The amendment on the ballot this week will do harm to Hillsdale’s Student Federation and the student body. This amendment would loosen qualifications for Federation officers to discourage uncontested elections. It’s original intention to modify election requirements was noble; the product that the student body is now voting on is a frankenstein. The student body should vote “no” on this amendment.
During the final debate on the amendment, a clause was added to loosen the eligibility requirements for Federation officers, so that candidates need only have completed a semester on the Federation before taking office (rather than before running for office). While short, this rushed addition has tremendous implications.
Both the current and immediate past Federation treasurers oppose this amendment, as do all of the current members of the Federation Rules Committee who were specifically tasked to study the issue. In fact, the committee expressly rejected the clause, but the proposal was amended on the floor against their wishes to include this phrasing.
It is bad enough that the amendment is an incomprehensible monstrosity with contradictory definitions. Before you vote on the amendment, ask to view a copy of the text and remember that future Federations will have to reread this every year. There is a better way to solve this problem and it starts with a “no” vote on the current text.
More dangerous than the legalese, however, is that there will be inexperienced and ignorant students running for officer positions. Instead of closing a loophole in the current Constitution, the amendment will make this loophole the rule rather than the exception.
Under the current system, officers will have served a complete semester before their candidacy, resulting in a full year of experience. This means they will have experienced the entire budget process and heard numerous funding requests and new club proposals.
Worst of all, this amendment would allow someone to run for treasurer who has never seen or worked with a Federation budget.Allowing someone who joined in the fall semester to run for treasurer will place someone in control of more than $100,000 of student fees who might not even know how that money is allocated. The budget process requires great subtlety and tact, and a treasurer should, at the very least, have been on the Federation to have seen and voted on the previous budget.
In addition, allowing students with only one semester of experience to run for office will endanger the institutional memory of the Federation, which is already sparse from its high turnover. When College Republicans requests thousands of dollars to go to the Conservative Political Action Conference, shouldn’t the treasurer at least know what promises the club made the last time they came?
The foundation of the entire “yes” argument is fallacious. Even though there is a loophole whereby a member can leave the Federation and be nominated for office in absentia, this almost never happens. Even this year, probably the first-ever use of this loophole, the candidate took advantage of unusual circumstances that let him run for office without being nominated at a meeting. Using this as the basis for so-called fairness is foolish — it will likely never happen again.
Some have argued that opposing this amendment is anti-Greek, thereby implying that the status quo is somehow anti-Greek. Since two current officers and two of next year’s officers are Greek, and Student Federation has had at least one Greek officer at all times since at least 2011, crying discrimination is ridiculous. Resorting to the tired arguments of “anti-Greek” bias is a distraction from the real problems in the amendment.
Finally, voting “no” on the amendment will not leave us with this problem for years to come. Amendments may be proposed and voted on by the student body at any time of the year. The Federation can address this issue again this spring and still be on schedule to have the issue resolved before the next cycle of elections in the fall with time to spare.
This amendment has some advantages, but loosening eligibility requirements is irresponsible. Though diligence and competence supplement experience, they cannot replace it. The student body deserves a concise, considered, and prudent answer to who is eligible for the highest offices on campus. This is not it.
Thomas Ryskamp is a senior studying Music and Accounting and is the secretary of Hillsdale’s Student Federation.