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Proposed constitution challenged

C.J. Fryer

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Student Government Association Sen. Michael Tobergta submitted a petition to the dean of students office Jan. 25, asking SGA to repeal the proposed amendments to its constitution that were passed in the Jan. 19 student referendum in a 93-35 vote.

His petition, signed by 200 Northern Kentucky University students, cited the document’s content and the manner of its referendum as cause for its repeal. The new constitution is scheduled to go before the Board of Regents for final approval at its Jan. 26 meeting.

“I want to see where the Board of Regents stands,” Tobergta said. “I want to see if they’re going to actually put students first.”

Tobergta, who served on the committee that drafted the new constitution, said he wants the board to send the document back to SGA to resolve the matter.

“The board is going to make their decision tomorrow anyway because there was a referendum,” said SGA President Andy Hixson, who serves on the board as the student regent. “The students passed it.”

In an e-mail sent to SGA senators and advisers the night of Jan. 25, Hixson said he will proceed forward with the constitution that was passed by the student body and take it before the Board of Regents.

At the Jan. 24 SGA meeting, Tobergta told the student senate that the proposed constitution it passed Nov. 29 was not the same document that appeared online for the student referendum. The petition states that neither version would be valid, as neither was approved by both SGA and the student body.

Dean of Students Kent Kelso, who serves as SGA’s adviser, acknowledged that the document voted on by the student senate and the one that was posted on its Web site were different.

“We’re looking into why the constitution that was voted on by the student senate was not the same constitution that was voted on by the student body,” Kelso said. “There were some little changes, but it wasn’t, in my opinion, substantial changes.”

Tobergta disagrees: “We have almost a whole section of the constitution left out (from what the student senate voted on).”

A section in the SGA-approved constitution explaining that legislation shall comprise of bills and resolutions was completely removed from the version that students voted on. Tobergta cited this example, along with many other discrepancies between the two versions, as a “substantial change.”

“The things that were left on there or taken out… wouldn’t have made a difference (in the student referendum) anyway,” Hixson said.

Kelso said the “correct document” – the version the student body approved – will be what the Board of Regents will vote on at its meeting.

According to the current SGA constitution, a petition for repeal of current SGA legislation must be signed by a number of students equal to the majority of the number of students voting in the last SGA election. The 200 signatures obtained by Tobergta exceed this number, as 360 students voted in SGA’s fall semester election. If the judicial council verifies the signatures on the petition, another student referendum will be held within 10 school days to ask students if they want to repeal the constitution that was voted on by them Jan. 19. Should the document be repealed, the referendum will then be subject to final approval by the Board of Regents.

“The board can say, ‘Well, we like this constitution; screw you guys,’ and there’s nothing we can do because we have no control over the board,” Tobergta said. “We have one representative on the board.”

Tobergta said Hixson has a responsibility to speak on behalf of the students at the board’s meeting and to recommend they not vote on the constitution.

Hixson said he thinks Tobergta is simply trying to cause controversy.

“Michael served on the committee that brought this constitution forward, and then he didn’t vote on it (when it went before the student senate),” Hixson said. “And now he’s fighting it? Why didn’t he express this in committee? It’s like he wanted this to happen.”

Tobergta said he hopes the controversy surrounding this new constitution will get more students involved in the situation.

“The board doesn’t want to be in the middle of (the controversy),” Hixson said.

Hixson also accused Tobergta of making this a personal issue.

“It’s no secret he hates Dean Kelso,” Hixson said. “He’s just trying to make life hard on him.”

Tobergta denied any hatred toward Kelso and said his petition has nothing to do with the dean of students. Tobergta admitted, however, that there is an “issue of trust” between Kelso and him.

“I’m getting tired of (Kelso) and the administration stepping into student business,” Tobergta said. “The dean was a part of (the new constitution) just about every step of the way, and in my opinion, he shouldn’t have been because it is a student government constitution.”

“Michael’s trying to make it sound like the dean did something unethical,” Hixson said. “That’s not what happened at all. The dean didn’t make changes (to the constitution).”

Last year, the student senate and the student body approved a new constitution that gave SGA control over the Activities Programming Board and the Residential Housing Association. However, university officials deemed it a “flawed document,” and NKU President James Votruba recommended sending the constitution back to SGA at the Board of Regents July 21 meeting.

“That constitution that was voted on by the students – the same students that voted Andy Hixson in office – was not honored by the administration,” Tobergta said. “It left a very sour taste in my mouth.

“Deep wounds are hard to heal, and when someone keeps putting salt in the wounds, it’s even more hard to heal.”

In his petition, Tobergta accused the administration of setting ultimatums for the new constitution during its creation period, including: defining the role of the SGA adviser, legitimizing the ability for the administration to review and approve of any amendments to the constitution, and providing a clause to grant the president of the university the power to amend the constitution under exceptional circumstances.

“We’re responsible enough to vote,” Tobergta said, “we’re responsible enough to pick up a rifle and defend our county; we’re responsible enough to drive; many of us are responsible enough to drink – but apparently the administration thinks that we’re not responsible enough to govern ourselves in student government.

“The students are tired of the bullshit, I’m personally tired of the bullshit, and I have people from other parts of the state saying that they’re tired of the bullshit from up here, and I feel it’s my responsibility to do what’s best for the students.”

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
Proposed constitution challenged