January 24, 2020

SGA committee plans overhaul of constitutional amendments

The review has been in the works for the past three years. 

The Student Government Association (SGA) voted to give authority to the constitution committee to read over the  constitution and change it as needed at its Nov. 26 meeting. SGA President Sarah Hill said a constitutional review has been in the works for almost three years but has been put off due to other issues. Now, Hill said, with a more stable and cooperative SGA, the committee plans to make more progress than in years past.

“Throughout the rest of the year, the constitution committee is going to look at all of the changes that we want to make and kind of section by section,” Hill said. “A lot of it is just small pieces that we’d like to clarify and make better while we have a very stable SGA.”

There have been a lot of benefits to reviewing the constitution, Hill said, like becoming more familiar with what actually is in the constitution and the definition of member roles. She said this is an improvement from last year, when the general body was not always clear on the codes and bylaws of the organization.

“In the past, at least last year, when I was on SGA, we were confused about some [constitutional] things I don’t think we were as familiar with,” Hill said. “A really good piece of this process is that we’re starting it early and all members are becoming more familiar with the constitution.”

Hill said the biggest issue is codifying the SGA impeachment process. She said efforts to change the impeachment process have been proposed before, but presidents and executive board members have been cautious to change a law that could remove them from office.

“I think that a good leader should be accepting of these processes because if you’re a good leader, if you’re working with people, if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, you shouldn’t have to be afraid of being impeached,” Hill said.

Impeachable offenses, Hill said, include not attending meetings or not following up on duties as a member of the executive board or as a senator. These duties are also codified in the constitution and will also be under review.

Blain McVey, a member of the constitution committee, discussed that impeachment and removal of officers has already been worked on. He said the general body passed legislation on requirements of attendance, which he admits is a gray area of the constitution. 

“The thing with our constitution changes, we just want to make sure there’s as little gray areas as possible,” Mcvey said. “If there’s a problem, we can go straight to the constitution, we know exactly where it is, and we’ll tell them, ‘This is why you are: X, Y, Z.’”

Mcvey said that even little things need to be changed. For example, he said the constitution states that a member of the general body or committee must notify the chair of the meeting if they cannot attend via email. He said, there is no need to codify emailing adding, “We can text now.”

The constitution committee has also learned a few things about the constitution in its review. Mcvey said there is a resolution clause that allows any student to propose a resolution and have a member of SGA sponsor it. Resolutions can be anything, Mcvey said, as long as the SGA general body approves it. More serious resolutions are sent directly to administration, which then decides where the direction of the university should go.

“I didn’t even know it existed until I read the constitution as part of the committee,” Mcvey said. “I think there was one or two last year. There hasn’t been a serious resolution in about two years.” 

Mcvey said the last big resolution happened two years ago when then SGA Senator John Wallis proposed a resolution that the university should condemn Secretary of Education Betsy Devos. Mcvey said that the revised constitution will have students be more aware of their direct democracy power. 

Other student body bylaws will be made clear, Mcvey said, including how to start a club and how to ask for funding. 

“I know how frustrating it would be to figure out how to navigate the intricacies of not only SGA, but the Webster bureaucracy, in general,” Mcvey said. “I hope that the new constitution is more rigid, that way people know exactly what to do.”

The committee will be reviewing the constitution through the spring semester. The revised constitution will be submitted and voted on by the end of the 2019-2020 academic year.

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