The Student Government Association voted Feb. 9 against a new constitution that would have given it increased control over student organization funding and consolidated SGA power by eliminating three positions on its executive board.
The senate voted 18 to 14, with one abstention, in favor of the bill, but it did not pass because the current constitution requires that at least two-thirds of the senate vote in favor of a bill.
“This dies today,” said Senator Mike Tobergta, who wrote the first draft of the constitution, “but it’s gonna come back.”
“I think this document is a sound one,” said Dean of Students and SGA adviser Kent Kelso. “I think where it fell short is that there wasn’t sufficient time to sell it to the student body and to the specific constituents that it was important to – RHA, APB, student media.”
“In theory, there’s some parts of it that will empower the 2.5 percent of the students that voted for these guys in SGA. That’s roughly 400 out of 14,000,” said APB Public Relations director Jesse McDonald.
The constitution, proposed at the January SGA retreat, has been a topic of debate within SGA and among the campus community for several weeks. The bill presented for a vote was a third draft of the original constitution.
Vice President for Public Relations Andy Hixson announced before the vote that he, working with Kelso, has prepared a “competing constitution” after consulting with members of APB and RHA.
“What I’m doing is taking a stand, and probably putting myself up for impeachment,” Hixson told the senate.
“What I want to do today is totally eliminate the political games that have been going on, and get what’s right for the students,” he said.
“This constitution change is huge. I don’t think that the people sitting here voting today completely understand what exactly is going on with it.”
He asked senators not to consider the alternate constitution when voting, but to vote according to conscience.
“When you write a constitution that includes other organizations and other student departments, the first thing you should do is go to them and give them input before you make a decision,” Hixson said.
Tensions ran high during the meeting, as the senate floor was opened for both supporters and opponents of the bill to voice their opinions before the vote.
“The bullshit that’s going on with SGA and other student organizations needs to stop,” said Senator Joe Mayer. “We’re here to help the students – do what’s in the best interests of students everywhere.”
“Everybody in here is capable of voting according to their conscience,” said Senator Josh Ruth. “I like the document overall, I think it strengthens us as a whole, but there are a few points I don’t like. It seems like it’s kind of a quiet killing of SGA.”
Critics said the bill was drafted too quickly and senators did not have adequate time to read it.
“If we do this, there’s gonna be a lot of funds coming in here,” said Senator Nathan Hagler. “Is two months’ [planning] time really enough time to be controlling all this [money]? I don’t think that’s enough time to make the big changes that we’re looking to make.”
“I received the latest revisions within the past 48 hours, and I think that is rash,” said Senator Lindsay Hunter.
“This wasn’t a rushed bill,” said Trey Orndorff, vice president for academic and student affairs and an early supporter of the bill. “It’s been a slow process. There’s been lots of little changes.”
Proponents of the bill also said it would benefit the student body with its policy of “shared governance,” or combining the operations and funding of student organizations under SGA.
“It looks like something that probably would help students out in the future,” said Joe Myers, vice president of administrative affairs.
“It helps SGA, APB, RHA all work together. Instead of being three separate autonomous groups who almost tend to be working at odds sometimes, I think this would bring us together a little bit,” he said.
“This bill empowers the students,” Tobergta said. “We invest our time and our money in [NKU]. The product that we want is a quality education, a quality life here on campus. And this bill will help ensure that for every student.”
The first draft of the bill provided for sole SGA control of the funding for student media, the Activities Programming Board and the Residential Housing Association.
It also proposed the reduction of the executive board by three members and the creation of a Student Funding Panel, composed of SGA members, to allocate funds to student organizations.
After several student organizations raised concerns over the constitution, SGA executive board members worked with Dean of Students Kent Kelso to revise it twice.
The second revision was presented to the senate for a vote. It eliminated SGA control of student media and provided for the appointment of minority and international students to the Student Funding Panel in an effort to make fund allocation more equitable.