SA’s constitution rewrite has been nixed.
Students’ Association (SA) Government Elections and Rules Committee Chair Jake Braniecki—head of the Constitution Task Force (CTF)—announced at last Monday’s SA Senate meeting that this year’s SA would no longer pursue a constitution rewrite to be voted on during spring elections, as originally intended.
The decision follows several weeks of contentious discussion at Senate meetings and a lack of transparency for both senators and the student body. The CTF, which had been working on a rewrite, faced other challenges, including a poorly attended town hall and a cancelled meeting due to a lack of quorum.
Members on the CTF supported the call to table the planned timeline.
“This is such an important document that if we were to try and get it out at the same time as elections, the quality wouldn’t be there,” junior and task force member Christian Keenan, an associate All-Campus Judicial Council justice, said. “It would be rushed, and I don’t think that an important document like this should be rushed.”
The constitution rewrite has been going on since the creation of the CTF at a November SA meeting. At the meeting, Braniecki promised that work on the rewrite would “be done in a year.”
He additionally promised posted minutes and open meetings to ensure transparency.
Lack of Transparency
Freshman Senator Leif Johansen explained that despite being on the task force, he’s been left in the dark for much of the time.
“We could have communicated much better,” Johansen said. “I still don’t have most of the documentation. Campus Times got more documentation than I did on the constitution rewrite, and I’m on the committee. There could have been more organization and we could have had more hard evidence of what we’re working on.”
The goal of the wasn’t to be secretive, Johansen said, but that’s how the process ended up. He pointed out though that many of the senators who expressed concerns about the rewrite did not take advantage of the open CTF meetings, which may have contributed to concerns about transparency.
Many senators have expressed concerns at SA meetings on transparency, and several have alleged that the CTF wasted over a month on grammatical analysis in the document rather than agree on structure and functions before looking at wording.
Other allegations included a lack of documentation available to senators. The Campus Times previously published images of documents accessible to senators.
According to members of the CTF, further documentation has been put together, and there is a progress document that is updated regularly.
Those with access to this documentation indicated that Braniecki should be the one to provide the documentation. Requests to Braniecki for documentation, however, have gone unanswered.
In a brief email response, Braniecki said that the CTF had “made some excellent progress and have begun discussions that are long overdue.”
Work to Continue to End of Semester
At Monday’s SA meeting, Braniecki announced the start of project-based subcommittees that senators could sign up to work on.
Appropriations Committee Treasurer and senior Nicholas Mavrelis explained that this work, which will continue to the end of the semester, will “focus on five or six major topics” that would be included in a final constitution document.
“It could be factored in, but I don’t think it’ll be gospel,” Mavrelis said. “It’s not going to be like, ‘You have to do this.’ These are going to be mere recommendations to the next year’s group.”
Mavrelis confirmed that this meant the work done over the past year could be disregarded in its entirety by future.
A look at the document, provided by a sitting senator, shows that the topics the CTF plans to work on during the remainder of the semester are: the executive session, special elections, committee and executive director appointments, Senate authority, SA group relations, and an appendix to the constitution.
The CTF is hopeful that its work will be used as a base for a continuation of the rewrite during the next academic year. Any work on the constitution would be dependent on the approval of next year’s SA government.
Senators were overwhelmingly in support of the decision to scrap the rewrite.
“The fact that this choice came from the internal committee truly shows me that this decision was made for the wellbeing of our student body,” sophomore Senator Gabriella Lipschitz said. “There have been feelings of possible neglect in regard to how much work [CTF members] have put into these documents. I see this as a display of passion—for our school, its population, and the wellbeing of both. I think this was the right decision, as ultimately it came from a loving place.”
Other senators were more critical of the process, but supportive of continuing the project.
“I believe that the Constitution Task Force found took the responsible decision of not submitting an incomplete or vague document to be voted by Senate or the student body,” sophomore Senator Andres Ollarvez said. “I believe that in the future the task force should establish a clear outline for what they want to achieve. They shouldn’t be constantly discussing how the constitution should look like. They should decide in consultation with the Senate and the student body how SA should look like and then simply work on making the constitution based on that.”
Sophomore Senator Nick Foti echoed this sentiment.
“I knew that the CTF had a huge task ahead of them, but I really expected and anticipated the student body to have the opportunity to vote on a new constitution this spring,” Foti said. “The committee told us they’d have something by the end of the year and they come up short.”
Foti continued by stressing the need for more input from the student body and a more committed CTF.
“The student body needs to and deserves to know and contribute to what is going into their constitution,” he said. “There should be regular communication with the student body at-large right from the start to ensure that SA can be trusted, inclusive and transparent every step of the way. I think leadership on the task force was strong, but the composition needs to be more committed, and the people sitting on the CTF need to constantly and consistently be held accountable.”