Starting this summer, the Student Body Senate began its mandated biannual review of the bylaws, or the rules that govern the method in which the Senate operates. In recent years, the bylaws have been out of reach for the average student to find and understand, filled with legal jargon and often overwhelming in their scope and language.
Senate has prioritized making changes to the layout of the bylaws as well as reforming their language to make them easier to comprehend, especially for those not familiar with the ins and outs of Senate. Senator Anjali Reddy, Co-Chair of the Senate Bylaw Committee, described why this process came about and what needed to change.
“The previous bylaws were not only labeled with all this legal jargon, but they also just weren’t covering what needed to be addressed or covered for all of us,” Senator Reddy said. “So, this summer, we started rewriting, adding, [and] putting in what we think… needs to [exist in] 2021 at Reed College.”
At the onset of this project, the committee worked in collaboration with the Student Accountability Groups on campus: the Judicial Board, the Honor Council, and the Restorative Justice Committee. All of these organizations have undergone substantial amounts of change and reform, being renamed from Reed’s Honor Groups to Student Accountability Groups. The committee found it important to have their input earlier in the process.
The bylaw review also began during a turbulent time in the Senate, with a slate of newly elected senators taking office as the process began.
“One of the things that… Senate knew needed to be done was we needed a game plan,” said Senator Margot Becker, the other Co-Chair of the Bylaw Committee. “If we had a really challenging situation like this in the future, we needed institutional memory that was written down. And so this Bylaw Committee was impaneled.”
The committee wants to use these bylaws as a way to establish a different student government than we have had before: one that is collaborative and more accessible to the needs of the student body who feel disconnected from Senate and the role they play in student’s lives.
There remains a question of why. Why should Reedies care about the Senate Bylaws? Why is the review process worth spending a summer and semester on, and why should the Senate have undergone these changes? Senator Becker hopes to help the student body understand how important it is to be engaged with your Student Government.
“If you don’t know what Senate does, you need to understand that there is a lot of money and a lot of responsibility placed in the hands of the student body government here in a way that it isn’t [at] other colleges,” Senator Becker said. “We have the ability to actually make our students’ lives on a very individual basis, better here. And that is done through the bylaws, [to] understand how your student body government works.”
The future of the Bylaw Committee is unknown. It will return in two years when another review is mandated, but the question remains if the committee will continue to exist in the meantime to hear issues student groups and individuals have with the new bylaws. Senator Reddy, who is serving her last term on Senate this semester, hopes that the committee will stay in place.
“I think it’s really going to take on the role of any other committee,” she said. “[When senators] graduate, that project might not be finished, but other senators will come in [and] sign up for that committee if they’re passionate about it.”
Senators hope that their hard work is recognized as well. Senators worked through their summer vacation and met bi-weekly to rewrite the bylaws, clearing them of the complicated legal jargon and putting them in terms that everyone can understand.
Senator MJ Quintana-Rodriguez, who serves on the committee, described the process as positive and productive, saying, “It’s been super positive under the leadership of Anjali and Margot. We’ve been able to accomplish so much. They were so good with planning and scheduling everything that I think their leadership has really been the thing that pushes us forward and allows us to get as much work done as we have.”
The committee hopes to have a full review done by the end of the semester so the student body can return for the spring with accessible and easy-to-understand rules for their student government. While there is no official plan for distribution yet, the committee hopes to make the bylaws accessible to students both online as well as in physical copies left around campus.