Letter to the Editor: The real constitutional crisis was the friends we made along the way

Who’d have thought the constitutional crisis of 2020 would involve none other than that smaller Light on a Hill: our very own Tufts? 

Beyond the levity of your memes, though, and the academic interest of someone who studies the law of democracy, I harbor a small sadness — that of a bygone member of a community, watching his once-home struggle to cohere. 

After a “lengthy meeting,” the crisis involving the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate was resolved by “general consensus” that the Senate Executive Board had actually never intended to undemocratically appoint people (maybe they’d just assumed no one cared that much) and that of course they would hold an election. But has anything actually changed? 

How many of you voted on Nov. 3? Now, how many voted in last spring’s TCU election? 

I’m not claiming the current student body has reached some new low of democratic participation. You’re just dealing with a pandemic. We didn’t do much better during my time on the Hill, and I regret that I did not do more about democratic malaise at Tufts when I saw it. But stress shows the cracks. 

Democracy is not federal, not state, not municipal. It is interpersonal, definitionally centered on people. Democracy is no more than our choice to live together — and the cost of losing it nothing less than living, and acting, alone. 

Our country is nothing without our choices to live together, at every level. So vote! Vote for the treasurer of your student group (hell, run for treasurer!) because you like the events you put on and want to see them funded. Vote for TCU senators, so they will fund the things you think are important. Create a student group. Write a constitution. Propose a referendum. 

Because you can! And maybe the Senate Executive Board and Elections Commission should have. Article VIII of the TCU Constitution gives you the right to propose, petition and pass any referendum measure — say, to compel the Senate to appoint community senators without an election.

But of course, that requires at least one-sixth (just one-sixth!) of the student body to vote. And at its base, this crisis was one of participation. The clearest constitutional solution to this problem of political will was forestalled by … a lack of political will? 

You worry for our country. So do I. But I worry more for our communities. It starts here.

Orlando Economos (A’17) is a J.D. candidate at Georgetown University Law Center focusing on election law and voting rights. You can tell him he’s an old man that knows nothing about contemporary Tuftonian politics at [email protected] He’d love to learn he’s wrong.


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