The Student Association recently began the process of reviewing and overhauling it’s constitution, a change that we think is long overdue. The 22-page document is overly long and complex and it is practically impossible for the average student to understand.
The constitution is also woefully outdated. It makes reference to the “Student Group Council,” (Section 1.03, subsection b) a body which doesn’t exist and later makes references to the “Vice President for University Programming,”(Section 3.05, subsection b.i.5) an office which no longer exists by that title.
In some places, the document is too specific. Take the section that forces the creation of a committee every three years to review the constitution only to dissolve the committee after one semester (section 2.07, subsection c.i.6) — a time constraint that the current committee has already been forced to work out a way to bypass. Or take the specific way in which money is supposed to be allotted to Community Councils (section 6.02, subsection k.i). Money can’t be allotted in the fashion seemingly called for by the plain language because it would be practically impossible.
In other places, the constitution isn’t specific enough. The branches of government are never fully defined — much of the current role of the Assembly is largely ambiguous. And while there is a standing “Student Outreach Committee” (section 2.07, subsection a) a quick search through our archives has informed us that this committee has never done anything significant enough to warrant coverage, EVER.
And in other places, the constitution is repetitive. For reasons unknown, it actually repeats practically identical language when defining the roles of each on-campus and off-campus Assembly representative (Section 2.01, subsections a.i-ii).
The constitution needs to be rewritten from the ground up, in plain English. It should spend more time defining the broad roles of each of the three branches rather than delving into minutiae of daily operations — clauses that can quickly become difficult to follow. You shouldn’t need to be pre-law to understand the constitution.
But while they’re rewriting the constitution, they need to take into account broader structural issues.
Right now the Rules Committee has pretty much all of the Assembly’s power. The committee is responsible for everything from chartering student groups to allocating office space to sanctioning members of the Assembly and the Financial Council who fail to do their jobs. This power must be split up.
The committee must also come up with a lasting solution to the yearly fiasco that results when it is time to divvy up student group funding. Last year, FINCO did a pretty good job, but there were still complaints about the process.
And the committee needs to come up with a way for students to get more involved. There are over 60 elected Assembly members and most students don’t know what they do or what they can accomplish — largely because they are for the most part powerless. At the same time many of the things that happen at this school actually go through other committees with members undemocratically appointed by community council presidents and the SA E-Board. Give the Assembly something substantial to do.
The SA is not running a state or federal government here. It’s running a small student organization. The constitution need not be complex, rather it should be a living, breathing document that can easily evolve as our school changes.