To the Editors:
Re: “The referendum petition shows a clear disregard for constitutional principles” (opinion, Apr. 10)
As of this writing, the referendum has already taken place and was decided by the student body. Even so, I am compelled to address the claims and assertions made by the author and place the misinformation in the context of a bigger picture. Specifically, there is much to be said about the current state of College Government (CG), its cabinet and the relationship both entities have with the greater student body; only in this referendum fiasco have the cracks in the relationship been made clear.
My most immediate concern is your presentation of CG and the reality the rest of the student body regularly encounters. In the fifth paragraph, you write, “It is the right of any member of the student body to voice concerns about CG practices.” Inherent to any functioning democracy — national, state, local and even collegiate — there is a standing belief that voices will be heard and addressed. Unspoken in this, however, is the recognition that although the onus is on the government entity to hear those voiced concerns, it is also the government’s function to ensure that healthy and vocal discussion be fostered and encouraged, even at the risk of disagreement, woe and — god forbid — embarrassment to the individuals at the head of the government body.
This is far from the case in the events surrounding the referendum. Not only has conversation not been encouraged, it could even be argued that the current CG cabinet has worked with unusual effort to suppress dissension amongst its constituency by rallying its supporters and publicly decrying the actions of an individual that happened to have enough gall to call into question recent events. I wonder, for instance, why, between the two opinions you wrote last week, friends and supporters chose to share the one that shamed the use of the referendum tool (and implicitly the person who initiated the measure) rather than the one that explained the benefits of the SOAC restructuring measure? Was the student body, who could have benefited from an explanation, not tasked to vote on that very measure? While I may not know the exact reasoning you and your friends reached to make that choice, my instinct tells me that it was deliberate, targeted and driven by spite. This is, as is much of this drama, representative of a larger, more pressing issue facing the College now. We cannot have this pattern of behavior from a government body whose sole stated purpose is to make the College a better place.
To reiterate, the referendum was a courageous action that allowed the student body to inspect their leadership with greater scrutiny. Your writing exemplifies the very consternation that compelled me to pen this letter. Just as you spoke of the right of students to voice concerns, merely three paragraphs after you write of the incomprehensibility of encouraging more student participation and access to the abstruse CG rules and processes. It is bemusing at best and irresponsible at worst to posit these two capricious statements as truth in the same piece of writing. Which, then, is it? Are we to participate, or is participation not to be expected of us? The burden remains on CG to guide students in a manner of democratic participation that is fair and equitable. The referendum is not as you say “a wanton disregard for constitutional ethics,” it is a proper and fair use of a vague constitutional stipulation designed to encourage the very conversations your cabinet is seeking to diminish. This is wrong.
I implore you and the rest of the CG cabinet, and especially the incoming body, to self-examine and set fair standards of participation and discussion. I, and surely the majority of the student body, do not want to stand in opposition or hold any more distrust of CG, but to undoing these preconceived notions begins with your outward demonstration of change, reflection and above all, apology. Our campus will benefit from a concerted, collective effort to dismantle inequality, discrimination and exploitation that we experience on a daily basis at Wellesley. We cannot do this if the CG cabinet is Janus-faced and petty. Take the lesson of this referendum not as a victory but as a message that you, CG cabinet, must be better.