BY: KYLE WOOSLEY
Revisions made to the Student Government Association (SGA) constitution are being voted on next week by the organization’s three branches.
Credit hour requirements, new disciplinary processes and SGA experience are among some of the changes being looked into by the Constitutional Review Committee.
“I think that it’s great that we’re updating our constitution,” Madelyn Street, student body president, said. “There were a lot of changes that needed to be made.”
Jordan Yurt, member of the Constitutional Review Committee, said he thinks some of the processes in the constitution need to be expanded on.
“It’s really hard for people to look at the bylaws because they’re so vague,” Yurt said. “The process itself was so different that it had to be updated and what better time to do it than now.”
One of the revisions being discussed would require candidates for student body president and vice president’s of Student Senate, Student Activities Council (SAC) and Residence Life Council (RLC) to have previous experience in SGA.
Cari Tretina, chair of the Constitutional Review Committee, said candidates would be required to have served or currently be serving one term in SGA in some capacity.
“We’ve seen in the past that the main question people ask during debates is ‘How do you expect to serve as student body president if you’ve never served in student government?’” Tretina said.
Michael Deaton, member of the Constitutional Review Committee, said he thinks the student body’s opinion shows in the votes.
“Those candidates don’t get as many votes as experienced leaders and, in my opinion, people think those people won’t have the experience to lead,” Deaton said.
Tretina said the committee feels this requirement is necessary in handling SGA’s funding, in particular.
“We’re talking about thousands and thousands of dollars with someone who may never have had experience with a budget that large,” Tretina said.
Another revision would require candidates to have earned 24 credit hours at Eastern. Tretina said this is to make sure students have first-hand experience at Eastern before running.
“Lets say a transfer student comes in with the minimum amount of hours you need to serve and president or vice president,” Tretina said. “How can you get all the experience and knowledge you need in one semester? Yes, we are limiting the transfer students, but no one wants a stranger running an organization and dealing with such important issues.”
Deaton said the credit hour and SGA experience requirements are not to discrimination against the student body.
“It’s not to eliminate anyone from the general student population [from running], but taking individuals from the student population who really are truly ready to lead in a positive fashion,” Deaton said.
The position of ethics administrator has been changed to an attorney general. Deaton said this change was to better mimic the set-up for the United States Senate.
The attorney general is elected a few weeks before elections begin and immediately goes into office. But if the revisions are passed, Tretina said the attorney general would not take their position until the new executive cabinet was sworn into office.
If a grievance or complaint is filed, the attorney general is also responsible for naming an investigatory committee, which was previously called the Committee of Inquiry, to examine the incident.
“Even freshman senators or branch members can be put on the Committee of Inquiry,” Tretina said. “We want everyone to have a fair chance to defend themselves.”
A revision to this section of the constitution would require the accuser to present tangible evidence within a 14-day grace period to file a grievance or complaint.
Tretina said the words “tangible evidence” could mean anything from an eyewitness to a picture or video. She said this was added so people could not file complaints based on the grounds of gossip or here-say.
Currently, when an investigatory committee is formed, the attorney general is not at liberty to explain why an actual committee is being formed.
“He can put the committee together, but when he comes to Senate to get it approved, he can’t tell us why he’s putting the committee together in any sense,” Tretina said. “He can only say we need to put an investigatory committee together.”
Tretina said the constitutional revisions would allow the attorney general to give an explanation to general explanation of the investigatory committee’s formation.
“The people’s names cannot be known [and] the actual violation or constitutional revision can be known, but the topic can,” Tretina said. “You can’t know the details but you can have a broad sense of what’s going on.”
Yurt said he felt the attorney general position and the investigatory committee’s duties need to be more defined.
“Part of the issue with the attorney general and the Committee of Inquiry was because when people go before a Committee of Inquiry, they don’t know what it is,” Yurt said.
Tretina said the disciplinary actions in the current constitution are too vague and hopes to prevent as many loopholes during elections in April.
Tretina said she hopes to have the revisions finalized before the election process begins, but is planning to have them finished by next week.
“We’re still working on it all,” Tretina said. “None of these revisions are final.”
Before the revisions are officially enacted, all three branches, the SGA Advisory Board and the Eastern Board of Regents, must approve them.
Street said she does not see any further issues arising with the revisions.
“I think, overall, the branches are pretty much set on what we’ve decided on,” Street said. “I don’t foresee any problems.”
Deaton said he thinks the most important aspect to the experience and credit hour requirement.
“Most of our changes, as far as the student body goes, would allow more experienced people to run for SGA president and vice president and make for better leaders in the future,” Deaton said. “We want to make sure SGA is staffed with experienced leaders.”
Deaton said he believes all of changes are accommodating to the student body.
“All of the changes, I think, will benefit the student population,” Deaton said. “All in all, we’ve made the constitution a lot clearer, a lot more defined and a lot better for the association.”
Tretina said she has kept students rights at the forefront of her mind during this revision process.
“I want to make sure the revisions are constitutionally correct,” Tretina said. “I want to make sure we’re not taking away or limiting people’s rights or freedoms.”
The revised constitutional changes will go up for vote in SGA’s three branches next week.
(Editor’s Note: Cari Tretina serves as copy editor of our publication. However, she will not be permitted to read stories involving constitutional revisions to prevent bias.)