SGA Approves New Constitution

SGA Approves New Constitution

Vanessa Persico

The Student Government Association (SGA) passed a new constitution with 79 percent approval on Tuesday, March 6. The document, which has been in the works since spring 2005, enacts a new representational system, changes how Executive Board positions are elected and includes broader changes that the Constitutional Revision Committee (CRC) hopes will enhance SGA’s “accountability, transparency and continuity.”

Under the new constitution, each class year will elect 12 senators to represent them in SGA. This contrasts with the old system, in which each residence hall elected a single senator. The change is intended to get only the most interested, engaged students in the Senate, as opposed to the residence hall system, which, the CRC argues, results in relatively apathetic senators who only joined because their house needed a senator. Some are worried that the new system will leave many smaller houses unrepresented in Senate.

At the meeting where the Senate voted for the new constitution, junior senator-at-large Malik Wright and Creative Arts House senator junior Liddy Kang led the dissenting voices in the debate, encouraging their fellow senators to leave the decision about the constitution up to a referendum open to the entire student body, possibly to be voted on at the same time as the upcoming presidential election.

Wright and Kang cautioned against the elitism implied by not including the student body at large on such a foundational decision, but members of the CRC assured the Senate that they had already considered and rejected the idea of a referendum during their open meetings.

“To get the students invigorated by the constitution you would’ve needed much more than a referendum,” Co-President of the CRC senior Prial said, citing the peak 50 percent voter turnout for presidential elections and much lower rates for less publicized elections.

Wright said that there was too much apathy even in the Senate. He said that the vote was approached very casually.

“I have a strong feeling that it wasn’t read by most [senators],” Wright said. “I don’t think the Senate understood what they were getting into…as well as they did last year. That’s probably why it didn’t pass last year – because people actually read it.”

Wright called it “outrageous” that the president, vice president and treasurer’s reports at the beginning of the meeting all included endorsements of the new constitution. He said that pressure from the executive board played a dominant role in the approval.

Members of the CRC hope that the new system will make the Senate more efficient, especially in its dealings with the administration. Prial said that one of the primary goals of the CRC had been to encourage the administration to rely more on SGA as a resource in policymaking.

“You’ve got your prime focus group right there: the student-elected government,” Prial said.

In spite of his doubts, Wright believes that the new constitution is better than the old one. He expressed a great deal of respect for the new document and is eager to enter into the next phase of revision, in which the Governance Affairs Committee of SGA will add by-laws to what Prial called the “skeleton” that is the new constitution.

Looking forward, Prial said that the next presidential election will be key in implementing the goals of that skeleton.

He said that now the SGA needs a “strong” president and vice president who will work with the Senate and the constitution to build relationships with the administration and to encourage greater student participation in SGA.

The constitutional revision was kicked off in spring of 2005 by former SGA Parliamentarian Kevin McAvey ’06 and has been carried forth through the efforts of Dan Prial, Martha Rose, Rob Sobelman, Jareau Hall, Drew Lane, Justin McLeod, Saul Waller and Katherine Stern among others.