After a year-long struggle, the Northern Kentucky University Student Government Association is now operating under a new constitution.
But that doesn’t mean the struggle is over.
The Board of Regents unanimously approved the new constitution at its Jan. 26 meeting, after the student body passed the document in a Jan. 19 referendum. However, the version of the constitution passed was not the same version that the student senate approved at its Nov. 29 meeting, which prompted SGA Sen. Michael Tobergta to challenge the legitimacy of the referendum. Tobergta submitted a petition signed by 200 students to the dean of students office Jan. 25.
SGA President Andy Hixson, who serves as the student regent on the board, said he was faced with a difficult decision in deciding whether to present the constitution to the board. He said because it was the version approved by the constitution committee and the student body, he chose to bring it to the board, despite the controversy.
“If I had gone before the Board of Regents and said, ‘Oh, we don’t have anything,’ then what would have happened?” Hixson asked. “Would they write one for us, maybe, because we can’t handle it?
“I didn’t want to take that chance.”
At the Jan. 31 SGA meeting, Hixson said because embarrassment fell on the student senate, it should be held responsible for figuring out how the version mix-up occurred. He announced an ad hoc legislative review committee would investigate the situation and report its findings no later than Feb. 14.
Tobergta said he is weary of the committee’s intentions.
“This is not about looking into what went wrong,” Tobergta said. “This is about going after me … because of the controversy that I stirred.”
Tobergta compared the investigation to a “witch hunt” that is out to put blame on him.
“It’s not my own personal agenda to cause controversy,” Tobergta said. “I don’t like controversy. I’m probably one person who tries to stay out of it.
“But there are some times that you can lay down all you want, and people will walk over you every time. It’s time that you stand up and say, ‘enough is enough and it’s time for a change.’ That’s exactly what I did and people didn’t like it – they got scared.”
Hixson said the committee is not out to get anyone.
“This committee is out to find out what happened so that we tell the senate the findings and report to the board what happened,” Hixson said.
Chief Justice Nathan Hagler said the judicial council would rule on Tobergta’s petition by Feb. 7. The judicial council could approve another referendum, which would ask students if they want to repeal the new constitution.
SGA’s last attempt to have the Board of Regents approve a new constitution ended in failure. Although the student senate and the student body passed the previous document, NKU President James Votruba recommended sending it back to SGA at the board’s July 21 meeting. University officials deemed the proposed constitution, which gave SGA control over the Activities Programming Board and the Residential Housing Association, a “flawed document.”
“The constitution that was passed by Student Government last year was unacceptable,” Hixson said. “This year, we have one that’s acceptable … and then something happens where a different document goes from the committee to the senate (that) makes SGA look like they’re not capable of handling the situation.
“That was the last thing that I wanted to happen.”
Tobergta said he is upset the board would not even vote on last year’s proposed constitution, yet it approved this new constitution.
“In the past they did not honor the student vote, and now they are,” Tobergta said.
In his petition, Tobergta also claimed the new constitution gives too much power to the administration.
After a suggestion from Votruba Jan. 26, Hixson asked the board to eliminate a section of the new constitution that gave the NKU President the power to amend or repeal any provision in the constitution or action of SGA. The board removed the section from the document.
However, Tobergta said this deletion did not truly take away this power from the university president, citing another part of the new constitution that states: “The Board of Regents retains final authority over all actions of the SGA and the board has delegated such authority to the president of the institution and other designated officials as appointed by the president.”
“It is (the board’s) job to look out for the best interest of the institution,” Tobergta said. “But who is really the basis of the institution? Is it the buildings, is it the faculty, staff and administration, or is it the students? I think it’s everybody, but I think they’re kind of sidestepping the students.”
Hixson doesn’t see it this way.
“The Board of Regents has control over everything on this university anyway,” Hixson said. “That’s never going to change … You have to have checks and balances.”