-14 LUCC President and senior Nick Paulson.
“We want to make LUCC more accessible to all students, and this is a step in that direction.”
“All of these rules about how LUCC governs itself are written by LUCC, so members realized it didn’t have to be a certain way and decided to look at it to see the way to do things differently,” said Assistant Dean of Students for Campus Life Curt Lauderdale ’01.
After a discussion with members about electing students by slate instead of by individual if they are going to study abroad, Paulson drafted language for the referendum with parliamentarian and junior Nathan Lawrence. Steering committee then proposed 2014-b to General Council. Paulson stated that the votes on LUCC were unanimous.
The benefits of having the same people on council for all three terms did come up, such as familiarity with the process and other representatives. “While there might be some benefit to having the same council for all three terms, it just doesn’t seem like that kind of benefit is worth excluding so many students from their student government,” Paulson said.
One potential change that will come with referendums 2014-a and -b are the scope of issues brought to general council. Lauderdale said that with the old system of students representing residence halls or districts, residence life issues understandably overshadowed other important, but unrelated, campus topics.
Lauderdale hopes the new structure will “broaden and enlarge the types of topics that are coming to council to be discussed.”
“We know that everybody has that academic basis and can work off of that broader shared university experience,” said Lauderdale. “So I think students will make sure they’re talking about the right campus issues on the full campus scale.”
The potential benefits of the referendum include class pride among sophomores and juniors. “There’s the ability to build programs and support in a greater way around class identity,” said Lauderdale. “I think this system is the appropriate launching pad to be able do some more programming for the sophomore and junior classes to be able to better match what we do for transitioning freshman into Lawrence, and senior programs for transitioning out.”
Referendum 2014-b will also allow LUCC rising elections for their four class representatives to happen this spring instead of the fourth week in fall term. This change gives LUCC more critical time by allowing for two more General Council meetings at the beginning of the year and more time for members to get acclimated to their positions. Other benefits include not needing to repeatedly re-elect representatives if they move out of a district in the middle of the academic year and saving on more time.
2014-2015 LUCC President, senior Jack Canfield will be the first to implement the new changes and feel their impact. “For me, I think it just lengthens the amount of time that I have to do things and really get things done in early fall, quite simply,” said Canfield. “I’m really looking forward to having that extra time to accomplish what we’re working toward.”
“We were trying to open up LUCC to more students and bring in a variety of voices that we haven’t always had,” said Paulson. “All of the changes together are a pretty significant overhaul of the system that I firmly believe will better enable LUCC to represent the students and faculty here at Lawrence.”