Student Council 411: Amendments, Parties, and the SwatBBS

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

DU Representatives | Ben Zhang and
Amending the Constitution | Large Scale Party

Delta Upsilon Representatives

Two members of the Delta Upsilon fraternity, Chris Compton ’08 and Brian Willis ’11 updated Student Council on their activities briefly. In particular, Compton told the Council that the fraternity has “been looking for [more] community service involvement,” and if “there is an avenue [Student Council and DU] can cooperate to get a community service project.”

Student Council President Peter Gardner ’08 mentioned that he encouraged some of the leaders of the Women’s Resource Center to start working together with DU on campus-wide events, but no contact has yet been made.

Swat BBS

Ben Zhang ’09 presented on a website he created, He described the site as “different from the Daily Jolt, which doesn’t have categories,” and highlighted research he has done into other forums at Williams and Haverford Colleges. He hopes that the forum will “promote campus-wide discussions,”so he asked that the the Student Council “take ownership of the forum, to market it and make it more official.”

The Council was universally receptive to the idea. Appointments Chair Nate Erskine ’10 particularly liked the idea of adding a Student Council section to the site in order to solicit feedback. The Council was concerned, however, that they did not have the technical knowledge to contribute to the maintence of the forum, and suggested Zhang get in contact with SCCS.

Zhang told the Council that he had already contacted Dean Myrt Westphal and members of ITS.

Constitutional Amendment

The Student Council continued discussions on amending their constitution. The proposed change relates to the Council’s ability to overturn an SBC decision. The current text reads:

Article III, Section 5.3.2: “SC shall hear the appeal and either accept or reject the appeal as stated.”

The proposed amendment would change this to:

Article III, Section 5.3.2: “SC shall hear the appeal and either accept the appeal as stated, reject the appeal as stated, or determine a fair and appropriate alternative settlement.”

According to Erskine, he had been “approached by a member of SBC earlier this week. He implied that SBC was very concerned about the amendment, saying that SBC would raise a ruckus if this amendment was to pass.”

Chris Green ’09, an observer and a member of SBC, said that “the member acted independently.” In order to clarify these discussions, Campus Life Representative Alyssa Work ’08 suggested the Council invite Student Budget Manager Giannina Esquival ’08 to attend the next Council meeting.

Still, the Council continued to discuss the merits of the proposal.

Erskine was concerned by the potential for abuse, and Gardener was worried that the appeals process could become a grueling affair similar to SBC meetings. “We [could] get bogged down totally in say “Well, they asked for eighty, do we give them seventy or fifty or sixty-three dollars?”

Still, he remembered a case last semester in which an individual bought nearly $300 worth of supplies for a SAC-funded party, but was denied any recompense due to a $2 personal item on the budget.

Work was the most vocal supporter of the amendment, and was confident that the Council would use the ability judiciously. Financial Policy Representative Sarah Roberts ’08 noted that “SBC never ever has a gray area,” and she wondered “what would it take to work with SBC to make that not the case?”

The discussion ended with Green reminding the Council that SBC is “constantly dealing with the details of the financial system, and it is hard for us to be fiscally responsible if Student Council is giving out eight-hundred dollars.”

Large Scale Party

According to Gardner, Dean Smaw and Dean Larimore are very interested in Student Council organizing a large community-wide party. “They are willing to hire bands and caterers for the entire campus,” said Gardner. “My impression is that there is some money there, I don’t know how much—but I’ve had this conversation with Deans Smaw and Larimore about three times.”

One idea was even to bring Swarhtmore’s mayor. Council members recalled that, last year, the Mayor suggested that the College could have “some kind of event where the shop keepers can market their wares.” They were less than certain this would be the right venue for that kind of involvement, however.

The main thing, said Gardner, is that this would be a “big happy we-are-all-one-big-community-kind of event.”


  1. “SBC never ever has a gray area,” [said Sarah Roberts,] and [Roberts] wondered “what would it take to work with SBC to make that not the case?”

    When I first joined SBC (I’m no longer on the committee), I was surprised and disappointed by the lack of a gray area and thought that this led to unfair and incorrect decisions. It didn’t make sense to, for instance, force a group of students to eat $200-$300 because of a $2 personal item. Considering only the individual case, this kind of ruling usually seems petty and power-hoarding.

    Being on SBC, though, and going through several of this kind of appeal convinced me that the “no gray area” approach is a necessary evil. It’s very easy to tell a convincing story and very difficult for SBC to check the facts and determine whether something is an honest mistake or attempted cheating of the system. The only alternatives to taking a hard line are: 1) SBC always takes a soft line, which would destroy its ability to enforce its own (important) rules, and 2) SBC members make subjective judgments on whether exceptions should be made. Those sorts of value judgments are contrary to the requirement that SBC treat all groups equally.

    SBC’s rules are only effective if they are actually enforced. When Council overturns an SBC decision, it makes SBC look bad, but when a similar situation arises in the future, SBC can justify upholding its rules by noting that it did so in the past. Enforcing the rules in some situations is unfair and shows bias that SBC isn’t allowed to have. The current system, where Council has some latitude to make subjective judgments, may make SBC look silly on occasion but at least it’s allowed to do its job.

    The impact of the proposed amendment would probably be far smaller than those involved expect since relatively few students know how to “game the system”. But it is flawed on principle since it would render SBC decisions meaningless. Council could just make whatever decision it wanted and would be free to give the SBC decision as much or little weight as it wanted to. In the past, members of Council have stated a goal of overturning SBC decisions as infrequently as possible, but there’s no reason that would have to be true in the future.

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