Student Government Organization (SGO) was created in response to the limited, decentralized, and under-representative Student Council that existed previous to it. Since 1940, Student Council stood as the only elected, co-edudactional student voice that considered issues on a campus-wide and national level. In fall of 2014, Student Council elected to function on the working constitution of the larger, more-representative Student Government Organization for that academic year. After achieving significant success, the new constitution was ratified by the student body on April 16, 2015.
In 1937, the student government at Swarthmore was in the hands of the men's and women's student government associations (MSGA and WSGA). There was no organization which considered problems common to both sexes. The Pheonix described the situation as being like a "pyramid without an apex." In order to remedy the situation, an all-senior committee met and after some discussion proposed a plan for a new student government organization.
The constitution for the organization was drawn up in the spring of 1938. It provided for a fifteen member council with 10 ex-offido members including the heads of MSGA, WSGA, The Phoenix, Press Board, The Little Theater Club, the American Students Union (ASU), the Inter-fraternity Council (IFC), The Social committee, and the Men's and Women's athletic associations (MAA and WAA). The remaining five were elected by the student body. The constitution was passed and the College Board as it was called functioned during the fall of 1938. Unfortunately, as with most new organizations, the Board lacked the confidence of both the students and the administration and thus lacked power. Consequently, the Board was unable to do much other than discuss campus problems.
A new constitution was drawn up and approved in the spring of 1939. The new organization, now called the Student Council, had eleven members, none of which were ex-offico. The nominations for the council were to be made by the preceeding semester's council. Additional nominations could be made by submitting a petition signed by fifty students. This original council appointed five standing committees; a social committee, a collection committee, a student affairs committee (serving as liason with the administration), a curriculum committee, and a handbook committee. The Council established under this constitution continued for several years although it was still hampered by an inadequate definition of its powers.
In May of 1946 the Council began to administer the Green Card Fund via the Budget Committee. In doing so the Council assumed a firm financial control over campus organizations, since this fund supports most student activities. During the same year, a new constitution was drawn up providing for the council to have thirteen members of whom three are ex-officio (Women's Student Government Association, Men's Executive Council, and Inter Fraternity Council). Of the other ten, five were elected each semester.
In the fall of 1954, all members of the Student Council became members of the Student Affairs Committee (SAC) which was the primary policy-forming and judicial body on campus that combined faculty, staff, and students on a 23-member committee.
Starting in 1958, the 23-member SAC was reduced to a more manageable membership of four deans, three faculty members and six students (four from Student Council). The committee gave up its judicial function to the College Judiciary Committee (CJC) which consisted of the Deans of Men and Women, two faculty members, and four students. The CJC gained exclusive jurisdiction over cases of alleged academic dishonesty.
Student Council began looking into issues with the college calendar and final exam schedule. At this point, fall semester was split up so that final exams took place after a two-week winter break. Council proposed that the beginning of classes be moved to early September, allowing for a more relaxing winter break with final exams ending before. The proposal was rejected.
The Forum for Free Speech (FFS) assembled as a committee of Student Council for the first time, joining the ranks of the many Student Council appointed committees. For their inaugural year, FFS brought a variety of speakers to campus on topics ranging from LSD to Vietnam.
After many emotional SAC meetings regarding dorm autonomy in the Spring of 1969, many student members walked out of the final SAC meeting, ultimately dissembling the committee. Such a dramatic end was perhaps inevitable in light of the new approval mechanism for social rules adopted two year prior in which SAC would require consensus on all decisions made by the committee and that the Board of Managers was to make all final decisions regarding college policy. Prior to the end of spring semester, the committee was able to reach consensus on making collection monthly and non mandatory as well as passing a more liberal alcohol policy. The motion for dorm autonomy was passed, but ultimately rejected by the Board of Managers. Student Council began lobbying the Board of Managers to make their meetings public.
In Spring of 1972, Swarthmore African-American Student Society (SASS) came to Student Council to propose the addition of a Black Studies major to Swarthmore's program offerings. Together, they took the idea to the college president, who decided a committee comprised of the SC president, SASS president, college president, and CEP would review the proposal. The proposal was passed and a committee was formed to design the program. Additionally, in the following fall semester, Student Council decided to abolish dormitory elections in favor of at-large representatives.
Begins discussions on constitution