Forming a More Perfect…SGA

On Tuesday night, the Student Government Association (SGA) met at the O’Connor Campus Center to vote on several constitutional revisions that would change the way it operates.

Senators spent the majority of the time on Tuesday considering a reform that would affect representational and voting schemes.

Currently, senators are elected based on a house system. Each house is given one representative, no matter how large. This system allows smaller houses like Creative Arts House and La Casa Pan-Latina Americana to have representatives in the SGA, but also leads to what some believe is under-representation of larger dormitories like Curtis Hall, which only gets one senator. As the system operates now, it resembles the U.S. Senate, where each state gets two senators despite its population. The revisions would make the SGA a little more like the House of Representatives.

The Constitutional Revision Committee (CRC) is proposing a more representative system based on class year. The proposal is to have twelve representatives for each class year. Representation by class year rather than housing would take the emphasis off of what the CRC called “day-to-day” dorm concerns that should be handled by community councils, so that the SGA can focus on broader, campus-wide concerns.

Under the new constitution, voters would be limited to six votes rather than the existing twelve. The rationale for this is that voters would be forced to choose and make smarter voting decisions. The six-vote system also prevents, as the CRC sees it, the possibility of twelve candidates running together for a given class year and dominating the election.

The main opposition to the new plan came from Liddy Kang, representative from the Creative Arts House. Kang was concerned that the new system would make it more difficult for smaller houses to have a voice in the SGA and that living with one’s constituents is the best way to connect to them. The new system would, as she said, “remove the human touch.”

“Our job is to represent the student body, and if we don’t represent everyone, we are not doing our jobs,” Kang said.

The CRC’s response to the smaller houses and fraternities that feared for their positions in the SGA was essentially “get out the vote.” If those houses wanted representation, all they had to do, the CRC said, was band together and vote. Their rationale for this is that out of the 750 eligible voters in each class, only 375 will vote, making it relatively easy to get a group together to put a senator in office.

The CRC proposed the new system mainly to eliminate senators who didn’t want to be there. The problem, as some see it, is that small houses where no one wanted to run were forcing certain people to run for SGA even though they really had no vested interest in the organization.

“The senate will be composed of people who actually want to be here,” SGA President senior Jeremy Lipstein said in support of the new system.

SGA Vice President senior Drew Morrison also supports the revisions and hopes they will help the SGA in its relations with the administration.

“Jeremy and I believe that the SGA will again command the respect of the administration and faculty and more accurately represent the true will of the entire Colgate campus if the new Constitution is adopted,” Morrison said on the SGA Web site.

However, concerns about junior and senior representation were raised at the SGA meeting. Many students were concerned that seniors and juniors would be underrepresented because they tend to be too busy to run and participate in the SGA, as is currently the case. An important question that was raised multiple times was the question of whether the underrepresented seniors would be given double votes. No decision was reached on that topic, however.

Ultimately, even though this document has been in the works for the past year, the debate and final vote was postponed until next week.

Other constitutional revisions that were not discussed in depth on Tuesday included Senate leadership meetings, the vice president taking the tie-breaking vote, the creation of a “press secretary” position, creation of a Speaker of the Senate position, Senate election of certain e-board positions that used to be nominated and increased independence of the Budget Allocations Committee (BAC).