Students at Northern Kentucky University will have the opportunity to vote on proposed changes to the Student Government Association constitution during a student referendum Jan. 19.
The student senate approved the constitutional changes at its Nov. 29 meeting in a 17-2 vote. If the changes receive a majority vote in the student referendum, they will then go before the Board of Regents for final approval at its Jan. 26 meeting.
According to SGA President Andy Hixson, the proposed constitution is a more “solid” version of SGA’s current constitution.
“(The proposed constitution) clarifies certain processes where there were a lot of gray areas in the last one,” Hixson said. “There are no real profound changes.”
These “gray areas” were brought into the spotlight during the SGA presidential election last spring.
When Hixson was elected last April, the SGA election committee disputed the results with university officials, claiming Hixson did not meet eligibility requirements based on its interpretation of the current constitution. The administration had announced Hixson as the winner while the election committee said it would not recognize votes for Hixson and declared his opponent, Eric Fegan, the new president.
The Board of Regents, which holds final authority over actions of SGA, later announced that it would not consider revoking the election results and concurred with the administration’s decision that Hixson rightfully won.
“You don’t realize that a document’s flawed until something like that happens,” Hixson said. “Anybody off the street should be able to pick up your constitution and make an interpretation on a matter. It should be clean cut, no problem. The original that we’re going under is not like that.”
Some senators claimed that Dean of Students Kent Kelso, SGA’s adviser, overstepped his boundaries during the election controversy. According to Hixson, the proposed constitution more clearly lays out the adviser’s role in SGA.
Sen. Michael Tobergta abstained from voting on the new constitution because he said it fails to empower students.
“It’s taking away power from the students and (giving) too much to the administration,” Tobergta said. “The administration wanted to ensure that there was some documentation that they had authority… to step in and basically control the students.
“We can’t be treated like children, and that’s exactly what this document is doing.”
Hixson said that’s simply not the case.
“The administration is not sitting around going, ‘What can we do to Student Government?’ That’s not happening,” Hixson said. “Some people in SGA create that ‘hey, the administration is out to get us’ (sentiment) to get students behind them. This administration is so pro-SGA.”
This is SGA’s second attempt in the past year to change its constitution. University officials deemed SGA’s last proposed constitution a “flawed document,” and while it was approved by the student senate and the student body, NKU President James Votruba recommended sending the document back to SGA at the Board of Regents’ July 21 meeting.
Last year’s proposed constitution included governance over the Activities Programming Board and the Residential Housing Association, as part of an idea of “shared governance,” a policy of increased collaboration between SGA and other student organizations. Many critics of the document claimed that it gave SGA disproportionate control over these organizations.
Hixson said at SGA’s fall retreat that producing a new constitution – one that was “completely different” from the previously proposed version – was one of his biggest priorities for the year. He created a constitution committee at the beginning of last semester to draft a new document. The committee consisted of: Executive Vice President Jeff Iker, Sen. Tobergta, Sen. Ben Harrison and Sen. Josiah Brock.
The committee created a new constitution that dropped the idea of “shared governance.”
“Other student organizations are completely left out of it,” Hixson said. “There’s nothing about power control at all. We don’t get any more power than we already have with this new document. Some people in SGA want it to have more power. I don’t, which might sound weird.
“If you need a document to give you power, then you’re doing something wrong. Your leverage should come from… (being) a team player.”
Hixson said that the only way SGA should take over control of other organizations and their funds is if there is a student initiative for the action, not an SGA initiative.
Voter turnouts in SGA elections are historically low, and many senators predict this referendum will be no exception.
“There’s the anxiety that numbers are going to be down just because of coming off of (winter) break like this,” Hixson said, “but we need to get it done now so it can go before the board for the January meeting. Once the board passes that constitution, then we can structure our (spring) election in April.”
“If you have 50 people (vote), I’d be surprised,” Tobergta said.
The election will take place online between 7:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. Students can vote on or off campus at http://elections.nku.edu/sga.
The current and proposed constitutions can be viewed at http://studenthome.nku.edu/~sga.
Students who have any questions regarding the proposed changes to the constitution are urged to contact SGA at (859) 572-5149.