The Students’ Association Congress will begin discussing the approval of a revamped constitution this week in an effort clean up its governing documents originally written to govern a much different organization.
And for the most part, when Congress brings this new document before the student body for ratification later this semester, many students will not realize how the new document benefits them.
A tweak of a phrase here, a clarification there. Nothing noticeably groundbreaking.
Unless you had plans to be next year’s International Students Association liaison on Congress.
Current drafts of the new constitution do not include the ISA liaison as part of Congress.
And although the change effectively reduces the number of student representatives in Congress by one, the reduction actually strengthens student representation by making it more equal.
The ISA liaison is the type of position that at first glance looks good because, after all, more student representation on Congress sounds like a good plan. Students clearly felt the same when ratifying the amendment 205-18 (with significantly less than 10 percent voter turnout) in September 2002.
However, when looking at the makeup of the rest of Congress, giving one student organization its own representative makes little sense when no other student groups are afforded the same opportunity.
Groups like the Honors Students Association, which has its own officers much like ISA, do not have a seat reserved for them on Congress. And it wouldn’t make sense if these groups did.
Besides the ISA liaison, Congress currently has representatives for three main groups: class, academic building and residence hall. Each student always belongs to at least two of those groups of representation, sometimes all three. International students potentially have four groups of representation.
International students, like honors students and members of other groups, have the same opportunity as every other student to run for Congress as class senators and academic building and residence hall representatives. By removing the ISA liaison from the constitution, Congress will be prescribing to a less-is-more-equal philosophy.
Students might not even notice a majority of the other changes to the constitution – but each one is important. One seemingly innocuous change makes sure that, should the president resign, the vice president can take over that role. The current constitution could prevent that because it does not make provision for a junior to serve as president of SA.
It is these types of inconsistencies Congress looks to correct. The inconsistencies are no one’s fault; they simply happened as a result of changes throughout the years and an evolving makeup of Congress. But change is long past due, and this Congress appears ready to do that.
Past congresses have not treated the constitution with such respect. One administration even for some time lost its only copy of the document. Be thankful students have a Congress that takes itself seriously enough to respect its governing documents.
Congress is using this new constitution as an opportunity to shore up inconsistencies internally and externally. Internally to make sure it can run as smoothly as possible, and externally to ensure students are more fairly represented.
Both are necessary functions of SA’s constitution, and Congress so far is taking the right steps toward a more consistent student government.