Over the last semester, the SGA’s Constitution and Bylaws Committee worked on creating a new constitution. After many debates and discussions, the Constitution and Bylaws Committee, then headed by the current Vice President of Operations Rami Kammourh, finalized the new constitution and opened voting to the student body. After a lot of effort from the SGA, the new constitution vote reached quorum after only twenty people more than required voted on it. Unsurprisingly, since the votes reached the minimum, the constitution passed, despite the only major changes being a decrease in SGA transparency and the weakening of the student body’s power.
Now, the new constitution cleaned up some obvious “missing” items from the previous constitution. For example, the Senate now has a defined line of succession and has given power to the Vice President of Finance to oversee spending within the SGA. However, most of the “positive” changes that the SGA lists are simply items in the constitution that were reworded to make them more clear.
Under some “unmarketed” changes, the cabinet is no longer required to help students draft legislation. This furthers the gap between the SGA and the student body; this provision makes it more difficult for a student to create a piece of legislation that they believe will benefit the student body. Under the new constitution, only senators are supported in creating legislation via the Constitution and Bylaws Committee, not the general student body. By taking out this provision, the SGA is signaling that they don’t want the student body to participate. When there is no one participating, there is no transparency and no accountability.
The new constitution weakens the rights of the individual Stevens student. Under the new constitution, the cabinet no longer needs to hold at least one open meeting per semester. The reasoning? Some issues are “confidential” and shouldn’t be public, despite the fact that the SGA values transparency. Additionally, I’ve never even seen an open cabinet meeting advertised in the past. This leads me to believe that nobody in the cabinet has done their job for the past few years. The SGA should become more transparent, not become less transparent while giving an extremely poor excuse for doing so. What is the cabinet doing that they need to hide? Many RSOs have open e-board meetings; the SGA’s cabinet (essentially its e-board) should not be any different. Lucas Gallo never stated transparency as one of his campaign promises. If the SGA isn’t transparent, how can we hold them accountable? No transparency. No accountability.
Additionally, the student’s “check” on the SGA has been severely weakened. In the previous constitution, an individual only needed to get 15 percent (470 votes) of the student body to sign a petition for an amendment. Then, it would be put up to a vote for the entire student body – no SGA approval was needed. This could have allowed for an action that was unpopular with the SGA, yet popular with the general student body to come into effect. Under the new constitution, only 10 percent of the student body (315 students) needs to sign the petition, but now the referendum has to be approved by the SGA senators in a secret ballot. This removes the simplest check the Stevens community has over its elected officials. Instead, the SGA can vote down a proposed change without any accountability. Without any transparency, there can be no accountability. No transparency. No accountability.
Finally, any person nominated for President or Vice President of Operations does not need to disclose any RSOs that they are on the e-board for. Future presidents of the SGA are no longer required to reveal any potential bias towards clubs. No transparency. No accountability.
Now for the important part: what did I vote on the new constitution? I didn’t.
As expected, the SGA had a problem acquiring enough votes for the new constitution. With less than a week to go, they were roughly 400 votes short of reaching quorum. After a week of constant pressure to vote, social media messages, and “networking,” the SGA acquired enough votes to reach quorum and pass the new constitution.
I don’t find it a surprise that the new constitution passed. Enough people will vote and, by default, vote yes on something that the SGA puts in front of them. It isn’t that the SGA got more people to care; they simply shoved the new constitution in enough people’s faces. Given the time-frame and number of votes needed, I thought the best method to prevent the new constitution from being passed would have been not to vote. It almost worked. One more no vote after quorum would have had no impact on the end result. Not voting would have had a much bigger impact.
But what if we could create an association that could more effectively represent and have an impact on each individual student within the Stevens community and give those that truly wish to improve the Stevens community an outlet to do so…
That is a discussion for another week.