The UC: Out of Order

Surrounded by parliamentary confusion and bickering, its legislative agenda grinds to a halt

Like many great governmental bodies have in the past, the Undergraduate Council (UC) was undone by parliamentary procedure during Monday night’s meeting. The assembly deteriorated into a bonafide royal rumble; only suplexes were missing in a meeting marked by shouts, sulks, scuffles, and walk-outs by council members.

Monday’s match pitted a majority of the UC who hoped to overturn current council bylaws that prohibit funding of “discriminatory” groups (bill 62.35) against a status-quo contingency. Although outnumbered, the latter group pinned their hopes on amending Article 7 of the UC Constitution, which mainly deals with the passing of bylaws changes. Under this new bill, two-thirds of the Council would be required to pass any bylaw amendment rather than the current threshold of a simple majority.

Oddly enough, UC Representative Matthew R. Greenfield ’08 found himself in both camps—sponsoring both 62.35 and the amendment to subject bylaw changes to two-thirds votes. This apparent contradiction made sense to Greenfield, however, because he believed that 62.35 would pass before the bylaw legislation. Unfortunately for him, the former did not.

After the docket order had been changed, Greenfield amended his amendment so that all mention of the bylaws requirements had been removed. Somehow, no one noticed the gaping hole that remained when the Council voted on the constitutional amendment. For upon its passage, the UC was left with no provision for dealing with bylaw changes. (It passed by a vote of 31-0, with four members abstaining, and the rest not casting any ballot.)

Therefore, when the Council moved to vote on 62.35, confusion abounded among most council members over how many votes were needed for the bill’s passage: a majority or two-thirds? The parliamentarian, Greenfield, claimed that since any mention of bylaws requirements had been removed from the previously passed legislation, then the Council must follow the most recent rule on the subject, Article 7 of the Constitution, which called for a majority.

With bravado and raucous applause, UC Representative Eric I. Kouskalis ’07 countered Greenfield’s account, and delivered a report from a professional parliamentarian to boot. According to the parliamentarian, since the UC had passed a revised version of Article 7 without any mention of bylaws requirements, then the UC must revert back to standards written in the original 1982 Constitution. UC President John S. Haddock ’07, who said that he had spent much of the weekend engaged in an “extended reading of the Constitution,” agreed with this assessment. Confused yet? So are we.

Greenfield would have none of it. “You overruled me based on your preference and not just because of your own reading of the Constitution,” he said. UC Representative Jeffrey Kwong ’09 chimed in, “What abilities do we have as Undergraduate Council members to keep your leadership, no matter how wise it is, in check?” Another UC member shouted that Kwong was out of order. Haddock shouted at that UC member that he was out of order.

The UC, collectively, was out of order.

Haddock had one last gasp. “So the reason why I’m allowed to rule things out of order and dilatory is because we could have the tyranny of the minority…every single motion I make, you would simply rule out of order…And so I make a motion, and I rule you out of order, then you would try to overturn me again.”

Touché, Johnny. But the logic was lost on Kwong. “Why is it tyranny of the minority?”

“Jeff, I’m done answering your question,” Haddock replied.

And one-third of the UC was done as well, storming out of Emerson 105 in protest, hoping bring the meeting to a halt. If only the UC had enough mercy for itself to let it all end there. Their departure was marked by hisses and “Shame! Shame!” from the council members that remained in the room. And the defectors returned. Sadly for those who had abandoned ship, the ensuing quorum call marginally passed and, thus, the vote on 62.35 would be valid under UC regulations.

A majority of the council did vote in favor of 62.35, but it fell short of the two-thirds needed to pass under Haddock’s (and Kouskalis’) interpretation.

The meeting, painfully, went on, finally ending with a discussion of three constitutional amendments that would change the UC’s structure.

According to UC Representative Thomas D. Hadfield ’08, “Meetings like this are why everyone hates the UC.”

The grotesque irony of the entire ordeal, which a few UC represenatives realized a few days after the meeting, was that Greenfield’s empty constitutional amendment­­—the one that sent the council into a parliamentary tailspin in the first place—never attained the required 37-vote threshold required for a constitutional amendment. When the council voted on 62.35, the constitution still had its “one-half” clause intact. And so next Sunday’s council meeting promises another round of bickering as the council attempts to determine if last meeting’s majority vote for 62.35 means that it actually passed.

In the meantime, the UC has real matters of student concern to tend to, and we hope it tends to them, beginning with a comprehensive review of its muddled constitution. Then, perhaps, communication with the student body, and a little advocacy on its behalf, won’t be such a laughable prospect.