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Senate Vice-President Says Constitution is a Farce

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Title

Senate Vice-President Says Constitution is a Farce

Subject

College student government

Description

Interview of former Vice President of the Student Senate at Mary Washington College, conducted by Mike Mello. The interview involved the Vice President of the Student Senate's reason for resigning after a disagreement about not following the Constitution of Student Associations at Mary Washington College.

Creator

Mello, Michael A.

Source

Mello, Michael A. "Senate Vice-President Says Constitution is a Farce." The Bullet (VA), November 15, 1977.

Publisher

HIST 298, University of Mary Washington

Date

1977-11-15

Rights

The materials in this online collection are held by Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington and are available for educational use. For this purpose only, you may reproduce materials without prior permission on the condition that you provide attribution of the source.

Format

4 JPG
300 dpi

Language

English

Coverage

Fredericksburg, VA

Text Item Type Metadata

Text

"Senate Vice President Says Constitution is a Farce"
Reprinted from PROMETHEUS
(Nov. 11 issue)
By Mike Mellow

The following, a taped interview, took place on October 3, 1977 in room 215 of Bushnell Dorm.
Prometheus: Jim, two weeks ago you were Vice President of the Student Senate, a day student senator, and a day student judicial representative; besides that, you had plans for running for President of S. A. next year. Today, you have resigned from all your positions in S. A. and have in effect withdrawn from campus politics. What happened?

Boyd: The whole thing started when Mike McCoy, who is President of the Day Student Association and a member of a committee formed by Executive Cabinet to re-write the Constitution of the Student Association, asked me to help him re-write the sections of the Constitution relating to day students. While doing so, I discovered Section 4, Article 6 of the Constitution, which deals with eligibility of students to hold office on the Executive Cabinet. That Section reads: "Eligibility for an office within the Executive Cabinet shall be dependent upon... full-time student status and the maintenance thereof throughout the tenure of office." At the beginning of the year, during registration, I was talking to Kathy Mayer who is now President of the S. A. (and who is not only a member of Executive Cabinet but presides over it) and she told me she was only taking 10 hours. Well, when I read this Article 6, Section 4, of the Constitution last week, I remembered that Kathy Mayer was only taking ten class hours. Everything that the administration has ever told the day student, in any way, shape or form, has defined a "full-time student" as one who is taking 12 semester credit hours. This is how a "full-time student" has been defined. Thus, it seemed to me that Kathy Mayer was holding office-illegally.

Prometheus: What action did you take then?

Boyd: I brought up the issue with two people, besides Mark, who were curious about the same situation. One of these people thought that my whole interest in the matter was a move on my part to get publicity and possible even more power: if Kathy resigned as President, Barb Stammerjohn would have become President and I would have succeeded Barb as Vice President of S. A. and President of the Senate: This person also knew that I was planning to run for President of the S. A. next year. I talked the entire situation over with my wife, who is a graduate of M. W. C., and we concluded that I had three alternatives. One was to stay on as Vice-President of S. A. and press charges in the Senate against Kathy Mayer for holding office illegally under the Constitution. I thought that I would probably lose in such an effort, mainly because G. W. would get into the middle of the argument. The second alternative I had was to stay in office, be a hypocrite and not fulfill my obligations under Article 6 Section 7 of the Constitution, under which I solemnly promised to "maintain the Constitution of the Student Association of Mary Washington College" as an officer of the S. A. The third alternative I had was to resign and to leave it in their hands to do what they saw fit. I submitted my resignation to Kathy Mayer and the rest of the Executive Cabinet as well as Mark McCoy and Cindy Heflin, Vice President of the Day Students Association, on October 27. The Executive Cabinet had a meeting that afternoon, which Mark and I attended. We all discussed the situation, and I said that the main reason for my resignation was the fact that I did not want to press the issue and if I remained on as either a Senator or as Vice President of the Senate, I would have to press it because of my oath to uphold the Constitution. A major fight in Senate over this issue would have opened up a huge sore in the S.A.'s ability to function; it would have laid a big question mark upon the validity of Kathy Mayer's holding office, no matter who won the case.

Prometheus: What else happened at that October 27 meeting of Executive Cabinet?

Boyd: They wanted to involve President Woodard, Dean Clement and Dean Croushore in the discussion, because Kathy was under the assumption that she was a full-time student because she had gotten permission from her faculty adviser (who happens to be on the of the assistant deans), from Dean Clement and from Dean Croushore to take the equivalent of part-time load (less than twelve hours), to remain on campus in a dorm, and to remain in the position of S.A. President. My whole point was the Constitution does not allow for any exemption in any way, shape, or form from any part of it. This was what I based my resignation on.

Prometheus:Did you ever meet with members of the administration on this question?

Boyd: Yes, on Friday the 28th, at about 4:30, the Executive Cabinet met with President Woodard; Dean Clement and Dean Croushore did not attend, though they were scheduled to be there. President Woodard informed us that his office, the office of the Dean, or the office of Financial Aid and Admissions, are the sole authorities of what is and what is not student status and have the right anytime, in any way, shape or form to change the status of any student as they see fit.

Prometheus: But, given that, given the fact that the administration seems to be able to superceed or modify the Constitution at whim, doesn't it seem that Kathy is, in fact, holding office legally? I mean, since they modified the rules, she can't be accused of violating the OLD rules.

Boyd: As far as the administration is concerned, as far as President Woodard is concerned, as far as Executive cabinet is concerned, she is holding office legally: because G.W. has declared her a full-time student. I upon learning of that fact, was asked by Executive Cabinet to take my resignation and to stay in office. I refused to do this, because I felt that if the Constitution was worth the paper it was written on, what is said was what it meant: the catalogue states twelve hours. There are no exceptions in the Constitution; therefore, I would not withdraw my resignation.

Prometheus: Does the STUDENT HANDBOOK provide for any such exemptions?

Boyd: The Handbook does not, neither does the Constitution. But from what President Woodard told us on the 28th of October, there are four or five exemptions, depending on how you define it, where G.W. will allow a student to take less than twelve hours and still be classified as a full-time student. One of those is if the students agrees to pay the full-time students status fee for tuition, room, board and activities fees. He also said that this goes for day students as well as residential students: if the student wanted to pay the full amount that is charged as a full-time student, he could take three hours if he wanted to and still be classified as a full-time student. An exemption might also be given if a student is handicapped, and physically cannot get around and can take but so many hours. Another is when a faculty advisor puts in writing in fact that a student is having trouble and cannot cannot handle a full load of twelve hours. Kathy was exempted for this reason: with her holding office as S.A. President, they felt that her work load would be more than she could handle if she had to carry a full class load as well. So she went to summer school and took courses so she will, in May, have enough credits to graduate.

Prometheus: But, when given the fact that she could not take the full course load and hold office, why did they lower the course load rather than take away her office? Do these exemptions not undermine the whole rationale behind that Section 4 in the Constitution?

Boyd: That was my thought on it. The Constitution says you must be a full-time student. To me a full-time student is one who takes twelve hours or more. Period. Kathy was given permission back last spring, when she was advised by her faculty advisor to come to summer school, because the administration likes to have at least one member of the Executive Cabinet on campus all year round. So Kathy came and took classes. She was also advised, at that same time, that she could take less than twelve hours this semester. She received this permission from her faculty advisor, from Dean Clement and from Dean Croushore. It was brought up in the meeting of October 28th that this has been common practice in times past, but it has never before been raised in quite this manner. You know how this place is: you have to dig deep to find where all the exemptions are on anything.

Prometheus: So Kathy knew last spring when she was advised that she would be taking less than twelve hours?  

Boyd: That's correct. She didn't know that when she ran for office, though. When she ran, she expected to take a full class load. But when she was advised by her advisor on what courses to take in the following fall semester, it was brought to her attention that this practice had been used in the past, and it would be advisable for her (with the work load of the S.A. President) to take a smaller load and to come to summer school. All of this boils down to one thing: our student Constitution, which is supposedly what we're governed under, is not worth the paper it is written on. And the Student Association is, in effect, no more than a puppet of the administration because the administration has the right to veto any decision of the Senate, the judicial, or the Executive Cabinet. When the Executive Cabinet originally formed this committee to rewrite the Constitution, I thought it was a good idea: because there are a lot of contradictions and ambiguities in it. But President Woodard stated that, before it is submitted to the student body next February, he has the right to read Constitution as proposed and to make any changes he sees fit in it. So, basically he is ruling this campus as if we didn't have the Constitution:

Prometheus: How does the present case involving Kathy Mayer compare with Steve Jackson's case last year? (Steve was a part-time day student who was denied the chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee because he was not taking twelve hours.)

Boyd: This case compares with Steve's in some respects, and in other respects it does not. Steve had graduated and was only taking three hours as a part-time student: he was paying only part-time fees. If he was paying the fees of full-time day student, they would not (according to what President Woodard told him) have declared him ineligible to hold office. So really, Steve's case isn't really comparable. A comparable case might look like this: take a day student who is taking ten hours and who is paying the full day-student fee. Let's say this student decides to run for office: it would require the permission of either the Dean's Office, or the President before that student could run. even though that student is paying full amount. President Woodard said that it is not an arbitrary decision on the part of the student status; it is up to the administration to grant such permission. The administration may declare this student "full-time" or "part-time", regardless of how many hours he is taking. It's just like a dorm student who at the beginning of the semester, is taking 16 hours and decides to drop six of them right at the end of the drop period. That student is allowed to remain in the dorms and is classified as full-time student even though he is now, at least technically, a part-time student. Whenever you come up with a rule that is supposedly in black-and-white in the Handbook, there is always an exemption or qualification to it that allows that rule to be either broken or bent or totally ignored.

Prometheus: So the criteria of full-time student status seems to be the payment of the full-time fees rather than the taking a full-time class load?

Boyd: That was the question I put to President Woodard, and he said that it depended on the other things I mentioned earlier. For instance, illness might be grounds for exemption.

Prometheus: Do you plan to run for S.A. President next year?

Boyd: I am not planning, willing, nor will I seek or accept any student elected office at Mary Washington College for the duration of my membership in its academic community due to the fact that our Constitution is a farce.

Prometheus: Are you trying to "get " Kathy Mayer?

Boyd: No, I am not. I think she acted in good faith. She was following what she was told by her advisor and by the dean. I disagree with the right of the dean and the President to state what is and what is not a full-time student.

Prometheus: One final thought: when your resignation was read to the Senate, I understand from my Senator that the second paragraph, which read "I find that I cannot fulfill my oath (of office) because of a violation of Article VI, Section 4, by a member of the Executive Cabinet, with the full knowledge of the Executive Cabinet" was omitted. Is this true?

Boyd: I did not attend the Senate meeting, so I don't know for sure. But I received the same information.

Prometheus: May we have permission to print your letter of resignation in full?

Boyd: Yes, you may.

Original Format

Newspaper

Contributor of the Digital Item

Toussant, Kayla

Student Editor of the Digital Item

Williams, Megan

Files

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Citation

Mello, Michael A., “Senate Vice-President Says Constitution is a Farce,” HIST298, accessed May 26, 2020, http://hist298.umwhistory.org/items/show/9.