Student Government Proposals to Extend Some Members’ Terms, Increase Transparency

A series of amendments to Student Government’s Constitution have been proposed that, if passed, could extend some current members’ terms; mandate disclosure of bylaws, meeting minutes and attendance logs; and limit access to meetings, according to e-mails leaked to The Record.

An anonymous source leaked the proposed amendments, accessible via hyperlink, to The Record. The amendments appeared to have been sent to Student Government members a little before 9 p.m. Tuesday night.

Although Matt Gelfand, Law ’12, was elected Student Government President, on March 7, his term, under the current Constitution, Article III, Section 1, does not start until April 1. The proposed amendment to Article IX, Section 1(6) would permit the current President and Vice President to “participate in Student Government Meetings as Emerita Board members” from April 1 to Commencement. If passed, this amendment could allow the current President  and Vice President to, under Article X, Section 2(3), vote for or against bylaws and constitutional amendments even after Gelfand started his term as President. A note on that amendment apparently by its drafter reads, “expire Commencement 2012?” and “I don’t care as much about the last one, but am concerned about what will happen to unfinished projects and questions that arise that would suggest continued membership in some capacity would be helpful”.

If the proposed amendment to Article II(B) is passed, current Directors would serve until Commencement, not April 1, as the current Constitution’s Article IV, Section 2 provides. A note, presumably by its drafter, reads, “so [a current Director] can oversee [Student Funding Board] proceedings, etc.” If passed, the amendment would revert Directors’ terms to their original  pre-February 15 durations, with terms ending at Commencement. On February 15 of this year, however, a unanimous Student Government voted to amend the Constitution so that terms would end on April 1.

“It is unconscionable to me that the same Student Government that amended its own Constitution to provide for an earlier transition may now undo that change after a non-incumbent won the election.” Gelfand said, “I urge the members of Student Government, if for no other reason than to maintain the legitimacy of the organization, to vote against this amendment. I urge members of the student body to attend [Wednesday’s] meeting to voice their opinions on this proposed amendment, which could seriously impair my ability to obtain the change that they voted for.”

The proposed amendment to Article IX, Section 2 provides that attendance records, meeting minutes, and amendments to the Constitution or Bylaws will be published on the website promptly.

A proposed amendment to Article IX, Section 1 would close meetings to “members of the public unless decided in advance by the President,” but keep meetings “open to all members of the Harvard Law School community.” It also provides, “visitors may not participate in the meetings in any form or act to distract Student Government members in any way.”

The General Body Meeting in which the proposed amendments are scheduled to be discussed is scheduled for Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

The Record attempted to contact members of Student Government whose names appeared on the proposed amendments at approximately 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night, but none commented on the record on the substance of the proposed amendments.

The proposed amendments are accessible here. Names of students were redacted by The Record. 

Correction (3 p.m. March 21): A previous version of this article inaccurately stated that Student Government is scheduled to vote on the amendments Wednesday night. The proposals are scheduled to be discussed.

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