>At my school we have something called Plenary, which is essentially the entire student body’s foray into direct democracy– students can propose resolutions that have to do with any aspect of life at the school, and the student body gets together one night a semester to vote on these resolutions and either reject them, amend them, or pass them into school law. The only catch is that a certain percentage of the student body– called quorum– has to be present to keep Plenary running.
This was only my second Plenary, but even I could tell that things were going wrong. We lost quorum about every ten or fifteen minutes and ended up having to stop Plenary altogether because we were majorly below quorum with little hope of reaching it again.
The biggest reason I came to this school was its community; among other things, I loved that students not only held themselves accountable for their actions, but got to set the standards against which they held themselves accountable. There was no administration imposing rules on the student body because the student body determined their own rules– a long time ago someone wrote an Honor Code that we as a population have pledged to keep alive and uphold.
This process failed last night. The same people who pledged to take an active role in their own government did not show up for Plenary to discuss the resolutions that could possibly govern them. They didn’t care enough to bring some work and a pillow and just be present for five hours. It’s not even that they had to take an active part– yes, we need a certain number of votes to pass anything, but really the most important thing is maintaining quorum. As long as you’re in the building you can play frisbee, do homework, sleep, or whatever the hell you want. You just need to be there.
A bunch of people have been complaining because they had a lot of work and couldn’t go, or they had sports and were tired, or any number of ridiculous reasons, but in any case it’s unacceptable. Plenary is important enough that you should either have your most important work out of the way or be prepared to do it afterwards, and if you’re tired, bring a pillow and a blanket and catch some Zs in a quiet corner. It’s not that hard.
I’ve also heard a lot of harsh words being thrown about the freshmen class ruining Plenary for everyone else. However, I know that many more of my freshmen friends were there than my upperclassmen friends. A few of my upperclassmen friends were too apathetic to walk up campus from their apartment, but a bunch of my fencing friends and I had been up since 5.45 yesterday morning, fenced for eight hours, and still were there for as long as we could be. Because I care about my school and our ability to self-govern. But apparently the majority of our student body didn’t care enough to be there.