Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Rules, Laws and Bylaws

Tonight I had the fun task of sorting through Student Council bylaws. Sounds exciting doesn't it? It actually wasn't too bad, but it makes me wonder how anyone writes a law - there are always exceptions and circumstances that you don't foresee/can't plan for that make the rules a problem. Why do we fool ourselves into thinking there are absolutes?

Let me give you an example - we have a section about what to do if a class representative resigns her/his position. There are procedures to follow laid out, typical for bylaws of this type of organization. However, there isn't a definition of what constitutes a resignation and this semester we have a student representative who is graduating. The big ceremony isn't until May, but his credit hours are completed and he lives hours away and isn't going to commute back to Kansas City just to attend a student council meeting once a month. He's not even on campus to hear students' concerns in order to represent them. So does he resign or does he graduate? And if we say he resigns, we have these procedures to follow but now we're going to ask people to run to be student representative for only 3 1/2 months when they also have graduation?! It doesn't seem to make sense no matter how we do it.

This is a very particular situation, but that's kind of my point - there are always particulars to any situation that make it so that there aren't really absolutes. (How postmodern am I sounding right about now!?) We say you shouldn't kill anyone, but have all kinds of exceptions for cases of self defense, abortion, or capital punishment. We say everyone has to pay taxes, but there are all kinds of loop holes, incentives, breaks, etc. Even when people think they are writing a good law, there's someone else who will find a way to use that law to their advantage or do something that just barely doesn't break it even though it's clearly going against the original intention.

So what do we do? I don't claim to be a legal expert of any kind, but it seems to me that we have WAY too many laws out there. It also seems like several of them get written out of the particulars of a specific incident ("we have to make sure this never happens again") but don't necessarily think through the big picture or long term implications of what that law will mean. I don't think laws are a bad thing to have - far from it - but I think we need to evalaute what they really mean. Are they rules that can't be broken at all, or are they guidelines? Perhaps both? Neither? What do you think?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...
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hipchickmamma said...

congrats on generating enough viewers that you now have blogspam!

whoohoo!

i have to admit. after being locked in a house with 3 rambunctios child-like urchin creatures. i pretty much read "blahblahblahblahblah"

a good friend of mine took a class in undergrad where they examined exactly this type of question. they also had real-life case studies to examine where a law designed to protect or prohibit one thing when extended out in a different circumstance represented a completely different kind of result.

she would call me with all kinds of exciting cases (often depressing) and it was then that i realized how excruciatingly difficult drafting new laws SHOULD be in an attempt to prohibit unjust results as much as possible.

mandyc said...

not so sure that the spam comes for certain amounts of blog traffic, but the "eye test" is going back on - sorry folks! it's just one more step and shouldn't be a big deal...

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