Unenrolled Anton Allowed to Remain Senatorby Nick Stillman and Erin Walsh
Senator Chris Anton dominated the headlines Senate garnered this year, as he did not enroll as an Oberlin student, yet retained his seat on Senate. Anton, who would have been a sophomore, chose instead to enroll in correspondence courses through the University of Georgia. Although this prompted criticism from both students and professors in the Review, Anton downplayed the controversy, saying, "I'm taking time off from Oberlin to pursue other things. But I don't feel like it's any big stretch to stay on Student Senate."
The rules and regulations in the Student Handbook state that "Any regularly enrolled full-time student is eligible for all recognized extra-curricular activities," such as Senate, and does not specify whether they need to be full time students at Oberlin College. This loophole enabled Anton to continue his responsibilities as a senator.
"For all intents and purposes, I'm still a member of this community, I just won't be paying $1600 to be here," Anton said. He said that stepping down as senator "would be very disruptive to the activism I've already completed." He continued, saying, "I do worry that this will be received the wrong way and it will tarnish the legitimacy I've already established. And I am aware that there are people vying for my position."
Realizing the potential conflict of interest regarding Anton's retaining his position, Senators voted Feb. 13 on whether or not to grant Anton permission to remain a senator. The vote resulted in a 6-5 turnout in Anton's favor, with one senator abstaining.
Associate Dean of Students Bill Stackman who was present at the Feb. 13 Senate meeting, asserted his belief that Anton was misinterpreting Senate's Constitution. "The Constitution clearly defines what is the student body," Stackman said. The Article to which Stackman referred to, as stated in the Student Handbook, reads, "The purpose of this Constitution is to define the structure and powers of the governance organizations of the students of Oberlin College, hereafter referred to as the 'student body.'
Dean of Students Peter Goldsmith agreed with Stackman, saying, "I think it takes very little common sense to understand when that passage [in the constitution] speaks of full-times students, it means Oberlin students."
Senate was divided over whether to allow Anton to serve and also proved concerned about the message that having a non-Oberlin student as a Senator would convey to the student body. "Chris deserves to stay on Senate. We should immediately amend the by-laws (to deal with this situation) on a person to person basis for future reference," said senior Senator Micah Thorner. Other Senators proved less enthusiastic on the outcome of the vote. "It sends a bad message," junior Senator Aaron Leavy said.
The General Faculty (GF) explicitly expressed their take on the Anton issue at their March 14 meeting, where they voted nearly unanimously to expel him from the meeting, outraging Senators in attendance. Professor of Politics Ron Kahn initiated the meeting by calling a point of order regarding Anton's presence, which was later manifested in a faculty vote as to whether Anton would be allowed to remain. College President Nancy Dye justified the GF ruling that forced Anton to leave, saying, "My ruling as chair of the GF is that it's not enough to be a senator - you also have to be a registered Oberlin College student and a student in good standing."
Whereas faculty voted nearly unanimously to remove Anton from the meeting, senators stood in unanimous opposition.
Senators Erika Hansen and Jane Glynn, both juniors, speculated that the GF's action overrode the Student Senate's constitution, requiring that senators attend GF meetings. Dye retorted, saying, "It is for the deliberative body, the GF in this case, to decide on its membership and to rule when there are questions of the credentials of someone in the body."
However, Dye did not mention the problem posed by Section 4e of the Student Senate constitution, which states, "The responsibilities of the senators will be to attend all Senate, faculty, and administrative committee meetings."
Junior Senator Jane Glynn expressed concern that the faculty's vote to remove Anton from the meeting implied their desire for his removal from Senate. Moreover, she criticized faculty members for applauding after Anton had left the room. "No one applauds at faculty meetings," she said. "It was very snobby - like they were saying 'we have power and are using it against you.'"
Glynn and fellow Senator Erika Hansen, a junior, criticized Goldsmith, as well as the entire administrative body. "Goldsmith is our dean of students - we should feel comfortable seeking his guidance and support, but no one goes to him," Hansen said.
Glynn continued the attack, saying, "This is just another step in the pattern of administrative disrespect and disregard for the Senate."
Hansen cited this instance as the pinnacle of mounting tension between administrators and Senate. "This is the high point, but it's not like this is new," she said.
Anton, currently in Germany and corresponding via e-mail, explicitly affirmed the criticisms of the administration extended by Glynn and Hansen. "They're confident that I'll go away and they can continue the ridiculousness they commit behind closed doors unnoticed, but the bad news is, I'm not going anywhere."
Both Hansen and Glynn suggested that Anton's consistently outspoken criticism of administrative activities has led to a personal dislike for Anton on the part of administrators. "I think Dye knows the biggest critic she has is Chris Anton, and regardless of what one thinks of him personally, he's the most outspoken critic of the administration - it's obvious to all of us this is personal," Hansen said.
Anton said "What it all comes down to is this: Nancy, Pete and the 'shady gang' are scared as hell, and I couldn't be more flattered."
Copyright © 2000, The Oberlin Review.
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