Pitzer Student Senate considers amendment allowing non-senators to write legislation

A drawing of two groups raised hands. One group is colored in orange, the other in purple. Both groups of hands are reaching for an unsigned bill.
(Sasha Matthews • The Student Life)

This Sunday, Oct. 8, Pitzer College’s Student Senate will face an important vote on Prop 60-A-2, an amendment that would allow non-Senators to co-author legislation in the Senate. If passed, Pitzer’s Student Senate would be the first student government in the Claremont Colleges to allow such involvement from non-senators.

The amendment, which was introduced on Sept. 24, outlines formal types of legislation for proposal, including resolutions and bills, and specifies protocols for a “cooling off” period, which mandates a one week gap between proposing bills and voting on them.

A previous proposition, Prop 60, spurred the creation of 60-A-2. This bill encouraged Pitzer’s student body to engage with the Senate by allowing two to four students to propose ways to use funds from the Senate’s reserve fund. According to Senator Annie Voss PZ ’26, of $128,000 in the fund rolled-over from previous fiscal years, $5,000 is currently available.

While Lue Khoury PZ ’25 stated that Prop 60 was groundbreaking and represented a significant step forward for the college, they also felt that it revealed a larger issue within the Senate. 

“It caught my attention as the first framework allowing students to write legislation,” Khory said. “However, the limitation was that it was the only avenue for such engagement.”

Voss expressed a similar sentiment, noting that the controversy surrounding Prop 60 became a flashpoint for larger conversations about making the Senate more accessible to and representative of various groups on campus.

To address these issues, Pitzer’s Student Senate proposed Prop 60-A-1, and when that proposition wasn’t passed, they proposed a revised proposition, Prop 60-A-2. Both of these proposed for non-Senators to be credited as authors or sponsors of Senate legislation. By opening up the legislative process to non-senators, the amendments aimed to broaden representation, thereby fostering a more inclusive and equitable system.

“Our Student Senate shouldn’t just be open to everyone at Pitzer; it should actively invite students to team up with their reps and create real change on campus,” Lila Feldmann PZ ’24 et al. stated in Amendment 60-1-A’s draft.

Ultimately, due to concerns within the Senate that this new policy might water down the responsibilities of elected officials, as well as to a failure of meeting attendees to recognize a “cooling-off period” for the legislation, 60-A-1 did not pass.

Then, on Sept. 24, 60-A-2, a revised version of the amendment, was introduced. For reasons similar to those cited in 60-A-1’s failure to pass, Amendment 60-A-2 has been met with mixed reactions from students and senators.

To Voss, the amendment has the potential to foster inclusivity within the Senate.

“Even if the amendment passes and no student ends up co-authoring any legislation, the point is that the option is there,” Voss said. “It sends a message that Senate spaces are not the exclusive domain of a select few but are open to the student body we aim to represent.”

Moreover, she stated that the newly proposed amendment would set a precedent for governance structures at the 5Cs. While some colleges allow student input in legislative processes, full authorship rights for non-senators are relatively rare. Should this amendment pass, it would set Pitzer apart from the rest of the 5Cs.

“[Pitzer] wield[s] a substantial budget and influence,” Voss said. “Our professors and administrators listen to us. We’re already deeply embedded in various campus committees, so it makes sense that we’d be the ones to innovate again. I hope other Student Senates across the country will take a cue from us.”

With both strong supporters and opponents, Senate meetings from Sep. 17 to 24 saw students arguing over these amendments and their implications.

“Frankly, I was taken aback by the intensity,” Khoury said. “Emotions ran high because, let’s face it, it’s hard not to take criticism personally, especially when your ideas are under scrutiny. The challenge is in separating the idea from the person proposing it.”

Despite this challenge, Khoury said students were eventually able to work together and obtain unanimous support for the proposal. Khoury said their collaboration is evident in the long list of authors on the revised amendment.

“It’s a marked improvement from the original draft, which was crafted by only a few individuals,” they said. “Now that we have more time and input, I feel optimistic we’re moving towards a consensus.”

Still, several key issues continue to drive a divide. Accountability remains a significant concern; opposers who declined to speak on the record with TSL argued in Senate meetings that allowing non-senators to be listed as authors could weaken the integrity of elected representation. Quality control is another matter; these opposers questioned how well non-senators understand parliamentary procedure and effective governance.

With this in mind, Voss expressed her desire for more students to engage with the Senate beyond writing legislation. Recently, she received permission to send out weekly Senate bulletins. These emails are designed to keep students abreast of key discussions, approved motions and important takeaways from Senate sessions. The initiative emphasizes the importance of student input, which is actively encouraged and considered vital.

“Our Senate isn’t some ego club; we’re here to represent you,” Voss said. “By following these updates, you can stay informed and make your voice heard. Trust me — once you know what’s happening, you’ll want to get involved.”

As the Pitzer community awaits the final verdict on the debated Amendment 60-A-2, one thing is for sure: It has set the campus abuzz with debate and discussion. If approved, the outcome will be communicated in the weekly Senate update distributed to the Pitzer student body.

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