The Student Association Senate voted early Wednesday morning to pass major changes to the organization’s governing document, the SA constitution. Students may have an opportunity to vote on the changes to the constitution by the end of the month.
Also early Wednesday morning the SA Senate failed to pass a student fee increase that could have raised the SA’s budget by 50 percent. SA President Audai Shakour initially proposed legislation earlier this month to raise the SA fee by $1 per credit hour, which the Senate rejected at a prior meeting. It rejected a smaller scale plan to increase the fee by 50 cents per credit hour Wednesday morning.
The Senate did, however, pass the constitutional amendments proposed by Chris Rotella (CCAS-U), who said redrafting the constitution will make the student government run more efficiently.
“This will better help the SA serve the students without the internal SA politics,” said Rotella, a sophomore.
While most of the proposed changes to the SA constitution are clarifications of language, they also include dramatic changes to how the SA is structured. If ratified, key changes include eliminating the position of executive vice president and dissolving the Joint Elections Committee, which oversees elections. The new constitution would add two seats to the SA Student Court and would create an appeals process.
The EVP is currently defined as the leader of the Senate who runs Senate meetings and is the tie-breaking vote. Junior Morgan Corr holds the position.
Constitutional changes would break the position into two roles. A vice president would run along with a presidential candidate and serve as a leader within the executive branch. The Senate would select a chairperson from within the body of senators to oversee procedural matters at meetings, shifting power from student voters to senators themselves in deciding who has power in the Senate.
“Though I trust our students, I do not believe they can pick who effectively runs our meetings,” said law school student Joseph Henchman, an SA senator.
The amendment will also dissolve the JEC, an independent electoral body that oversees SA elections every April. If the changes are accepted by students, the Senate will have the power to appoint all five members of the JEC. In the past, the Marvin Center Governing Board and Program Board have each appointed a member of the body.
While the Senate passed the amendments overwhelmingly by a 20-4 margin, junior Jeff Goodman, SA vice president of judicial and legislative affairs, said he does not support all the potential changes. Goodman, who serves in Shakour’s cabinet, said changes to the JEC could have negative effects.
“This gives a senator the ability to be judge, jury, executioner, and candidate all at once which undermines the idea of an independent electoral supervisor entity,” Goodman said.
Goodman said there is a possibility that Shakour will veto the constitutional referendum act because of how it curtails the powers of the executive branch and fails to address major issues within the SA, including the student fee.
Other key changes to the constitution include increasing the number of judges on the SA Student Court from five to seven and installing an appeals process where case participants can appeal the court’s decision by three members to be heard by the entire seven-member court.
If Shakour signs off on the constitution, students will then need to approve the document in a special election. SA officials hope the election will occur the week after Thanksgiving break. For the election to happen, Shakour must appoint a Special Elections Committee, which must be approved by the Senate. Rotella said the special election could cost as much as $2,000, because of the need to hire poll watchers.