Sunday, October 26, 2008

Report on the Governance

Report on the Governance of the ASCWU

Background Events

On September 3rd, 2008, Sarah Ruiz submitted a letter of resignation to the ASCWU Board of Directors, creating a vacant position on the Board (Appendix A). After a two week period of nominations and interviews, the Board of directors unanimously appointed Caitlin Baldwin to the position (Appendix B). This action was carried out in accordance with section 1:1.2B of the ASCWU By-Laws (the “appointment clause”).


In recent days, it has come to our attention that the ASCWU Board of Directors (BOD) has made a grave error in the interpretation of certain clauses within the ASCWU Constitution and By-Laws. The key issue at hand is the interpretation of the appointment clause, which allows for the BOD President to nominate and appoint members, with the consent of fellow executives, to fill vacancies on the BOD. While it has its use in making short-term appointments in order to continue the day-to-day operations of the ASCWU, the power is not intended to allow for permanent appointments to the Board. In researching this issue, questions arise as to what precisely the BOD has command over; namely, which committees, councils, clubs, and organizations fall under their purview. Next, the stated purpose of the ASCWU must be considered for how it affects the actions of the Board. Finally, the question of whether or not the appointment clause extends to the BOD the power of making permanent appointments to their body must be considered. The ultimate conclusion of the undersigned is that the appointment clause does not grant such power, and that the Board has overstepped its bounds on this issue.

Section I, Scope of Governance

With respect to the first question to be considered, it should be noted that there is virtually no area of student life that the ASCWU BOD does not touch on in one way or another. Student finances, services, activities, councils, committees, clubs, organizations, and administrative functions are all affected in some way by the broad powers granted to the BOD. Perhaps the most important power entrusted to them is the ability to appoint six members of the student body to the Services and Activities Fees Committee[1]. This committee manages a 4.3 million dollar fund (Appendix C) which is financed directly by the student body. It should be noted that the Executive Vice President of the ASCWU BOD sits on the S&A Fees Committee in accordance with the duties of the position. The entire board consists of “two ex-officio members (non-voting), and eleven appointed members – seven students (voting), three faculty (voting), and one University administrator (voting)”[2]. This configuration gives the student body a 7:4 advantage in voting regarding the distribution of student funds. However, the important thing to note is that every student member of that committee is appointed by the BOD. Therefore, the Board has indirect influence over those funds via its appointments, through the character and quality of the appointees. Aside from the S&A Fees Board, it is stated clearly in the ASCWU Constitution that “all ASCWU clubs, committees, organizations, agencies, boards, and task forces, as recognized according to the current Washington Administrative Code shall fall under the governance of the ASCWU Board of Directors”[3]. This broad definition puts virtually every student interest under the governance of the ASCWU BOD.

Section II: Purpose of the ASCWU BOD

Undoubtedly, such power must seek to serve some concrete end. The ASCWU Constitution defines that end thusly:

We, the Associated Students of Central Washington University, in order to promote and support the interests, needs, and values of the students of Central Washington University, do affirm and establish this constitution of the Associated Students of Central Washington University[4]

The statement of purpose contained therein assumes that the students of Central Washington University desire a representative form of government. Such a government must be responsible for carrying out actions in such a manner which would support the interests, needs, and values of the student body. In the tradition of democracy, it has long been established that the most proper way of structuring government consists primarily of holding elections by which officials of that government may be selected. If officials were decided arbitrarily by administrators, faculty, staff, or any other source, the selected officials would not be representative of the student body, but rather of that other source. The common name for this second form of government is “oligarchy,” and should be avoided in accordance with the previously defined statement of purpose. The By-Laws of the ASCWU agree with this opinion, and state in no uncertain terms that “all Board of Directors members shall be elected in a regular election”[5].

Once elected, BOD officials are bound by the principles set forth in the ASCWU Constitution and By-Laws. Those officials have a duty to represent the interests of the students who elected them. To fulfill their role, those representatives are granted an array of powers over a wide scope of governance. However, the BOD does not have the power to extend the limits of that scope. The power to grant additional powers to the BOD is decentralized, and requires the consent of the BOD, the student body, and the University Board of Trustees[6].

Section III: The Appointment Clause

The question to be decided is whether or not the appointment clause allows for permanent appointments to the Board of Directors. The appointment clause states that “the ASCWU President shall have the responsibility to fill all vacancies on the Board of Directors by nomination and affirmative majority vote by the members of the Board of Directors”[7]. The purpose of this power is to allow for continual day-to-day operations of the ASCWU BOD on a short-term basis. The support for this claim comes from the By-Laws of the ASCWU, wherein it clearly states that all BOD members must be elected in a regular election. The objection could be made that the election clause only pertains to annual elections, as would be supported by section 5:3.3B, which concerns the timing of primary and general elections. However, the word “regular” in the context of the election clause seems to suggest that elections may occur in addition to, or to supplement the primary and general elections held in the Spring. If that were not the case, then the clause would have no substance whatsoever; for sections 5:3.4-5:4.2D explicitly state the purposes of primary and general elections, as well as the qualifications for an individual to be put on the ballot in either of those elections. The description of primary elections states that “the purpose of the primary election shall only be to decrease the number of candidates for each individual director position...”[8] (emphasis added). Such a description implies that BOD members are to be elected through the primary and general election process. The additional qualification that they must be elected in regular elections seems to imply that elections may be held outside of the Spring election cycle. If this were not the case, the clause would not be present in the By-Laws, because it would contribute no additional regulations outside of those already provided in the description of the Spring election cycle.

Section IV: Call to Action

It is the opinion of the undersigned that the Council of Probity be convened to hear the facts of the case, and to issue the following orders:

1) That an election be scheduled by the Elections Committee for no later than December 31st, so that a VP of Academic Affairs may be elected by the student body.

2) That the Board of Directors submit a proposal for an amendment to the By-Laws which contains provisions for dealing with resignations on the Board of Directors.

3) That a recommendation be made regarding the maximum allowable length of time from which the power of the appointment clause is executed to the time in which a regular election must take place.


ASCWU Constitution and By-Laws. January 2005 Revision. Last accessed 10/18/08[9].

S&A Fees Committee Guidelines & Procedures. June 2008. Last accessed 10/18/08.

[1] I.a.2 of the S&A Fees Committee Guidelines & Procedures manual states that “The ASCWU-BOD shall appoint six student members who shall reflect the diversity of the student body and its varied interests. The ASCWU-BOD is encouraged to recruit and appoint students from diverse backgrounds including, but not limited to, race, origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion, age, disability, veteran status, campus involvement, university knowledge, campus location, academic college, undergraduate and graduate program, career, and other life experiences. The student members shall serve a one-year term and may be reappointed.”

[2] I.a of the “S&A Fees Committee Guidelines & Procedures”

[3] Section 3.0 of the ASCWU Constitution (January 2005 revision)

[4] Preamble of the ASCWU Constitution (January 2005 revision)

[5] 5:3.3A of the ASCWU By-Laws (January 2005 revision)

[6] Section 8.1 of the ASCWU Constitution (January 2005 revision)

[7] 1:1.2B of the ASCWU By-Laws (January 2005 revision)

[8] 5:3.4A of the ASCWU By-Laws (January 2005 revision)

[9] Note: The 2008 revision of the Constitution and By-Laws contain no pertinent differences with the January, 2005 revision with regard to the issues discussed herein.