Meetings consume time and energy. They require people to sacrifice their time and waste energy to attend them. Some meetings are necessary and cannot be changed into another method of discussion, but students at Menlo are meeting-happy. For example, faculty could be excused because they must deal with many students without an effective method to deliver general announcements.
Meetings are necessary when you need immediate feedback or you need an audience. These meetings can be kept to a minimum by widely distributing streamlined announcements and how-to documents. The assembly every Wednesday is good and should be kept because it addresses general topics and allows free discussion. What other timely format does Menlo have to keep up with news and information? (The BBS, daily announcements, and the Subterranean.) None of the alternatives are fully distributed to members of the student body. Yes, some people do skip assembly, but not as many as those who do not have access to the BBS or the Subterranean. The daily announcement readers often skip repeats solely on the basis of the same bold heading and same relative position on the page. This prevents the students from receiving unfettered (a.k.a. uncensored) information.
Student Council meetings should also not be removed. Instead, they should be radically reformed. The meetings should essentially be called to meet, distribute proposals (on paper!), and vote. There should be a limited number of speakers and debaters. Time limits on speaking should be imposed. A Ways and Means committee should decide on the appropriate committee for a particular idea and set the rules for debate. It should be convened on a regularly as is to allow people to get on a formal speakers' list and present concerns to the council in an orderly manner. This makes the council more efficient at taking an idea, discussing it, and producing results. It also puts a burden on the council members who should be sympathetic to complainers and helps them get proposals and concrete plans of action past the council. This reform is definitely radical and should be enacted, or we will face a less "efficient" council. Other exceptions to the superfluous meeting rule would include activities like the Chess Club and Ugly Man: these require constant member participation.
Any club that sets a regular meeting date should be active and have numerous proposals in planning and at least one that is in execution. It might be acceptable to have a brief referendum regarding any matter during a general meeting. I repeat, brief! Any mandatory meeting should have a clear purpose, agenda, and time schedule. These details should be announced clearly and often. I would suggest that many meetings should actually be voluntary drafting committees, meetings, whatever. These committees should produce well-thought-out plans of action that all could accept. At any time, the drafting committee should make a referendum and a report. I think that, with this type of setup, the need for weekly meetings, for all but the most active clubs, diminishes.
Meetings are held to discuss, to ratify, to propose, to review, and a myriad of other things. Discussion and propositions reach a broader audience and more response if put on paper and widely distributed. It takes longer to verbally discuss a proposition and to draw a plan of action from it. During meetings, discussion should pertain only to ratification or failure of the proposals at hand. General discussion of an issue should only be done in small groups of five or less. These groups should take notes on their informal meetings and present them to a larger body as a full proposal. Despite the reforms instituted by the Student Life office this fall to limit the number of meetings per day, far too many meetings occur at once. I request, then, that all presidents and club leaders adopt a more paper-based meeting system before asking that their constituents meet every week in twenty-two places at once!
Many students who have read the Subterranean have reacted to it as a complainer. It essentially is. I would hope that those who think the TSC does complain would encourage open dialogue to establish some plan of action. This would require that the authors do step forward. People who write for the TSC should not exploit its promise of anonymity. It should be used to present ideas without the stereotypes of, "oh, that guy is annoying," or "she does that all the time, why listen or read?" The TSC is a newer forum without significant school intervention. It is truly "for the people."
By Kenneth Kang