BMC seniors unhappy with performance of class presidents
By biconews On 15 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Christine McCluskey

Unsatisfied with how senior class presidents Brynne and Erin McBride were carrying out their responsibilities, a group of seniors took action to improve a situation they saw as making their senior year less than what they had hoped for. Their action could have led to impeachment and a change in the long-standing tradition of the senior class presidents speaking at Commencement, but in the end it did not.

According to Brienna Berger ’00, one of the seniors who questioned the presidents’ activities, the concerns were first raised in the middle of last semester. She said that the presidents did not organize a class meeting until Nov. 17, at which time the seniors expressed their disappointment with Senior Cocktails and with not having had a meeting until so late in the semester.

“We asked them [the presidents] what was going on, and if we could help them,” Berger said. “We knew there were all kinds of activities we could be doing … but they weren’t very

receptive.”

At that first meeting, Berger said, the McBrides promised to work harder on organizing activities for the seniors. After a few weeks, Berger and some other seniors (including Liz

Anwar, Megan Downes, Kwanza Price, Ernestine Ward, and Anu Yadav) decided that not enough had been done, and so met with the Student Government Association’s Executive Board to discuss possibilities for helping the McBrides with their duties, and impeachment. The McBrides were not able to attend the meeting.

Some of the seniors at this meeting with the Executive Board expressed concern that committees should not be formed to help the presidents with their responsibilities, since the presidents were the ones elected to perform the duties. However, some said that the impeachment alternative would take so long, especially at a point so late in the year, that the situation could only be made worse.

Berger and the other seniors at the meeting decided to write a letter to all the members of the class informing them of their concerns. The letter, which was sent out shortly before Winter Break and had “Impeachment?” written at the top in bold, uppercase letters, listed the duties the letter’s writers felt had been neglected by the McBrides, including the belated class meeting, the lack of minutes from that meeting, the lack of a senior class suggestion board in the campus center, and the lack of a vote on the senior class dinner. Other complaints encompassed the McBrides’ decision to invest $600 in a Senior Class Quilt which was not voted on, neglecting to develop senior class community service project plans (the expected one service project per semester), and the handing over of the responsibility for Senior Cocktails to someone other than the presidents themselves. In addition, there was, on the part of the letter writers, a lack of acknowledgment from the presidents of some seniors’ disappointment over the Senior Soiree.

The letter asked the McBrides to resign, and called for impeachment if no resignation occurred. It also urged seniors to attend informational meetings the first week of second semester.

Also in December, table tents were put in the dining halls with a similar message. However, they were taken off the tables in response to napkin notes complaining about perceived harsh indictment of the McBrides.

“We were trying to do things by the book,” said Berger, saying that the table tents were removed because people were responding not to the concerns they were meant to address, but to the idea that the tents existed for no reason other than publicly criticize the presidents in a malicious way.

At the beginning of this semester, Berger and the seniors working with her discussed the concerns with about 60 seniors at the informational meeting Jan. 27. One of the presidents, Erin McBride, was present at this meeting, as was Eleanor Funk, the College’s Ombudsperson, whose presence was requested by the McBrides. Funk took the minutes of the meeting but did not actively mediate.

Libby O’Hare, SGA President, moderated the meeting.

“The discussion was pretty heated … there wasn’t a lot of open dialogue.” said one senior who wished to remain anonymous.

Impeachment was ruled out by the end of the meeting because no other seniors wanted to run for the office. Instead, the majority of seniors wanted to form committees to help the presidents, but they did not want the McBrides to speak at Commencement. The McBrides and O’Hare agreed to meet with Funk to work out a solution.

The issue of speaking at Commencement was turned over to Nell Booth, Executive Assistant to the President, and other members of the administration. By last Friday, they had decided not to change the current plans for having the senior class presidents speak at Commencement.

“The senior class presidents speak at the Convocation Commencement ex officio, i.e. by virtue of their elected position, and there is no plan to change that tradition. If students wanted to discuss changing the way speakers are selected, that could certainly be done, but I would expect that change to be made for a graduating class before they elect presidents who anticipate that speaking at commencement will be part of their responsibilities,” Booth wrote via email.

Berger said that she was not totally satisfied with the outcome of the meetings, but that she thought they did “put pressure on them [the presidents] to get their act together.”

“We really got our point across … I think things are getting done,” she added. She said she was happy to see a letter from the presidents sent to all seniors this week, with the announcement of the graduation speaker - Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s

Defense Fund - and a tentative schedule of Senior Week activities. Yet, Berger said, there is still much to be done this semester, and she thinks the letter indicates only a start.

The McBrides were hesitant to offer much comment, as they are still in contact with Funk and “respect the Honor Code and our mediation program at Bryn Mawr too much to jeopardize anything for a newspaper article,” Brynne McBride wrote via email.

Erin McBride did say, “We’re glad that people raised concerns … We feel that now everyone has an equal understanding of the responsibilities of the senior class presidents.”

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