New year, new constitution

Upper School ratifies updated document


Photo by Victoria Gonzalez

Financial Officer and Parliamentarian, Princess Ogiemwonyi, explains the new changes to the constitution at the Upper School welcome back assembly.

by Elisa Carroll, Web Editor

The beginning of a new school year brought not only new classes and experiences for Upper School students, but also the implementation of the updated Student Council constitution. Additions include the Affinity Council and Activities Committee as well as changes to processes and structures within the council. The revisions were announced to the Upper School student body during the “Welcome Back!” Student Council assembly on the first Wednesday back to school. Although this assembly was the first time students were formally and communally informed about the changes to the document, the process of amending the Upper School constitution began last November. Dr. Tiffani Kocsis, assistant head of Upper School, helped coordinate the process as one of the four adult sponsors on Student Council.“Being new last year and part of Student Council, it was brought up that this constitution hadn’t been ratified since 2013,” Kocsis said. “That felt problematic just because you want to make sure everybody and all the processes are protected and being followed.”As Student Council President, Remy Finn works closely with Kocsis and is in charge of running meetings, planning initiatives for the year and representing the student body as a whole. She was joined conversations about the constitution when she was elected as president last May.“A lot of the work happened over the summer because lawyers were involved, and it’s also been an ongoing process from this past year,” Finn said. “Most of the desired changes had already been decided on before I was even on the council as president.”


COVID-19’s impact

In addition to amendments to the original constitution being long overdue, last year’s circumstances with COVID-19 also assisted in creating the conditions for changes to be made. “We decided to take on the task of updating the constitution last year partially because we had such limitations on events, so we had more time to focus on the processes surrounding the constitution,” Kocsis said. Besides the additions of an Affinity Council and the Activities Committee, a two-year term limit was added for faculty sponsors on Honor Council and The Fourcast representative position was removed from Student Council to allow for more objective journalism. There was student input as well as conversations with each board, council and committee to look for ways to increase efficiency and productivity, and improve

how things are being run. Kocsis coordinated with these groups in addition to Student Council sponsors and Lisa Culbertson, head of Upper School.“Anything that was changed was in a different color, so it was very clear what had been updated,” Kocsis said. “Conversations were happening in lots of different places, so my role really was to facilitate all the different moving pieces into one document that could work.“Anytime you have such a formal document, you just need everybody coming to it with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective.”Changes to the constitution also included having the financial officer and parliamentarian read and review the constitution annually at the Student Council summer retreat. This aims to allow Student Council to avoid having long periods of time between updates in the constitution, which causes build-up in needed amendments and makes the process much more difficult. “The goal was to get the constitution more in line with current procedures and move the mission of Student Council forward in an accurate way,” Kocsis said.


Ratification process

After all the amendments were made, the ratification process began. The whole Upper School student body is a central part of reviewing and approving the constitution, and the ratification process is outlined in the constitution itself. For the constitution to be ratified, there needs to be a quorum of upper school students, meaning a majority of students have to be present and voting. “That’s the reason we announced the constitution at the ‘Welcome Back!’ assembly since we knew most students were either there in person or tuning in on line,” Kocsis said. As financial officer and parliamentarian, junior Princess Ogiemwonyi played a major role in the ratification process as dictated in the constitution.“My role was basically introducing the updated constitution to the US student body and informing them of the changes and how to ratify it,” Ogiemwonyi said.After a quorum of students is notified, voting has to commence within the same day. For the constitution to be ratified, two thirds of the voting population has to vote in favor. “Our process was to start in the morning, send out the voting and keep it open until midnight,” Kocsis said. “Everybody voted pretty quickly

and we reached the votes.”With the constitution now ratified, it goes into full effect for the new school year. “I’m hopeful the student body will be more represented within the council, especially with the new affinity groups having a role on Student Council,” Finn said. “I think that’s a really great way of making sure that no voices are being extinguished.”Although the revisions and updates to the constitution were made within Student Council itself, the council is representative of the student body and wants developments like these to feel open. “I think that processes like this can always feel hidden, and my door’s open if anyone wants to see a copy or talk,” Kocsis said. “The constitution is also posted on the Student Council OnCampus page for everyone to see.”