Students will voice their opinions about a Student Association graduate-undergraduate split in a referendum on this week’s ballot, as SA leaders begin preparations to divide the group into two bodies.
“We need to find out whether the average student feels the need for a split,” said graduate Sen. J.P. Blackford (SEAS).
The referendum is non-binding, and the SA still can debate the issue even without student approval. But SA leaders said Sunday at a roundtable meeting that an idea of this magnitude deserves student input.
“Because this is a rather momentous split, we wanted to make sure we were on complete legal ground,” said graduate Sen. Jon Rodeback (CSAS).
SA Executive Vice President Jesse Strauss said the referendum could be side-stepped with the introduction of a new SA constitution, which would eventually require student approval.
“I think we’re on pretty good grounds to say it’s not legally necessary,” Strauss said. “It would just seem silly to me to throw a new constitution on the ballot without anyone knowing what is going on.”
Strauss said this week’s referendum is purposely vague. The SA “should pursue adopting separate forms of undergraduate and graduate student governments, while providing mechanisms for cooperation between the new bodies.”
The SA has not decided who will comprise the two bodies, and whether the executive branch would be combined. SA leaders said they plan to create a constitutional committee to work out the details.
Strauss said if students vote “yes” this week, the SA should begin setting a timeline for the split and preparing to rewrite the constitution. It is expected the entire process could take several years.
The idea of splitting the governing body into different legislatures has been floating around the SA Senate all year, and many leaders said they believe it would lead to more efficiency.
SA members said the split could streamline the process for both legislative bodies. Graduate senators said they often spend hours at Senate meetings dealing with issues that affect only undergraduates and vice versa.
“(Graduate senators) see it as a waste of time from their perspective,” Blackford said. “You don’t see the relevancy to the constituency you’re representing.”
He said the graduate body might meet less often because it would have fewer issues to deal with, and because many academic issues for graduates are handled through their individual departments instead of the SA.