After several years of discussion, Campus Senate completed a final draft of its new constitution on Oct. 18.
Campus Senate, a legislative body that features student, faculty and staff representatives at Kenyon, has long been criticized for its poorly defined role on campus. The constitution had been undergoing revision since spring of 2016, when confusion about the goals of Campus Senate sparked a discussion among student government leaders about the organization’s mission and purpose.
“People thought that Campus Senate was supposed to be about legislating student matters,” Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, vice president of student affairs, said. “It’s not — it should really be about [addressing] general concerns for the campus community as a whole.”
One concern has been an overlap between the duties of Campus Senate and those of other institutions on campus. While Student Council acts as a governing body for all Kenyon students, Campus Senate functions as a forum for students, faculty and staff to discuss, examine and evaluate diverse aspects of the College.
By decreasing the overlap between Campus Senate and Student Council, the new document will alleviate confusion surrounding the two organizations.
“The previous model required Student Council to obtain approval from Campus Senate in certain circumstances,” Director of Student Engagement and Assistant Dean of Students Laura Kane said. “The new document separates these bodies and pulls Student Council more in line with how the other constituents engage with Campus Senate.”
Campus Senate meetings are open-door, and allow non-members to bring their concerns to the table; Bonham worries that confusion about the purpose of Campus Senate can prevent students from engaging with it. “If anyone feels that there’s an issue of importance to the community of the whole, then they can bring that to Campus Senate,” she said, “but unless people know what Campus Senate is about, then no one is actually going to come seek out that group for assistance.”
The revised constitution, which will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2019, will incorporate a number of changes that better fit Campus Senate’s current organization.
Changes includes a reduction in membership, which the Senate hopes will allow them to function more efficiently.
“A good constitution should be viewed as a roadmap, providing a framework for operations,” Kane said. Campus Senate hopes that the new document will serve as that guide.