Proposed Revisions to the GPA Bylaws and Constitution

Distinctions to keep in mind while reviewing the following recommendations:

  • Constitution – Document outlining creation of organization, offices, and officer duties
  • Bylaws – Document outlining quotidian practices of the created group, offices, and standing sub-groups, a supplement to, and inferior to, (1) above
  • Best Practices – Recommendations for specific role(s) within group (be that officer or committee) as supplement to, and inferior to, both (1) and (2) above

Constitution Recommendations

  1. Target: Article III of the Constitution must be updated to reflect GSA membership requirements
    1. Recommendation: Add “Membership in the GPA shall be open to all students without regard to race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, age, disability, veteran status, or any other classification protected by law, so that all members at all times are treated with dignity and respect.”
    2. Justification: By request of the GSA Vice President
  2. Target: Lacking information in the Secretary duties (Article V, Section III)
    1. Recommendation: Add “serve as chair on the Information Committee” to the list of Secretary duties
    2. Justification: The Information Committee was added as a standing committee during previous changes and the Bylaws changed to reflect the Secretary as chair of this new standing committee. I think this additional change to the Secretary duties in the Constitution was overlooked. Compare: The Vice-President duties per the Constitution include “serve as chair of the Trustee Committee”. (Article V, Section II)
  3. Target: Ambiguity in the Secretary duties (Article V, Section III)
    1. Recommendation: Specify whether Secretary should be (i) cc’d in all committee and e-board emails, (ii) cc’d on e-board emails but not necessarily on all committee emails, (iii) not required to be cc’d on these emails (i.e. remove this ambiguous duty). I recommend (ii).
    2. Justification: Article V, Section III of the Constitution describes one of the Secretary’s duties as “keep copies of all correspondence” though it is not clear which On one plausible reading, this would require that the Secretary be cc’d on any e-board related correspondence. On another, perhaps equally, plausible reading, this would require the Secretary be cc’d on any GPA related correspondence (e.g. any committee discussions, etc.). We should choose one and be explicit. I recommend (ii) since committees are required to keep their own minutes, and are required to submit committee reports at meetings on request (Bylaws, Article V, Section III, Part B), making (i) redundant, and (iii) seems to undermine the current reading of the Constitution.
  4. Target: Secretary is not explicitly required to know the number of graduate students that constitute a quorum
    1. Recommendation: Add “…and maintain the current number of graduate students needed for quorum.” to the Secretary duties.
    2. Justification: The Secretary is required to “maintain an accurate membership list by means of the GPA listserv”. Comparing this with Article I, Section III of the Bylaws that states a quorum for each GPA meeting is 20% of resident members, it is reasonable the Secretary should know the number of students needed for a quorum. I propose to make this an explicit duty, i.e. add “maintain an…listserv and maintain the current number of graduate students needed for quorum”. It is possible for the quorum number to change between meetings given graduate students may leave the department mid-semester. Ensuring meetings have a quorum then requires counting resident membership, in accordance with Article III of the Constitution, prior to each meeting. This is not a proposal to have the Secretary report the number at each meeting, which would properly be part of the Bylaws, but only that the Secretary have such figures.
  5. Target: The Constitution is not specific on whether the minutes should be submitted within 4 school days or 4 calendar days (Article V, Section 3).
    1. Recommendation: 4 calendar days be the specified submission deadline.
    2. Justification: In practice, the Secretary has submitted the minutes within 4 calendar days since this is the shorter of the two options.
  6. Target: Superfluous information in Vice President duties (Article V, section II).
    1. Recommendation: Remove parenthetical remark in Article V, Section 2: “(The Trustee Committee shall review GPA activities and proposals in light of the GPA’s purposes as outlined in the Constitution, and shall have the power to submit approval of such activities and proposals to a full GPA vote, as described in the Bylaws.)”
    2. Justification: The Constitution is meant to outline the officer duties and organization goals. Trustee Committee objectives and purview should be included in the Bylaws.

Bylaws Recommendations

  1. Target: Article I, Section I of the Bylaws only requires we meet three times a year.
    1. Recommendation: The Bylaws be changed to require monthly meetings.
    2. Justification: The GSA requires that we have monthly meetings. Currently, the Bylaws indicate we must have no fewer than three meetings, only specifying they must be held at certain times once each semester (Article I, Section 1). Though the GSA does not police this very much, we should change the Bylaws to reflect GSA policy.
  2. Target: The Secretary is not required to submit the minutes to the Trustee Committee prior to submitting them to our cloud-based storage service (currently Dropbox). More specifically, the wording is ambiguous, “[The] Trustee Committee shall review the minutes of each GPA meeting as soon as they are made available.” (Bylaws, Article 3, Section 4, Part A). Technically, this permits the Secretary to submit the minutes to the listserv or cloud-storage before review by the Trustee Committee.
    1. Recommendation: The Secretary submit the minutes to the Trustee Committee members via email within 3 calendar days following the meeting and the Secretary is not permitted to submit the minutes to the listserv or cloud-based storage prior to review by the Trustee Committee.
    2. Justification: In practice, the Secretary has submitted the minutes to the Trustee Committee members via email within 3 calendar days of the meeting. Ensuring the Trustee Committee reviews the minutes prior to posting will ensure no students submit copies of non-reviewed minutes to the GSA (e.g. for reimbursement).
  3. Target: Currently, the e-board is only allowed to create two types of committees: special and standing (special committees are created by vote at a meeting, while standing committees are created by amendment to the Bylaws). Special committees must be voted on each meeting for renewal (Article III, Section 7). Standing committees do not require vote for renewal.
    1. Recommendation: The e-board be given power to create semester long committees or committees that exist longer than one month by rewording Article III, Section VII such that special committees may be established based on combination of objective and length of time assumed to complete objective, rather than just on objective.
    2. Justification: The existence of special committees, I suspect, was not a problem when there was a longer amount of time between meetings (see current wording in Article I, Section I of the Bylaws that only requires 3 general GPA meetings per year). Now that the GSA requires monthly meetings, the current wording in the Bylaws restricts special committees to a one-month lifespan. Special committees often require longer than a month, but less than perpetuity, to complete assigned tasks. While we could maintain the current practice of renewing committees each meeting, since we meet monthly, this is cumbersome.
  4. Target: Standing Committees are implicitly renewed automatically (by being required to meet at least once per year).
    1. Recommendation: Standing Committees be explicitly renewed by adding the following to Article III, Section I: “Each standing committee will be renewed automatically each year”.
    2. Justification: Clarity.
  5. Target: The President has the authority to appoint a graduate student as the webmaster and to appoint one graduate student to the New Student Orientation Committee (Article III, Section VI).
    1. Recommendation: The President be stripped of this power and webmaster and orientation member appointments be by volunteer. If no student volunteers, then the Secretary be made the webmaster (The Information Committee will still need two members, the Secretary and one other graduate student, despite the Secretary being both chair and webmaster).
    2. Justification: In practice, the President does not appoint either member, but instead has called for volunteers. Moreover, forcing this appointment on peers, I think, would conflict with the purpose of the GPA to develop community among graduate students (Constitution, Article II). With this potential conflict in mind, and noting this power has not been exercised to my knowledge by any sitting President, I think we can safely dispense with it.
  6. Target: Membership to the respective Faculty Committees currently must align with the normal voting practices outlined in the Bylaws (Article IV, Section 8).
    1. Recommendation: Faculty Committee membership be voluntary. If there are no volunteers, e-board members must distribute Faculty Committee membership among themselves until all committees have graduate student representation.
    2. Justification: In practice, votes have not been held for this membership. Since they are typically not in dispute and there is no upper bound to membership for each Faculty Committee, holding an actual vote seems cumbersome and superfluous.
  7. Target: Voting is predominantly by hard copy delivered to graduate student mailboxes with email voting only allowed in extreme circumstances (Bylaws, Article II, Section I, Part C).
    1. Recommendation: We should allow voting for elected positions to be completed via buffalo.edu email or via some online service vetted by the Information Committee.
    2. Justification: Currently, email votes are accepted at the discretion of the President (Bylaws, Article II, Section I, Part C) as long as they are sent via buffalo.edu email. The default voting procedure requires hard copy ballots. This is a waste of paper and may encumber the Returns Officer with travel, printing costs, etc.
  8. Target: Article II, Section I, Part C states as one of the criteria for email voting that the email be sent to the GPA listserv.
    1. Recommendation: Change ‘to’ to ‘via’ and requiring vote emails be sent directly to the Returns Officer.
    2. Justification: I think this must have been a typo since we presumably are preserving some anonymity with the voting and sending a vote to the listserv would let everyone know the sender. There is a caveat at the end of Part C that suggests the lack of anonymity is a cost of voting through email. I do not think, whether voting is via email by default or at the discretion of the President, that such a cost is so costly. Regardless, anonymity can be maintained if emails are sent directly to the Returns Officer (though the Returns Officer, of course, will know who voted for whom, but this has always been the case).
  9. Finally, we recommend Article III, Section III have the following standing committee added: The Anthony Fay Award Committee with a corresponding sub-section in the article for explication.
    1. Recommendation: The Anthony Fay Award Committee. The purpose of this standing committee will award $75 to the best paper as decided by committee members. The CFP will occur annually with the deadline being July 15th. The committee will be composed of five volunteers with 3 votes each of descending value (3 points for initial vote, 2 for second, 1 for third vote). The President sits on this committee as a non-voting member (unless there is a tie per Article V, Section I of the Constitution). The award committee will vote on papers based on priority: 1. Politics & Ethics, 2. Topics in Continental Philosophy, 3. Other. The cash award will be accompanied by a diploma (text to be decided) which will be awarded at the annual Department Welcome Party.
    2. Justification: This will ensure that the award continues in the future.