Princeton University

Lawrence Committee – April Meeting Minutes

The minutes from the April 2008 meeting of the Lawrence committee have been posted.

Minutes for April 16, 2008 Meeting:

In light of the controversy surrounding the most recent Lawrence committee elections, the primary agenda for this meeting was to hold a town hall style meeting and discuss ways to amend the current constitution so that future elections would be held in a manner that would be more open and fair.

  1. Attendance:
    • Spencer Quiel
    • Yunzhou Wei
    • Sarah Goff
    • James Hunter
    • Jessica Flanigan
    • Benjamin Lauderdale
    • Kevin Collins
    • Olivia Martel
    • Keren Leiby
    • Jeff Dwoskin
    • Yaron Ayalon
    • Kim Tu
    • Yi Wang
    • Ryan Davis
    • Ye Chen
    • Philip Wood
    • Melanie Wood
    • Erin Kalish
    • Ben Schmidt
    • Jamie Kreiner
    • Chris Shannon
    • Tamas Papp
    • Charles Lu

Position/Membership requirement on the committee

Current positions on the committee include President, Vice president, Secretary, Social Chair, Webmaster, Garden Coordinator, GSG Rep/delegate (the GSG Rep/delegate position is not officially specified in the constitution).

The majority of residents in attendance agreed that the GSG delegate position be made official. The duty of the delegate is to attend all the GSG and housing meetings, voice the concerns of Lawrence residents, and report back to the committee on all issues pertinent to the Lawrence residents. There were split opinions on whether the GSG delegate position should be limited to graduate students living in Lawrence or if the GSG delegate should fit the requirements of the GSG constitution (the former would allow a domestic partner if the GSG changed their constitution). The current GSG delegate from Lawrence is not a student (she is a domestic partner), but at the last GSG meeting, she was awarded a placard and added to the GSG listserv. According to the current GSG constitution, the only thing she cannot do at this point is make motions, but she can represent Lawrence as per the Lawrence Constitution. No residential rep has voting power. The GSG has mentioned the possibil ity of amending their constitution to allow the residential reps (Lawrence, Butler, etc) to be non-grad student residents.

Some people attending believe the amount of work (duty) for the current positions is insufficient to justify the housing perk. One person estimated that the monetary value of the housing perk is approximately $2000. (Currently there are 7 people on the Lawrence committee, each has a housing perk).

Several people proposed that we consolidate some of the positions. The following were suggested:

  • President and Vice President be combined
  • Web Master and Recording Secretary be combined
  • President and GSG Rep be combined so that the president can be an advocacy position

Several people also proposed that we reduce the number of perks being given. Many people were unhappy with the number of housing perks given, instead of the number of the actual positions on the committee. One person proposed that we abolish the committee altogether while another proposed that we make no changes.

One proposal offered involves placing no limit on the number of positions on the committee, but limiting the number of housing perks to only 4. Some Lawrence residents feel that only 4 positions warrant the housing perk while the rest should be strictly on a volunteer basis. The number of housing perks is given by the sole discretion of the Graduate School/Housing Department. In the past this number has changed in response to request by individual residential committees. The Lawrence Committee had four perks historically, but with the opening of new Lawrence and the increased resident population, the Graduate School gave the Lawrence Committee 7 perks (closer to what Butler, with a comparable number of residents, has).

A member of the Butler committee was present and he informed everyone that Butler committee currently receives 11 housing perks. The following are the number of housing perks award to each committee:

  • Lawrence – 7
  • GC House Committee – 14
  • Butler – 11
  • GSG Executive Committee – 7
  • Community Associates – 5

When asked if the number of housing perks for Lawrence committee should be reduced, 13 people thought the number should be kept the same while 11 people thought the number should be reduced.

Requirements for Voting/Running and When to Hold Elections

The following consensus on who is eligible to vote was reached:
1. Graduate students of any age living in Lawrence
2. Residents of Lawrence over the age of 18

The current constitution states that Lawrence residents who have attended at least 2 meetings are eligible to run for positions on the committee. The majority (14-9) felt that the requirement should be removed. One suggestion is that all candidates obtain a certain number of signatures of other Lawrence residents (the number 25 was suggested) before being eligible to run, encouraging candidates to meet other Lawrence residents. Another resident suggested a town hall meeting be held before the election so the candidates can present themselves to the residents.

Regarding when the election should be held, most people thought the election should be held before the perk is given. One attendee commented that elections should be held early enough so that any irregularities in the election process can be investigated before the perk is given. Also, the election should be held early enough so that committee members have to show their commitment to the Lawrence community before they receive the perk. September/October was deemed to early in the year, April/May, too late. A poll was taken between Oct/November and February. The majority (16-3) picked early February. However, when a discussion occurred about the timing of candidacy and nominations, several people commented that they might change their opinion to Oct/Nov. A second poll was not taken.

Several people expressed concern regarding how to verify the eligibility of the voters as well as how the actual vote should be carried out (email or via a webform). The majority in attendance felt that these issues need more time to be explored and discussed.

Several residents proposed an elections committee be formed to properly run the next election. The following people have volunteered to be on this committee:

  • Ben Schmidt
  • Chris Shannon
  • Chris Moses
  • Tamas Papp

Amendment Procedure

One person proposed that a dual system be implemented (no formal vote was taken so the actual number of people who agreed with this is not available) . The idea is that there should be 2 ways to change/ratify the constitution:
1. ‘super majority’ of the committee
2. Ratification by all Lawrence Residents. A quorum of voters would have to vote, and then a ‘super majority’ of those voters would have to approve changes

It was also proposed that residents collecting signatures of 10% of the Lawrence population be allowed to submit proposed changes that would go to ratification. One person proposed that certain clauses could not be changed by the committee alone.

The majority present at the meeting felt that the current constitution is so flawed that a complete rewrite is necessary. Therefore, a new committee was formed to write up a brand new constitution. There were some disagreements on the makeup of this Constitution committee. Some people believed the current Lawrence Committee is not representative of the whole community. One person proposed that the current committee members should be not be allowed to serve on the new constitution committee. This proposal was not accepted. Suggestions were that the constitution committee be comprised of 7 or 9 members, and it was decided on 7 members. It was proposed that 5 be noncommittee members and 2 be from current committee members. The Constitution committee will work together to write up a new constitution, to be ratified by the entire Lawrence community.

A lot of interest was expressed by non-Lawrence committee members in being on the constitution drafting committee. It was pointed out that, with one exception, the interest was from members of the History and Politics departments. The History and Politics members agreed to have the one exception (Rob Cooper) on the drafting committee and that members of the History and Politics departments among themselves would choose two delegates from each department.

The Constitution committee is made up of the following graduate students (department affiliation listed next to their names)

  • Chris Moses – History
  • Ben Schmidt – History
  • Rob Cooper – Molecular Biology
  • Ben Lauderdale – Politics
  • *Kim Tu – Molecular Biology
  • *Ye Chen – Economics
  • Jessica Flanigan – Politics

* Current Lawrence Committee Member

The attendance at the rest of the meeting was Kim Tu, Ye Chen, Tamas Papp, Charles Lu, Katie Stoltzfus-Dueck, Melanie Wood, Keren Leiby, Tim Stoltzfus-Dueck, Yaron Ayalon, Jessica Flanigan, Philip Wood, Jeff Dwoskin Philip and Olivia Martel.

Other Issues

The current budget is $1060, which needs to be spent by the end of June (otherwise, it is lost and given back to the Graduate School). The Committee discussed the next social event. It was agreed that the next social event be a barbecue on 5/8/08 from 6PM – 8PM. Rain date is 5/15/08, 6PM – 8PM.

Lawrence photo contest is still on schedule. GSG is holding a similar contest. The plan is to decorate the hallways of each building with the photos. However, we were informed that any interior decoration must be first approved by the University interior designer. Keren is working on tracking her down and getting all in order on that end.

Tamas has offered to make a flier reminding residents to return shopping carts when they are finished with them.

Due to recent problems with pests (cockroaches), the committee agreed to make fliers reminding all residents to contact Building Services so any infestation can be treated right away.

Keren reported back from the last GSG meeting and Housing committee meeting:

  • The GSG recognized that it has no official power over the Lawrence committee
  • Keren can serve at the GSG delegate, and was approved to get a placard and have access to the GSG listserv. At this time, she still cannot make motions.
  • The Graduate School and the Housing Committee is currently discussing housing perks, and how they should be distributed.