It’s Time to Vote Yes on Alternates!

Sam O’Hana is a 5th year student in the English program, a former teaching fellow at Hunter College, and a Digital Fellow at GCDI. He is the Co-Chair for Business at the DGSC for 2023-24 and received the departmental Kadison Award for service in 2023.

It’s election season over here at the Graduate Center’s student government, the DGSC, and many outstanding candidates are running to be your program and at-large representatives.

At the same time, we are holding a college-wide referendum on several amendments to our constitution. Some of these amendments are pretty boring details: correcting typos and inconsistencies, putting us in compliance with CUNY-wide policy, and making sure that the new leaders of the DGSC should meet once in the summer to get set up with their duties and committee assignments.

However, there is one particular amendment which will have a broad and highly beneficial impact on how the DGSC does business: the introduction of alternates.

If you serve on a committee at the Graduate Center, but can’t attend due to illness or other emergency, you need someone to attend in your place, take part in the discussion, vote, and report back any updates back to you. In the past, you could designate a “proxy” to do this. Unfortunately, proxies were recently judged to be illegal by lawyers at CUNY based on state law, leaving us with no way to cover for absences.

This is a big problem at the DGSC because students are often busy with commitments, and in order to do things like decide on what should go in our budget and vote new members into office, we need a quorum– meaning we need more than 50% of our members to attend in person (attending remotely sadly doesn’t count because we are a New York State institution and so our meetings have to be open to the public at all times.)

This is why our proposed amendment is for a new system called alternates. Alternates do exactly the same work as proxies, but instead of anyone filling in for an absence, there is a designated person to fill in for a particular committee member. Our proposal is that every student representative has a specific person to serve as a backup when needed.

This is now the norm for many bodies at the GC, especially the Graduate Council, which makes some of the most important decisions about our life and work at this college, like conferring degrees.

Unfortunately, there are some students who are asking the student body to vote “no” on this amendment. In a voter guide circulated online, students are told that this amendment and its implementation was not communicated clearly enough to the student body, and they request a separate election for alternates this year.

The truth is that this amendment was presented twice this semester by email and twice in person to all the student representatives of the DGSC, who in turn notify the student body. This amendment was also proposed to the student body in plain, non-technical language last semester in December of 2023. We worked very hard to get the word out, and we were proud to present it as a huge step forward for student democracy on campus.

It is also impossible to organize a separate election process for alternates this year because the election of student representatives must first involve a nomination process that has to happen in February. Since this amendment is not yet in effect, we can’t now set up a nominations process for alternates this year. Instead– and for this year only– it will be the runners up in the elections for student representatives who will be elected as alternates. Next year, students will be able to nominate themselves and others to be alternates, the same as for regular representatives.

I don’t understand why a group of students would recommend a “no” vote on this amendment. No student is discriminated against in this approach. There is no disadvantage to the student body, and no other way to implement this amendment.

I believe that no good argument has been put forward to vote against it, and that any attempt to re-introduce this amendment next year will involve the same problems described above all over again. If it fails, it will set the DGSC back by several years and will put us at a disadvantage compared to other bodies at the GC, forcing student representatives to attend despite schedule clashes, or risk losing the quorum that allows us to do business such as approve funding for important services and student events.

For this reason, I encourage you to vote “yes” on this critically important amendment to our constitution. It broadens access to the DGSC, it secures the chances of passing our annual budget, and it allows for more students to take part in democratic processes.

To vote on this amendment, and to cast your vote for student representatives, follow this link and use the following login details:

– Username: 8-digit EMPLID (CUNYfirst ID)

– Password (all lowercase): first initial + last initial + 4-digit birth year(e.g., ab1990)

Working to make quorum at a DGSC meeting in November 2023!







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