The events of the last couple weeks – a poorly publicized Students’ Association election, a corrupt and confusing speaker selection process and a lower than normal voter turnout – have highlighted the need to ratify a new constitution that makes student government less confusing and more accountable to students at UR.
That chance for students begins Monday at registration as they get the opportunity to ratify a new SA Constitution.
The new Constitution is a dramatic improvement over the last poorly written constitution that was passed by the SA 30 years ago. The current constitution has overly restrictive and confusing language. It is very difficult to understand and almost impossible to logically implement.
The new constitution uses simple, easy to understand language that students can understand.
The old constitution has limited the functionality of our current government by not clearly defining the roles of the executive and legislative branches. In fact, it charges the senate with every responsibility while giving the president no real direction leaving their job up to personal interpretation.
The new document clearly defines roles of both branches, giving senate the primary responsibilities of managing the SA, including budgeting, appropriations and SA group recognition. The senate will also be freed of many of their external responsibilities, which are often neglected currently anyway, to allow them to focus more attention on long-term budgeting and working with and supporting SA groups.
The executive branch will be responsible for advocacy as the direct link between students and the administration. The president’s cabinet members will be responsible for acting as official representatives of students in specific areas, like parking and dining. This will give the president’s cabinet a role that currently doesn’t exist in the old constitution and makes much more sense that the president ? the most visible elected representative on campus ? will have this responsibility.
A problem with the our current constitution is that it stipulates details best left up to bylaws including standing committee numbers and governing body sizes. Because of there inclusion in the constitution, it makes it difficult for the document to evolve with the times. The new Constitution leaves a lot of these mundane details of government to the easily amendable bylaws that can be changed by a majority vote of the senate. It provides much needed flexibility.
Our endorsement does not come without concerns, however.
The constitution committee seems to have rushed the ratification process to meet their self-imposed April 8 deadline. We understand that it is important to begin the extremely difficult process of getting signatures for the new constitution. Getting 1,900 positive votes in just over a month, even at a time when three quarters of the student body is registering is an extremely daunting task.
The constitution committee would have been better served by taking a more active role in involving students in the actual writing process. It would be much easier getting students to sign on to the document if they felt that their voice was considered in its actual writing.
We hope that this lack of involvement by greater UR does not doom this much better constitution before the student body even considers it.
Fortunately, the committee still has time to address concerns over the next four days by gathering as much feedback on the document as possible. Students who are interested in the process also must make their voice heard before Monday. Once the constitution is proposed, there is no looking back, and both the committee and the greater UR community must take an active role in crafting the best possible document.
The fact is this document must be passed and we applaud the committee’s hard work. They have crafted a constitution that will make government efficient, elegant and above all effective. It might not fix every problem with student government but it is a huge step in the right direction.