Agenda Committee summer meetings focus on Town Hall changes, proposals and constitution


Neima Fax

PLAN: The Agenda Committee’s officers and faculty advisors discussed the first week’s Town Hall during their meeting on August 28.

By Hannah Jannol, Editor-in-Chief

The Agenda Committee did not let summer stop it from meeting to improve the Just Community. While their peers were at the beach, leaders of the committee discussed increasing proposals, re-formatting Town Hall and a plan for a Constitutional Convention during three meetings in July and August.

Calling them “Summer Summits” because only the executives of the committee and faculty advisers were present, Agenda Chair Daniel Lorell, Vice Chair Talia Gill and Secretary Tobey Lee met with Faculty Advisers Rabbi Ari Schwarzberg and Aviva Walls, Dean of Academic Affairs, to discuss the upcoming year and plan the first Town Halls.

Only the leaders were there because the grade-wide representatives for this year had not yet been elected.

“It was an early orientation to make sure everyone was in the same direction, and the last meeting was finalizing,” Daniel said.

The first meeting was held on July 11, when the committee brainstormed how to make weekly meetings more efficient, along with re-constructing Town Hall to “change modalities,” as Daniel described it — changing the way it works and looks.

Different ideas were tossed around, such as having more formal debates at Town Hall, or having an Agenda member interview someone if they’re the expert on a specific topic. For example, there could be a public interview with the Science Department Chair if there were a moral dilemma or controversy within the Science Department.  

The second meeting planned the first two Town Halls of the school year, along with different ways to increase the number of proposals to vote on and a Constitutional Convention, Daniel said.

Early Town Halls will orient the student body to “to the new order of things,” he said, but “not at all in the way that it’s been done before.” He said the first half of the first Town Hall would be introductory, and the second half a normal discussion about Confederate monuments, hopefully involving Dr. Keith Harris, who teaches SAS Civil War.

To bring more proposals to be voted on, the group considered ways to inspire community members, including having new legislation be formulated through a Town Hall conversation and then finalized and voted on at the end.

The committee also discussed senior Rosie Wolkind’s idea to have a “proposal party,” where there would be tables with pens and proposal sheets all around the gym during Town Hall, with representatives at every table to help facilitate the completion of legislation forms.

“The reason behind it for me was that so many people have so many complaints and so many things to fix but never the time or motivation,” Rosie said in an interview. “So by giving people a time and place, with the right atmosphere, we could get a lot done by giving everyone a platform to write proposals.”

Rosie was not present at the meetings since she is running to be a 12th-grade representative a few weeks after school starts. She had mentioned the idea to Daniel after she lost the election to be Agenda Chair, since Daniel’s biggest campaign promise was to make Town Hall a legislative body.

The group also discussed what to do about the school’s 2003 Just Community constitution, which had been lost for several years and then re-found in June 2016.  Last year’s Agenda Committee had promised to address the question but never did.

This year’s committee, Daniel said, is planning a Constitutional Convention for sometime in the first semester, likely in October or November. A multi-week process that would take place during the regular Thursday Town Hall periods, the plan is to split grades up to discuss different sections of the Constitution, and elect representatives specifically for the constitutional convention who would meet to draft the Constitution.

Some items of discussion for the new constitution are “the roles and rights of the committees, things like establishing the press,” Daniel said.

“We do want this to be something that is able to be amended and able to be amended in a way that makes sense and is easy,” he added.