The Binghamton University Student Association is laying down the groundwork to give its constitution a makeover this year.
The Constitutional Revision Committee, which is mandated to convene every three years, formed last week to begin the process of amending and updating the SA Constitution.
The committee, chaired by David Blair, a senior majoring in mathematics, will focus its efforts on increasing student participation by simplifying the language of the constitution. According to Blair, the committee hopes simpler language will lead to better student understanding of the finer workings of the SA, and will promote a more informed and empowered constituency.
“Our goal is to make the SA into a more efficient, more transparent organization,” Blair said. “If it [the constitution] is simpler, then it will encourage more student involvement.”
Blair will introduce a first draft of the new constitution to the committee next semester, and until then all ideas put forth by the committee are purely in the brainstorming stage and do not reflect the official positions of the Constitutional Revision Committee or the SA.
The committee members centered their preliminary ideas on creating a better balance of power between the judiciary, executive and legislative branches of the SA. Ideas suggested at the committee’s first two meetings included increasing the responsibilities and power of the SA’s judicial board, giving them the authority to review new legislation for constitutional compliance prior to implementation. Should new legislation be found unconstitutional, the J-Board would have the ability to “kill” the legislation until it was fixed and resubmitted.
Committee members also suggested giving the SA Executive Board veto power over legislation proposed by the Student Assembly, another proposed attempt at restoring checks and balances.
“The current system does not place any constraints on the power of the assembly, but also creates a disconnect wherein the E-Board does not engage in dialogue with the Assembly. An executive veto would make both branches communicate to a greater degree,” SA President Mark Soriano wrote in a proposal to the committee.
Other ideas proposed by the committee included the addition of an Academic Affairs Committee, reforming the Student Outreach committee and changing the name of the Student Assembly to alleviate confusion about having two “SA’s.”
The Constitutional Review Committee is making an effort to increase transparency during its proceedings. The group plans to hold public forums early in the revision process in order to solicit student input and feedback on the changes. Committee members in recent meetings said they wanted to avoid the controversy that surrounded the last revision of the SA constitution, when the student body was relatively uninformed about the process until it was time to vote on the new constitution.
“I don’t want this to be a March surprise,” Blair said.