SGA alters structure

The Student Government Association senate passed a new constitution on Feb. 18 by a vote of 22 to 3 following weeks of debate, three drafts and multiple revisions.

The constitution has been a controversial issue since it was introduced to the senate at the Jan. 16-18 SGA retreat.

It proposes a policy of “shared governance,” or increased collaboration between SGA and other student organizations.

As part of shared governance, the Activities Programming Board executive director and Residential Housing Association president will be required to serve as SGA senators.

“It’s allowing student government to act as sort of an umbrella for the great mass of students,” said SGA President Chris Pace. “It gives everyone a chance to participate in the process.”

The constitution will also restructure the Student Fee Allocation Board, which distributes funding for student organizations, and bring it under SGA regulation.

The board will now be composed of the SGA executive vice president, SGA finance chair, SGA vice president for student organizations, APB executive director, and five members appointed by the SGA president.

The five members must be one non-traditional student, one minority student, one international student, and two at-large members, according to the constitution. One faculty and one staff representative will be chosen by the university president to sit on the board, which will be chaired by Dean of Students Kent Kelso.

The board will now distribute funding for SGA, APB, the Student Organization Council, the Legacy Fund and 75 percent of the Programming and Activities Grant.

“We’re excited to see how it’s all going to play out,” said Betty Mulkey, director of student life. “If it’s truly going to support shared governance and benefit students, then we’re supportive.”

The constitution, subject to final approval by a student vote and the Board of Regents, will also reorganize the SGA executive cabinet, change the duties of senate committees and implement new election regulations.

Pace said a special student election will be held within the next two weeks to approve the constitution. A majority must vote in favor of the bill for it to pass.

If the bill passes, it will be submitted for final approval to the Board of Regents at the March 17 meeting. The constitution would take effect in fall 2004. Pace said changes to the SGA election process would take effect in the April 2004 election.

The senate had rejected the constitution at its Feb. 9 meeting by a vote of 18 to 14. The executive board revised the bill and presented it at a special meeting Feb. 18.

Pace said he thinks the bill did not pass Feb. 9 because some senators felt they lacked adequate time to review the constitution.

He said that having an extra week to review the document convinced senators that it was in the best interests of the students to pass the bill.

“I think that the people who voted against it, it was just all personal, and they weren’t looking out for the best interests of the students,” he said. “Any way you break it down, 22 to 3 is pretty decisive.”

Critics of the bill have said it takes autonomy away from individual student organizations, giving SGA too much power.

APB Public Relations Director Jesse McDonald initially had reservations about the constitution, but said that after consulting with SGA members over the past few weeks, he feels more confident that the constitution does not create a conflict of interests between SGA and APB.

“It looks like they took our suggestions and put them in the constitution,” he said.

“I don’t see any reason why we should change what we’re doing. This constitution doesn’t give me any indication that it will. The fact that the last constitution did change what we do on a daily basis was why we had a problem with it.”

Several changes were made to the bill between its first and final drafts.

Student media, included under shared governance in early drafts, was taken out of shared governance due to legal and ethical conflicts over SGA control of media funding.

The RHA and APB senators, originally required to carry out all normal senatorial duties, will now not be required to sit on senate committees.

Student organization funding was originally proposed to flow through the SGA budget, but will now be controlled independently through the fee allocation board.