GSC Considers Potential Structural Changes

UPDATED: Oct. 7, 2012, at 6:57 p.m.

At a monthly meeting of the Graduate Student Council on Wednesday, members of the Council discussed whether the Council should continue with a representative democracy or move toward a direct democracy system. A proposed change would allow non-departmental representatives to vote on the issues that the GSC puts forth.

Currently, each department gets one, two, or three votes based on the number of registered students in the department, according to President of the GSC, Cammi N. Valdez. A department gets one vote if it has between 1 and 35 people, two votes if it has between 36 and 70 people, and three votes if it has 71 or more people.

“Our constitution states that it is up to the department to choose the way they elect or select their representatives,” Valdez explained. “The issue of direct democracy has not been brought up prior to this year.”

Patrick L. Rich, Secretary of the GSC, said he finds the question of direct democracy to be “interesting and important.”

“A few people on the executive board are going to organize a forum where people interested in talking about this can directly voice their opinions. The idea would be that anyone interested in that issue will come and speak,” Rich said.

Jennifer A. Sheehy-Skeffington, the international students at large representative for the GSC, said that this discussion points out flaws within the current system.

“I think that the issue of universal suffrage is coming up as an indication of the failing in the democratic structure of the GSC,” Sheehy-Skeffington said.

“When it comes to elections of members of the executive committee, I think all grad students should have a vote, just as students do at the undergraduate level.”

Because the meeting concluded before the issues was resolved, the discussion on this and other amendments will be the first subjects considered in the GSC’s next meeting, according to Sheehy-Skeffington.

Although the group did not come to a consensus on this issue, they were able to pass one amendment by the end of the session. This change will add a provision in the constitution for the removal of Executive Board members who fail to attend, without a valid excuse, more than a quarter of the required meetings, according to Sheehy-Skeffington.

In addition to these topics, members of the Harvard University Police Department spoke about student safety, a new Treasurer was voted upon, and the members of each GSC committee were chosen. Towards the end of the meeting different recommendations made by the Constitutional and Bylaws Committee were read and people voted to change or talk about, or table each amendment.

—Staff writer Laya Anasu can be reached at layaanasu@college.harvard.edu.

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