To the Editors:
A letter to the editor was submitted on April 17, 2019 in response to my op-ed on how the referendum petition exemplified a disregard for constitutional principles. That article from April 10, 2019 was written in my capacity as a student-at-large but was informed by my work with the Honor Code. I write this reply again as an individual and not on behalf of College Government cabinet.
I was careful to emphasize that my article was meant as a commentary on ethics, rather than as an attack on a student. As I stated in my original piece, I wrote out of a concern for what I saw as a misuse of the College Government constitution to provoke a school-wide referendum. There is no discrepancy between encouraging student participation and criticizing the abuse of a constitutional clause. The two are unrelated. In fact, I encouraged students to bring future concerns about senate policies and voting processes to the Senate Policy and Ethics Committee (SPEC) just a sentence later: “There is, in fact, a council dedicated to handling exactly those issues: the Senate Policy and Ethics Committee (SPEC). Concerns about the voting process should be handled by SPEC, while concerns about a senate measure should be voted on in a referendum.” As I stated then and stand by now, a referendum is about a measure, not the means to pass a measure. The Wellesley News’ article from April 10, 2019 titled “Controversial SOAC Proposal Prompts First Ever Campus Referendum” also emphasizes the point that the student who initiated the referendum had no critiques of the measure, only the vote: “While [she] did not have qualms with the measure itself, she justified proposing a referendum, commenting, ‘I can genuinely say that this decision came from the frustration around how it [the vote] happened … but there was no other mechanism in place,’ to contest how the vote was passed on March 18.” Again, the petition misrepresented an issue so that students would sign a document prompting a vote on something entirely separate. The conclusion that was derived from shares of the April 17 op-ed — that sharing this article was an implicit attack on a student — could also be taken as a sign of agreement with my original point. I am not the only member of the student body with views on this subject.
There was no intention by College Government cabinet to suppress dissent, but we did take a stance on the issue. I refer to the logic provided in my other April 10 op-ed titled “The SOAC Changes Are a Positive Step Toward Campus Equity.” Concern about CG cabinet’s vocal stance were brought forward, and I stand by the constitutional principles again: “However, the CG constitution offers these stipulations: first, that a referendum may be filed if any member of the student body collects a petition with 200 signatures and second, that voting should be well-publicized for at least three days before the vote. Nowhere does the CG constitution specify who should be in charge of publicity, who should run the vote or who may take the initiative to launch a campaign. The director of student involvement will be administering the vote and, as this is not an election per se, there is no Elections Committee. College Government cabinet, therefore, has no obligation to remain an impartial party. We believe that on account of our roles and experience, we are uniquely qualified to comment on the merits of adding another cabinet position to decrease the workload of the College Government Vice President (CGVP). As such, we chose to run a vote ‘yes’ campaign.” Furthermore, I also offered the following statement to encourage dissent only a sentence later: “Any member of the student body is free to suggest voting ‘no,’ if there are arguments for doing so.” In our forum on the referendum, we emphasized that if any student wanted to launch a “no” campaign, they would have had the freedom to do so and we would have included those arguments on our under-the-door spam or even released another issue. However, no one did present an argument. The lack of a “no” campaign does not demonstrate an “unusual effort to suppress dissension.” In both written campaigns and at an in-person forum, members of cabinet repeatedly emphasized that students were at perfect liberty to run a coordinated “no” campaign; with no arguments against the measure presented in the petition or in senate, we did not have the means to disagree with the SOAC changes.
I agree that launching a referendum is a monumental action, but this was done in clear defiance of constitutional principles. No misinformation was provided in either of the two op-eds.