Student Senate Constitution
Passed by a vote of the student body and by the General Faculty on
April 15, 1997. (The constitution was amended minimally in spring 2006
and approved for publication by the Dean of Students and the President’s
We, the students of Oberlin College, hold that
those who are affected by the decisions of a community should be involved
in the shaping of those decisions. Therefore, we establish this constitution
to promote student interests, to enhance dialogue and understanding
within the student community and the larger Oberlin College community,
and to coordinate the direct participation of students in the governance
of Oberlin College.
ARTICLE I: PURPOSE AND MEMBERSHIP
The purpose of this constitution is to define
the structure and powers of the governance organizations of the students
of Oberlin College, whom are hereafter referred to as ‘the student
For the purposes of this constitution, all
persons who are enrolled as full- or part-time students in the Conservatory
of Music or the College of Arts and Sciences are considered to be members
of the student body and are eligible to be members of any organization
established by, or under the authority of, this constitution.
ARTICLE II: THE STUDENT SENATE
Section 1: The Purpose of the Student Senate
The Student Senate
is the central governance organization for the student body. It is the
principal advocate for the interests of the student body as a whole
to the Oberlin administration and faculty, and ensures effective student
participation in the faculty governance system. The senate is a central
forum for common dialogue within the student community, and for the
development of legislation to actualize common goals. The senate is
responsible for ensuring the coordination, effectiveness, and accountability
of all student government organizations.
The senate also
encourages and supports student organizations, initiatives, and activities.
Section 2: Student Senate Composition
The senate will
be composed of 15 senators, elected at large from the members of the
student body, at least one of which will be a conservatory or double-degree
Section 3: Responsibilities of Student Senate
The senate will:
- Represent the student body in college governance and pursue
the adoption of policies that are beneficial to the student body.
- Provide a forum for constructive dialogue
and decision making that is inclusive of all students.
- Appoint and remove student members of working groups and
faculty and administrative committees (see Article II, sections 9-15).
- Create and abolish working groups.
- Approve charters of student organizations.
- Serve as the board of appeal for the Student Finance Committee
(see Article II, section 11).
- Approve senate by-laws.
- Elect officers (see Article II, sections
Section 4: Responsibilities of Student Senators
of senators will be to:
- Serve as an officer.
- Serve on a faculty or administrative
- Serve on the general faculty.
- Serve on the college faculty, if applicable.
Senators from specific committees, as stated in the college faculty
by-laws, serve as members of the college faculty.
- Attend all senate, faculty and administrative committee
meetings, and working group meetings of which the senator is a member
in accordance with the senate attendance policy.
- Perform publicity and communication with the student body.
- Hold weekly office hours.
- Contribute to the legislative work of
- Failure to execute these duties is cause for removal, in
accordance with Article II, section 10.
Section 5: Elections
- Fifteen senators are elected at-large from the members of
the student body, with staggered elections during the fall and spring
- Candidates are encouraged to seek endorsements from student
organizations, residence halls, or co-ops. Such endorsements are printed
on the ballot along with the candidate’s name, and on published candidate
statements. Candidates may be endorsed by more than one organization.
Organizations may endorse as many candidates as they see fit, and may
use any criteria for making their endorsements. Each organization may
determine (by the decision-making process set out in their charter)
the procedures for endorsing candidates. The senate must be informed
of those procedures so that it can ensure the validity of endorsements.
Organizations and endorsed candidates may place commitments on one another,
but a senator, once elected, may not be removed by an endorsing organization.
- The senate must hold elections within the first three weeks
of the start of classes. The operations manager coordinates the nomination
period, which will last at least eight days after the announcement calling
for nominations. The operations manager shall also coordinate the elections,
which last for five days or until quorum for the election has been met,
whichever is longer.
- For a quorum to be met in a regular fall or spring election,
20 percent of the student body must vote. Quorum for a vacancy-filling
election is 10 percent of the student body.
- At the beginning of each semester, all who are enrolled
as full or part-time students in the Conservatory of Music or the College
of Arts and Sciences and are either current senators or those whose
senate term is expiring shall serve as the interim senate (see Article
II, section 7).
- If all conservatory or double-degree students’ senate
terms are expiring, the interim senate will actively recruit conservatory
students to run for senate. If at the end of a week of recruitment no
conservatory candidates are found, the conservatory requirement is void.
- If all conservatory or double-degree students’ senate
terms are expiring, candidates with the most votes become senators.
The requirement for a conservatory or double-degree student does not
affect vacancy-filling elections.
- The Student Senate must call an election and open nominations
within one week if more than three seats are vacant.
Section 6: Officers
The officers of
the senate shall be elected during the first meeting of the full senate,
with the exception of the operations manager.
The officers are
- Liaison, a senate spokesperson in communication with the
staff, faculty, administration, alumni, and trustees of Oberlin College,
as well as the greater community. In specific instances, the liaison
may extend this role to the associate liaison. The liaison coordinates
the legislative work of senate and the advisory councils. Any legislation
needing further approval or action will be delivered to the appropriate
committee or administrator by the liaison.
- Associate Liaison, works closely with the liaison to coordinate
the legislative work of the senate and advisory councils. The associate
liaison coordinates student involvement and activism with regard to
the senate’s legislative work and the advisory council. The associate
liaison coordinates regular full senate meetings with relevant administrators.
If the liaison is absent from any capacity where the liaison has ex
officio status, the associate liaison shall serve as acting liaison.
- Recording Secretary, keeps the agenda and coordinates taking
minutes for senate meetings. The recording secretary will distribute
copies of all passed legislation to the General Faculty through the
General Faculty Council, to the Dean of Students, to the Board of Trustees,
and to the Secretary of the College.
- Operations Manager, coordinates elections and runs an annual
training retreat for the senate. The operations manager coordinates
and keeps the senate focused on its long-range plans, specifically those
adopted at the senate retreat. Elections for operations manager must
take place by December 1 for spring semester and by May 1 for fall semester.
The senator elected to operations manager must be in the first semester
of that person’s two-semester term and must not have plans to graduate
or take a leave of absence the following semester.
- Student Affairs Liaison, coordinates the senate referendum
and senate office hours, administers the senate e-mail account, and
works to solicit student opinion.
- Technology Manager, manages the senate
website, senate e-mail account, and technology support.
- Forum Coordinator, is in charge of the
organization and conducts forums and other senate-sponsored events and
- Publicity Coordinator, is in charge of publicity, including
the publication and distribution thereof, regarding senate events and
activities, and advertises nominations for senate elections.
- Outreach Coordinator, is in charge of the bulletin board,
the senate newsletter, and additional outreach, publicity, and electronic
correspondence regarding senate information. The outreach coordinator
is in charge of communication with existing campus publications and
media. The outreach coordinator will publicize all passed legislation
to the student body.
- Membership Coordinator/Treasurer, serves as the senate treasurer,
manages the senate office and senate mailbox, monitors the attendance
of senators, and is responsible for senate payroll and individual senator
- Committee Coordinator, monitors the attendance of student
members of advisory councils and of student members of faculty, administrative,
and ad hoc committees. The committee coordinator coordinates appointment
interviews and recommends appointments and removal to the senate. The
committee coordinator serves as the liaison to student members of committees.
- Student Finance Chair, chairs the Student Finance Committee.
- Organization Liaison, is the senate’s
principal liaison to all student organizations, ensuring that organizations
are informed of and have the opportunity to be involved in the work
of student government bodies. The organization liaison coordinates prompt
consideration of organization charters.
- Governance Chair, ensures that senators, student committee
members, and the college community are informed about campus governance.
The governance chair shall act as a resource for senators and students
on the college governance system. The governance chair shall coordinate
a project each year during Orientation to teach new students about the
campus governance system and activism.
- Process Coordinator, will publish the senate by-laws and
coordinate by-law revisions. The process coordinator will keep the senate
handbook up to date and look into senate reforms. The process coordinator
shall act as a resource on the senate’s operating procedures.
- The experience and expertise of the senate membership as
well as senate priorities vary. Therefore, the senate may amend the
above officer positions, both in number and content, to best suit the
individual senate’s needs, at its retreat or at the first meeting
of the full senate. This may be done by a majority vote. These amendments
will be considered as an interim agreement that will last for one semester.
- The senate may amend the above officer duties and titles
with a two-thirds vote.
Section 7: Interim Senate
The interim senate
consists of all who are enrolled as full- or part-time students in the
Conservatory of Music or the College of Arts and Sciences and are either
current senators or those whose senate term is expiring.
- From the end of one semester until the election of senators
the following semester, the interim senate shall serve three main functions:
conducting appointments, educating the student body about campus governance
during Orientation, and conducting elections for other senators.
- The interim senate will meet at least once before the end
of the semester to elect the interim officers for the following semester,
to choose someone to coordinate senate activities over the summer, and
to plan for any student government business that must be dealt with
- Each interim senator may sign up to fill one position on
a college, conservatory, or general faculty committee for the following
semester. The committee coordinator shall organize all other appointments
(see Article II, section 9).
- The interim senate shall act as an elections committee in
the fall, with the operations manager coordinating the election. Senators
whose term is expiring and are seeking re-election shall not serve as
part of the elections committee.
Section 8: Legislation
- The senate will consider adopting legislation on any issue
of concern to students or referred to it by working groups, student
organizations, or faculty committees.
- Any legislation needing further approval will be delivered
to the appropriate committee or administrator by the liaison. Due to
the senate’s role as the principal legislative body of the student
community, committees should promptly consider any referred legislation
and distribute it to their members through normal committee procedure.
- The senate will publicize all passed legislation to the
student body. The senate will distribute copies of all passed legislation
to the General Faculty through the General Faculty Council, to the Dean
of Students, to the Board of Trustees, and to the Secretary of the College.
Section 9: Student Appointments
The senate has
the power to appoint all student members of faculty, administrative
and ad hoc committees, and working groups.
- At the first full senate meeting, the senators elected that
semester will sign up to fill one position on any college, conservatory,
or general faculty committee on which there are open student seats.
All senators are expected to serve on at least one of these committees,
and they should choose committees based on their interest, experience,
and time commitment. Only senators who are conservatory or double-degree
students will take seats on conservatory faculty committees, and only
senators who are arts and sciences or double- degree students will take
seats on college faculty committees. In the event that more senators
sign up for a committee than the number of seats that are available,
the senate will hold an election to fill those seats.
- Each senator will hold a seat on the general faculty. If
a senator is unable to serve on the general faculty due to an academic
conflict, the senate shall appoint a replacement from the student body.
- Upon senate request, student members of faculty or administrative
committees are members of relevant working groups, unless the senate
determines that it is not necessary for the student members of a committee
- The committee coordinator shall advertise all open seats
to the student body and coordinate the interview process following the
senators’ seat selection. Committee seats that remain open after the
semester’s appointments process is completed may be filled by senators.
If more senators wish to become members of a committee than there are
seats available, the appointments will be decided by a vote of the senate.
- Before the end of the spring semester, the senate will appoint
students to the SFC, Judicial Board, Community Board, Honor Committee,
Forum Board, and Student Union Board. Seats should be reserved on all
other regular faculty, administrative, or ad hoc committee until after
the fall election. [NOTE: Sections 11-14 below outline exceptions
to the appointment process described in this section.]
- At least two senators must be present at an interview to
recommend an appointment.
- Any committee may designate up to two of its members as
nonvoting representatives to participate in interviews for student seats
on that committee. More representatives may be allowed at the discretion
of the senate.
Section 10: Removal of Student Appointee
The senate has
the power to remove any student member of a faculty or administrative
committee, the senate, or working groups.
The committee coordinator
will record attendance of student members of committees. The membership
coordinator will record attendance of senators and members of advisory
- The membership coordinator may recommend removal of senators
from the senate, a committee, or a working group for poor attendance,
but not for ideological reasons. The committee coordinator may recommend
removal of student members from a committee or working group for poor
attendance, but not for ideological reasons. If a student assigned to
a working group fails to attend, that student may be removed from their
faculty and administrative committee seats.
- The membership coordinator may recommend that a senator
be removed for not participating in publicity campaigns, and for not
holding weekly office hours.
- A removal is enacted by a two-thirds vote of the senate.
[NOTE: Sections 11-14 below outlines exceptions
to the removal process described in this section.]
Section 11: Student Finance Committee
The members of
the Student Finance Committee (SFC) are appointed by the senate to allocate
the activity fee. Members are chosen from the student body at large,
with the exception of a chair who serves as the Student Finance Chair
of the Senate.
- Five of the seven members of the SFC will be appointed in
the spring prior to their year of service. The senate will elect the
Student Finance Chair, and will appoint a first-year student in the
- An organization may appeal its SFC budget allocation to
the senate after completion of the SFC’s regular budgeting process.
An organization must decide to initiate an appeal using the decision-making
process set out in its charter. The senate should agree to hear an appeal
only if the organization can demonstrate that the SFC has used its power
unfairly or in an arbitrary manner.
- Members of the SFC are invited to attend the senate meeting
when an appeal is heard.
- If the senate finds that an appeal is legitimate, it may
recommend to the SFC that it make an alternative budget allocation.
If the SFC rejects the recommendations, the organization may appeal
to the senate once more. In the case of a second appeal, the decision
of the senate is final.
- Senators may not vote on appeals from an organization that
has given them a ballot endorsement. Neither the Student Finance Chair
nor the Organization Liaison may vote on any SFC appeal.
- No senator who is a member of the SFC may vote on an SFC
budget or ad hoc request from an organization that has given them a
ballot endorsement, nor may they chair an SFC discussion of the request.
- The Student Senate may not appeal its own budget.
- The Student Senate may not remove members of the SFC as
it can other committees.
Section 12: Forum Board
The Student Senate
will appoint all members of the Forum Board.
- Five members of the Forum Board will be selected from the
student body in the spring prior to their year of service. A membership
term lasts for one academic year.
- The Student Senate may not remove members of the Forum Board
as it can other committees.
- The senate shall not hear budget appeals from the Forum
Section 13: Judicial/Community Board Appointments
The members of
the Judicial Board and the student members of Community Board will be
appointed in the spring by the Student Senate, in accordance with IV.
Student Rights and Responsibilities, see section E., numbers 2. and
- The Student Senate may not remove members of the Judicial
or Community Boards, as it can the members of other committees.
Section 14: Honor Committee Appointments
The members of
the Honor Committee will be appointed in the spring by the Student Senate,
in accordance with II. Student Rights and Responsibilities see section
E., number 4. a.-g.
- The Student Senate may not remove members of the Honor Committee
as it can other committees.
Section 15: Student Union Board Appointments
The members of
the Student Union Board will be appointed in the spring by the Student
Senate, in accordance with the Student Union Board constitution.
Section 16: Plenary Sessions
The senate will
meet in plenary sessions no more than two weeks apart.
- The internal secretary will take items
for the agenda of each meeting. Any senator may add an item to the agenda.
- The facilitation of senate meetings will
rotate between all senate members on a volunteer basis.
- Senate meetings will follow the principles
of the Feminist Process, promoting inclusive conversation and striving
Section 17: Quorum
The quorum for
voting in the full senate is 10 senators, if called by a senator.
Section 18: Accessibility of Proceedings
proceedings must be accessible and well publicized to the student body.
- All senate meetings must be open to any
member of the student body.
- Senators must hold regular open office
- The senate must publicize its agenda
and minutes, and provide for student input.
- The senate must publicize attendance
and vote charts.
- The senate must publish a newsletter at least once per month.
The newsletter may be distributed in any form that will widely reach
the student body, including paper or electronic mailings. etc.
- The senate must publicize any open seats on faculty and
Section 19: Compensation
for Members of Student Government
Compensation for members of the student government
found eligible by this constitution will be paid through an hourly wage.
The wage shall be set at the minimum wage according to the student employment
- Members of the student government found eligible to receive
compensation must fulfill all of their duties outlined in this constitution
and the charters of their respective institutions. Members cease to
receive compensation upon removal from their respective institution.
- Members of the student government eligible to receive compensations
shall be paid directly from the student activity fee budget. Student
government institutions must apply to their respective budgeting organization
for additional funding, as outlined by this constitution.
- The student government members found eligible by the Association
of Students to receive compensation are the senators of the Student
Senate and the members of the SFC. Each government institutions’ eligibility
for compensation must be reaffirmed biannually. A minimum of 50 percent
of students must vote, and a majority must approve.
ARTICLE III: WORKING GROUPS
Section 1: Purpose
Working groups are the principal forum for students to formulate recommendations and proposals to the
administration, senate, and faculty and administrative committees on a particular set of issues. A working group may
consist of senators, student members of faculty and administrative committees, and other students and nonvoting
faculty and administrators appointed by the senate. Working groups may, as appropriate, involve the community
in their work by holding public meetings and consulting with faculty members, students, and staff with expertise or
interest in an issue area.
Section 2: Creation
Working groups are created by the Student Senate to work on legislative activities. They are established by a
majority vote of the senate.
The senate determines which senators, faculty committee student members, individual students, and
administrators serve on a particular working group.
Section 3: Membership
The makeup of working groups must include a minimum of one senator. If that senator is the entire makeup of
the group, the senator should be open to consultation and seek input collaboratively.
The senate may appoint student members of faculty or administrative committees as members of a working
The senate may appoint faculty or staff members to sit on working groups as ex officio, nonvoting members.
Working groups may invite other students, staff, and faculty members to attend meetings as guests.
ARTICLE IV: REFERENDA AND CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE
Section 1: How to Call for a Referendum
A referendum can be called by a majority vote of the senate or by a petition with 100 student signatures
presented to the senate. Petitioners should have a topic on the petition that is a singular phrase or clause and in
line with the preamble to this constitution.
Section 2: Results
The senate and its working groups are compelled to consider the results of any referendum.
Section 3: Constitutional Change
Amendments that significantly change the structure or intent of this constitution must pass a student referendum.
A minimum of 50 percent of students must vote, and a majority must approve the amendment.
Section 4: Senator Removal Via a Referendum
A senator may be removed by a student referendum. For the referendum to pass, 20 percent of students must
vote and two-thirds of those voting must approve the referendum.
ARTICLE V: STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS AND ASSOCIATION
Section 1: Organizing Groups
Any group of students is free to organize for any purpose in accordance with the regulations of Oberlin College.
Section 2: Advisors
Advisors to student organizations will be chosen or approved by the organizations concerned.
Section 3: Publications
- Students may publish newspapers, journals, magazines, or other publications as they wish.
- The senate or college authorities may not exercise censorship over the content of these publications.
Section 4: Amendments to Student Organization Charter
The charter of a student organization may be amended by the respective organization, subject to approval by the
Senate, Student Life Committee and General Faculty.
ARTICLE VI: POWERS
Nothing in this constitution prevents the General Faculty, the president of the college, or the Board of Trustees
from acting with the powers accorded to them by the by-laws of Oberlin College. This constitution supersedes and
overrides any previous constitutions, charters, and regulations.