The "Peaceful Solutions Referendum" was a proposal co-authored by Brock Metzger 03, Student Government Association (SGA) President, and Matthew Pelikan 03, International, Domestic, and Off-Campus Studies Senator. The proposal was to be a representation of the general opinion of the student body, where St. Olaf College stands for peace.
The proposal stated that it was in accordance with the mission of St. Olaf College, "rooted in the Christian Gospel, and incorporating a global perspective," saying that "it focuses on what is ultimately worthwhile and fosters the development of the whole person...through its curriculum, campus life, and off campus programs, it stimulates students critical thinking and heightens their moral sensitivity, it encourages them to be seekers of truth, leading lives of unselfish service to others; and it challenges them to be responsible and knowledgeable citizens of the world.
It went on to state the SGA preamble, including its goal to "respect the colleges mission" and uphold "the right and freedom to participate in the formulation of the policy affecting the education and welfare of the college community," in defense of the SGA being the "primary vehicle of expression of the interests and concerns of the student community." The proposal was intended to be a reflection of "the general, but not unanimous opinion of the student body".
This proposal was not well received throughout the student body. Niloo Ratnayake 03 was so disturbed that she composed a petition and sat outside of the cafeteria gathering signatures.
She was concerned that the "Peaceful Solutions Proposal" was not a consensus of what the entire student body wante.
The reason I started the petition was because I felt that the student Senate did not know that a strong voice on campus felt that even if they agreed with the ideals of the peaceful solutions proposal it should not be stated by senate, Ratnayake said.
Pelikan disagreed with the petition.
Our job is to further the mission of the school specifically by representing students and student interests. Not only is this an issue that students care about on campus, but being pro-peace is completely, 100 percent in-line with the colleges mission, Pelikan said.
The petition was brought before the Senate and the resolution was debated prior to the vote on the proposal.
Some members of the Senate said that they had observed the petition table and witnessed students signing the petition without receiving a full explanation of what it was or even taking the time to read it. Other Senators argued that it wasevidence that the proposal would be going against student opinion because of the large number of signatures gathered relative to the short amount of time in which Ratnayake had organized the petition.
In the end, the proposal did not pass, with 16 Senators voting against, 13 Senators voting for, and three Senators abstaining.
Some were disappointed with the Senates decision.
I think the tragedy in this is that the advocacy power of Senate was limited, and the student voice as a whole was hurt, Pelikan said.