Activist Council

I. Overview of the Activist Council

The entry can be found here.

1.Origin and Summary

The Activist Council of the Columbia University College Democrats was founded in 2005 under the leadership of President "Big Poppa" Flaxman and Vice President "Big Momma" Moline.

The group is structured as an open and consensus-based progressive organizing body led by four Lead Activists, chartered with holding a minimum of four annual events every year:

The Activist Council also plans beyond these four key signature events and is charged more generally with the more funneling its members into high-profile events during the year. The emphasis on working with other progressive organizations has naturally led to a strong role for the Lead Activists in outreach for all Dems programming. This role, especially as seen in the 2007 CCAW negotiations, was one of the major contributing factors to the drive to place the Lead Activists in voting positions on the Executive Board, an effort that succeeded with the passage of the McKenna Amendments in Spring 2007.

2. Why was the Activist Council created?

  • Promote the long term planning necessary for large events. Creating an branch of the Dems that is constitutionally charged with organizing four annual events means that planning for next year's event can begin immediately after the completion of this year's event. Further, by simply defining the medium of the event, but not necessarily the content, we make sure that there is enough room for creativity that the most creative and motivated leaders want to put their mark on the event.
  • To ensure that the Dems can weather a spell of bad leadership. When too much in the organization depends upon the leadership skills of the presidency then it is bound to eventually fall apart as it is only a matter of time until a student takes over with little experience running such a larger organization. Putting the key signature CU Dems events into a semi-autonomous branch under the leadership of the Vice President helps insulate them from any spells of bad leadership.
  • The institutionalization of more interactive events. Before the creation of the Activist Council, the CU Dems mainly hosted passive speaking events and panels, not only ignorant to the power and usefulness of interactive events, the board leadership feared the radical implications of activism.
  • Open up the CU Dems to allow for greater participation from its members. One of the greatest complaints about the Dems used to be that it felt too exclusive and that the Dems was not taking full advantage of Columbia's expansive talent pool. The position of Associate Activist and consensus based nature of the council means that leaders can get involved and will be taken seriously as members of a very important part of the Dems.
  • To create more positions that talented leaders and organizers would want to hold. In order to get the best leaders in charge of the organization, the organization needs entry-level positions that young leaders would be interested in having. Both the Lead Activist and Associate Activist positions offer opportunities for power, responsibility, creativity that interest the best students to get involved.
  • Connect the Dems to our more progressive members. The organization has historically danced over ideological fault lines at Columbia, unsure how to embrace the more progressive and more moderate of its members simultaneously. Unfortunately, one group or another ends up feeling marginalized. Constitutionally charging the organization with making decisions using a consensus based decision model helps ensure that a minority viewpoint is not simply discarded because it can be outvoted.

3. History of the Activist Council.

A more detailed history of the Activist Council, including a list of lead activists and detailed accounts of how each year's AC organized the four annual events they were charged with putting together can be found here.

II. Important Constitutional Language:

Article III.

Section 1. The Activist Council of the Columbia University College Democrats is a committee consisting of four Lead Activists, an indefinite number of Associate Activists, the Vice-President, the Outreach Director, and the Political Affairs Director. The Activist Council is a part of the College Democrats and shall not be portrayed or construed to be an independent organization. In official documents, which shall include posters, and in statements to the media or the public, the Activist Council shall be called the Activist Council of the Columbia University College Democrats.

Section 2. The Activist Council shall encourage progressive and left-minded activism while promoting unity and connection with other progressive organizations on the Columbia campus. The Activist Council shall seek out and organize political or activist events that reflect a progressive message and reach out to other organizations to participate.

Section 3. In the course of the calendar year, the Activist Council is responsible for four projects: one project to better the Columbia community; one project to improve the local, national, or global community; one lobby trip for the College Democrats; and one campaign trip for the College Democrats. None of the responsibilities listed in this section shall be construed to limit the scope of the mandate of the Activist Council as stated in Section 2 of this article. The Activist Council may work on any project or event that it interprets as a part of its mandate except as otherwise noted in this Constitution and as long as it does not conflict with its other responsibilities. The supreme duty of the Activist Council is the advancement of the interests of the College Democrats and the Democratic Party.

Section 4. The Coordinator of the Activist Council is in charge of monitoring attendance at Activist Council meetings and ensuring that all members of the Activist Council are fulfilling their duties. Unless the Executive Board decides otherwise, the Coordinator of the Activist Council is the public face and spokesperson for the Activist Council.

Section 5. The four Lead Activists shall take turns as the Moderator of the Activist Council, rotating each week. The Moderator of the Activist Council is responsible for moderating meetings, setting meeting agendas, and e-mailing a notice of meetings beforehand. If the Coordinator of the Activist Council is unable to perform her/his duties or if the Coordinator of the Activist Council resigns or is removed, the Moderator of the Activist Council shall assume the duties of the Coordinator of the Activist Council until the Coordinator returns or a new Coordinator is chosen. The meeting before it is a Lead Activist’s turn to be Moderator that Lead Activist shall serve as Secretary and must take and publish minutes for the meeting. If the Moderator is not present, the Secretary shall become Moderator and the next person in line to become Moderator shall become the Secretary. In a vote of the Activist Council, all members of the Activist Council have an equal vote.

Section 6. The Activist Council shall make all decisions by consensus. If an issue proves controversial, the Coordinator of the Activist Council shall either call it to a vote of the Activist Council or bring it before the Executive Board. Such decisions are final unless reversed by the same process or by the Executive Board.

The full can Constitution can be found here.

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