Senate plans vote
The upcoming student referendums were the focus of last Sunday’s Student Senate meeting. Senators and students presented questions for the referendum, ranging from a confidence vote on the college administration to divestment from Israel.
The senate meeting began by addressing referendum questions with more than 100 signatures in support of them. According to the senate’s constitution, “a referendum can be called by a majority vote of the senate or by a petition with 100 student signatures presented to the Senate,” and the “Senate and Advisory Councils are compelled to consider the results of any referendum.”
One referendum item guaranteed to appear on the ballot was a poll on the performance of the administration. The question “Do you have confidence in President Nancy S. Dye and her administration?” was presented by Oberlin junior Cecilia Hayford and the ad-hoc group Students for Administrative Reform. Attached to the referendum was a section of background information and senators expressed concern over the tone of the background information and pros and cons to be included with the question.
“There is some wording in the cons section I was uncomfortable with,” said student senator sophomore Jonathan Bruno, who objected to the use of terms such as “autocratic.” Senior Rebecca Ganetzky explained that the pros and cons could be altered for greater balance but all referendums with enough signatures had to be permitted. The senate resolved to validate the referendum’s signatures and revise the language at the next meeting.
The Student Senate also considered referenda on financial transparency and the related issues of socially responsible investing and divestment. College first-year Ronnie Ginach of Students for a Free Palestine introduced a referendum question asking “Should Oberlin remove investments from companies that do business with Israeli military?” When the question was put to referendum last year it won by a slight majority, but the student senate chose not to endorse it due to the number of abstentions. SFP had gathered the 100 signatures needed to place it on the ballot.
Another referendum question was, “Do you support the formation of a Socially Responsible Investments (SRI) Committee at Oberlin?” According to the question’s background, a SRI Committee would harmonize the College’s investments with its “social, environmental and ethical commitments” and be comprised of administrators, students, alumni and staff. Though the question lacked the signatures necessary to be added automatically to the ballot, the student senate voted to put it to a final vote at the next week’s meeting.
The presentation of the question on the formation of an SRI committee prompted a discussion of the campaign for social responsibility and transparency.
“I don’t think a student referendum will help you the way you think it will,” cautioned Ganetzky. “Nancy Dye is promoting as much as she ever will.”
Junior senator Marshall Duer-Balkind said that he did not oppose the referendum unless there was evidence it would be damaging to the cause.
Sophomore senator Matthew Adler proposed a referendum on changing the mailroom’s Saturday hours so that it would be open in the afternoon rather than the mornings. Adler tabled his own proposal after it was suggested the mailroom staff be consulted before the student senate voted on the matter.
Adler also presented a referendum question in support of the purchase of two change machines. The student senate reached the consensus that it would be better to contact the right people rather than put the question to a referendum and the proposal was tabled.
The meeting dealt with the issue of communication with the broader community. Student senator Kiel Telesford said there was a lack of student and faculty interest in student government. Many senators agreed with Telesford and were enthusiastic about increasing cooperation with the faculty as a means of addressing the problem. The Senate approved of holding a senate-faculty forum in a unanimous vote. The creation of an electronic blackboard site for the student senate and the student body was also approved by a unanimous vote.
For the “inside business” portion of the senate’s meeting, sophomore senator Matthew Kaplan asked if it would be better to change the scheduling of the meeting. The senate chose to maintain the status quo on the grounds that there was no better time than 7-10 p.m. on Sundays.
Ganetzky informed the senate on the search for a new College dean and said
those that wanted input into the process should contact her or Bruno.