Here is my thinking on some of these questions.
Some Questions to consider (regarding the reform of the SC):
1. What is and should be the purpose of the SC in the CDS community?
I agree with what Pat posted. “The purpose of the SC, in my view, is to act as the defenders of the Constitution. They are the ones who 'keep the RA honest' by insisting that rules of procedure are followed, they defend the interests of minorities who might otherwise be abused by the results of majority rule, and they hear any appeals about who is/is not permitted to vote or stand for election.”
To that I would add that the Scientific Council is from its origination, specified in the archived discussions and codified in the CDS Constitution, to be one of 3 equal and balancing branches of government, holding all branches, the RA and the Executive was well the SC itself, true to the Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the CDS Code of Laws and the SL ToS
“PREAMBLE (of the CDS Constitution)
All branches of the government are bound to serve the public before themselves and to uphold the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Founding Philosophy, Constitution, local laws, the SL ToS, and Community Standards without exception.”
2. Why is this purpose important to the citizenry?
A balance of equal branches with complementary functions protects the citizens’ interest in having a fair and stable base for community while still able to respond to changing needs as the group evolves. So while the RA proposes new ideas, considers the requests of a current citizenry and legislates some of those into effect, and the Chancellor executes and applies those laws, it is the role of the SC to consider the whole, the continuum of the community considering what codified and intended before and why, and specifically when and how new would be in conflict with those principal documents. It is in this sense that the SC is a Philosophic Branch.
In my opinion it is not in the best interest of the citizenry to skew or erode this balance. So although in this particular instance I am defending the need for a strong and independent SC, I would equally and vigorously defend the need to maintain a strong and independent RA and a strong and independent Chancellorship.
3. How does this purpose translate into functions?
Article III, Section 6, "the SC will ratify bills passed by the Representative Assembly by simple majority vote and may resubmit the bill with modifications for vote." I believe this function should remain as is.
I also agree with Beathan and Calli that there is an implied role of dispute resolution in the purpose and function of the SC. I believe that should be a limited function though, related to citizens complaints to do with the implementation of the Constitutionally defined duties of either the Chancellor and rest of the Executive or the RA. It is my opinion that what kinds of issues should be brought to the SC for resolution vs what should be brought to the Chancellor, at least first, or what should be brought to the RA for exploration via committee or proposed legislation should be clearly laid out. Furthermore, there should be at least a general if/then set of guidelines connecting violations with consequences that would be imposed. As a community of choice these are very limited but still hold weight.
4. How do these functions relate to other government functions and to the citizenry at large?
In addition to what I wrote above in #2, it is my opinion that the SC has an duty to inform and educate not only the other two Branches but also the citizenry. To that end it is important that SC members present the support documentation for the official opinions they express and findings they vote.
5. What structure and roles should the SC have in order to optimally carry out these functions?
The three-tiered structure of the SC laid out in the Constitution is cumbersome and unneeded. The expectation of the founders was that with the SC based on university structure, Professor to Chair to Dean would be a "career path." In my years on the SC and in my years in the CDS I have not met anyone who wanted to have a career path in the SC. In my opinion this structure is both silly and operationally nonoptimal. In my experience the SC has functioned best when it has worked to hear all voices and well-founded positions given hearing then discussion to reach consensus on major points when possible.
I agree with Calli that 5 members of the SC each having an equal vote. I would be fine with 5 to 7 flexibility. And I agree with her that the structure should be flattened with a single Chair elected by the SC members, either yearly as she recommends or every 6 mos.
I think there is an argument for term limits for the SC members. I agree with Calli that if there were term limits 3 consecutive years would work. It does take a bit time for new members to become sufficiently versed in all the documentation in order to be fully contributing members. More than a term limit for members though I recommend a term limit for the Chair (formerly Dean). The Chair acts as the administrator for the SC. The SC also needs to have a Secretary/Archivist. In my opinion the limit for that position should be 18 months, and therefore my recommendation of voting in the Chair every 6 months. I say this as someone who has now served over 3 years on the SC and served 18 months as its Dean. Although I have already told some people, I want to announce publicly here and now that I will retire from the SC by the end of this calendar year. I am not a proponent of lifetime tenures in government positions either in RL or in SL.
Both my experience on the SC and my research into the functioning of past SCs confirm to me that there is wisdom in having this body be a meritocracy. It is critical to the functioning of the SC that its membership become well versed in the content and past application of the existing body of laws and regulations--CDS and LL ones. I share Pat's concern that the SC not be a cabal of friends. I believe though that a meritocracy where new members are voted in by current members is actually better protection against that happening than either appointment by a Chancellor or the RA, or direct election of the SC would be. I say this because of the nature of the work of the SC. No currently sitting member of a SC will want to intentionally vote in anyone who will not pull their weight in doing the work of this body. No current sitting member would want to bring additional work onto themselves just to have a "friend" who would not shoulder their share join the SC. The SC sitting members whose job it is to know the documents and background are also best suited to ascertain the willingness and knowledge of member prospects.
So perhaps it will seem counter-intuitive to some, but I have come to the conclusion that maintaining the SC as a meritocracy is what will serve the CDS democracy best. I do recommend some formal changes in solicitation of new SC members though. I believe that it should be mandatory to publicly post vacancies on the SC and the intent to fill them. This should be done both on the Forum and inworld. People who would be interested in serving may then approach the SC themselves. Additionally as Calli said, any five citizens may propose a candidate.
As currently set out in the Constitution, the RA has the duty to vote its confidence in the new members voted in by the SC. I believe that the Constitution and law on this process should stand. Particularly important to the process is limiting the vote of confidence to perceived likelihood to uphold the Constitution. This is the brake on the RA from voting in "friends" or refusing confidence to people they may not like personally.
Article I, Section 7 – Powers of the RA In regards to the Philosophic branch:
The RA provides a vote of confidence on candidates to the Philosophic branch. This vote is in regards to their perceived likelihood to uphold the constitution. The RA can amend the constitution with a 2/3 vote.
The RA can seek impeachment of members of the Philosophic branch by initiating an impeachment hearing.
NL 4-8 Scientific Council Affirmation Procedures Act
If the RA fails to act on an SC nomination within 30 days of the Scientific Council Dean’s communicating notice of the nomination to the Leader of the RA, the nominee is confirmed automatically.
As I posted in the Forum, I believe the 30 day limit on the RA for vote of confidence is reasonable. It is not a loophole. 30 days is 1/5 of the entire term of the RA. To expect that the RA will be unable to function adequately for the last 1/5 of its 6 month term is to me not only unreasonable but an hang-up in the democratic process.