SGA's proposed constitution cuts the number of elected representatives by more than half
College presidents, freshman senators eliminated
The Student Government Association is slashing the number of elected senators and increasing the number of appointed positions as part of a secretly-drafted revision to its constitution.
SGA members debated and ultimately approved the draft constitution during a regularly scheduled senate meeting that was abruptly closed to the public Wednesday, Feb. 27.
Several interested students, who were on hand to watch the process, were ejected from the meeting by SGA officials. SGA by-laws require a two-thirds majority vote before it can enter an executive session, however Michael Falotico, SGA executive vice president and presiding officer of the senate, closed the meeting without following this procedure.
Student power redistributed
The proposed constitution makes several changes in addition to cutting the senate to a fraction of its original size.
In many cases, the revision also removes responsibilities from the hands of elected students and gives those powers to the appointed SGA staff instead. The proposed constitution also abolishes a branch of government, mandates event participation of senate members, formally assimilates the University Programing Board into the SGA and enshrines a right to tuition and housing payments for some SGA executives.
How do we vote?
Students must now vote on whether or not to ratify these changes during a campus-wide referendum, which is scheduled for March 14 and 15, during the SGA elections. Falotico drafted the proposed constitution and said he doubts students care about the changes. He added that he believed most students don't even read the constitution.
"These are very mundane things," Falotico said.
Reduction of senate
Khaled Badr, SGA president, refused multiple requests to comment about the constitution, but did say that "when you elect someone you trust them." According to Shannon Donaldson, vice president of communication, the reduction in the number of senators is the single biggest change.
"Less representation will equal more accountability," Donaldson said.
The student senate seats have been cut down from 24, based on the proportional system established by the current constitution and Loyola enrollment numbers, to eight representatives. Many of the cuts come through eliminating the at-large, college president and freshman senator seats.
"The main change is downsizing senate to ensure more efficiency," Donaldson said.
Donaldson initially said she was unsure of the fate of freshman senators; however, she confirmed the freshman senate seats were eliminated. Mention of their positions does not appear in the spring 2013 revised constitution draft.
Donaldson said that much of the senate debate over the constitutional changes has centered around the lack of a role for those freshman senators.
Mara Steven, SGA chief justice, said the removal of freshman senators would allow SGA members to be more "efficient." "Senate will be an upperclassman thing," Steven said. "Freshman senators historically have not been a constant part of SGA."
Donaldson said she felt senators had different feelings regarding the elimination of senate seats.
"Senators were understandably upset at first; their positions in SGA were threatened," Donaldson said.
Jasmine Barnes, SGA senator-at-large, said SGA tries to have the backing of the Loyola community when making decisions.
"Loyola's Student Government Association has been charged with amplifying the voice of the student body and I believe that we do our best," Barnes said. .
But not all senators said they are happy with the constitutional changes. Many senators oppose these changes, but told The Maroon during background interviews that they could not comment about their opposition because they feared for their positions on senate. These senators said members of the SGA executive staff have told them that if they communicate with reporters without having the vice president for communication involved in the interview, those senators would be removed from office.
Eddie Murray, president of the College of Social Sciences, said he's "not a big fan of the changes."
Murray does not believe the entirety of Loyola students will be completely represented if the new changes to the constitution are passed by an upcoming referendum.
"I don't believe eight students can represent the student population of Loyola equally," he said. "Too many walks of life to be represented by eight kids."
Murray said he believes the changes will be "disenfranchising" the Loyola minorities and international students.
When asked why the senate would approve the constitution, he clarified that he could not speak for anyone else, but he said he believes SGA senators "don't actually know what it comes with," he said.
While Murray said he believes senate needs more accountability, he said he disagrees with SGA's proposed tactic.
"Accountability can be achieved without cutting us in half," Murray said.
Finalization of constitution
According to Falotico, most of the constitutional changes are all but a done deal.
"It was approved by the justices and senate," Falotico said.
The next step is a campus-wide referendum to ratify the constitution, Falatico said.
Many appointed positions were added to the constitution. Steven said it is fair to include an increase in appointed positions in the new constitution because she feels appointed positions are given on merit, which is not necessarily true of elected positions.
"It's how the world works; elections are usually a popularity contest," Steven said.
Even though the constitution has been drafted in executive session and students were not allowed to comment on the changes, Falotico and Steven both said SGA promises it will publish the document on Friday, March 8, so students can read through it.
However, a copy of the constitution was made available on Thursday, March 7 at www.LoyolaMaroon.com.
Falotico said that a question-and-answer session about the constitutional changes is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, March 14, before or after the SGA candidate debates scheduled at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 14. Steven said she does not believe most students are concerned with reading the SGA constitution.
"Even though most people probably don't care, it'll be there for them," Steven said.
More changes to constitution
Other changes made to the SGA constitution include moving election oversight under the vice president of communication and formalizing the relationship of the University Programming Board as an entity accountable to the SGA organization.
The House of Representatives was eliminated from the entirety of the constitution.
The board of elections was also eliminated.
The board of elections has been tasked with deciding disputes with an election, but in the new constitution its powers have been distributed between the SGA vice president of communication and the judiciary branch.
Powers of chief justice
The powers in the position of SGA chief justice, an appointed member, have increased.
The chief justice's powers now include "an auditing activity over student organizations," according to the proposed new constitution. Donaldson said none of the changes to the constitution will take away from the powers of students.
Permanance of constitution
Courtney Williams, assistant director of campus activities and SGA adviser, said one of the ways SGA could improve in the future will include reviewing the constitution every five years and the by-laws every year.
"Research shows that constitution is ineffective if constantly changed," Williams said.
However, the stated goal said by Williams, Donaldson, and Steven is to have this version of constitution in place for many years.
Lucy Dieckhaus can be reached at email@example.com
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