Student Senate voted on and approved a new constitution during an executive session March 4. The constitution includes new dorm representation for senate members and was written by senior Sam Thompson, vice president. It will be implemented in the fall.
Senate will be changing its name to the “Student Government Association” and will now allow student representatives from different dormitories, along with class representatives.
According to article 2, section 3 of the constitution, “Dorm Representatives shall be composed of two members from Wright Hall, two members from Hardy Hall, two members from Livingston Hall, two members from Baker Hall, two members from Roush Hall, one member from Miller Hall, one member from Meadows Hall, and one member from Forester Village. Each Dorm Representative will be chosen by his/her respective hall for one academic year.”
Senate members collected signatures by going door-to-door throughout the dorms on campus. This semester’s election will take place after room draw in the middle of April, but class representative elections will be held before then.
Thompson said they need 450 full-time student signatures to meet the simple majority, based on this year’s full-time enrollment. Two-thirds of the 51 percent of students had to approve the constitution. Senate then voted on the ratification.
“The way the [old] constitution is written, we need two-thirds of voters,” Thompson said. “That means if three people vote and two approve, then it would pass. We thought that might not represent the student body. In the new constitution, we placed a 51 percent minimum because it is a simple majority.”
If no representative from a dorm runs, a special election will be held to elect a representative at large for that dorm.
Thompson had input from senior Aron Tan, current student body president, the history professors and Ron Coffey, Ph.D., vice president for student life, for the new constitution.
“I think that it was necessary because getting feedback from when Aron and I ran [last year], there was a lot of concern about representation and student concerns being met efficiently and effectively,” he said. “We believe this constitution properly equips students to voice their concerns in a more effective manner and that dorm representation helps. Instead of having to find a senator, they can just go down the hall and talk to someone.”
Thompson started by picking apart the old constitution and getting feedback from students about dorm representation.
“I modeled the constitution to a certain degree to the U.S. constitution, article-wise, because it is professional,” he said. “I want to make sure this document is as transcending as possible and can meet the needs of students.”
Thompson began writing it in January 2015 and finished it at the end of February. He presented it to senate Feb. 25, and they approved it March 4.
“Hopefully, student government becomes more accessible to the students,” Thompson said. “We want as much input as possible.”
Senate currently has 20 members but will have 22 members with the changes. Currently, every dorm is represented except for Baker Hall. Excluding the executive board, four senate members are from Wright, two from Miller, one from Meadows, one from Roush, two from Livingston and eight from Hardy, along with three commuters.
“Without senate presence within Baker Hall, we can’t intervene if issues arise,” Tan said, “whether that’s maintenance, floor issues or whatever. … There’s no person I can refer them to.”
Issues came up last year with the constitution’s vagueness and a lack of viable records proving it was properly ratified in 1998. Tan said they are being much more thorough with this year’s process.
“We’ll have paper copies to document so there’s not future issues with documentation,” Tan said. “The last time it was ratified we couldn’t find the documents.”
Senate believes changing its name to the “Student Government Association” sounds more professional to surrounding colleges. Last year, Tan and other senate members attended a student government conference at Ball State University. Every student group there was called a “Student Government Association.”
“We were the only ones with a different name, and I think the name change really represents what senate does as a whole,” Tan said. “It’s a lot more professional. It’s recognizable.”
Even though Tan and Thompson will be graduating in May, they said they are confident in next year’s executive board. Sophomore Logan Presnell will serve as president, sophomore Paige Winans vice president, sophomore Carina Leone treasurer and freshman Troy Hester will be secretary.
“I think the people who ran are some of the most capable, outspoken people in senate,” Tan said. “I have full confidence that they will be able to handle the changes that the representation brings. … The structure within senate is brand new so there will be some growing pains.”
Presnell said the new constitution is long overdue.
“The new constitution is great,” he said. “I am very pleased to be moving in this new direction and think that the new system of representation will improve participation in student government, enhance representation of the student body, raise awareness of what student government is and who is involved in it and will boost voter turnout.”
Junior Austin Flores, three-year resident of Baker 2nd, said he is not sure how the new representation will impact Baker Hall.
“I like the idea of it, but I’m not sure of the practicality of it,” he said. “I’m not sure what powers the representative will have. I’m not sure what change will come from this.”
Presnell said the next executive board is ready to meet the challenges.
“We have a young executive board, myself included, and some might say that the experience is not up to par,” he said. “However, I am a very determined individual and hold myself and those I am working with to a very high standard and I am fully confident that through hard work and perseverance change can happen. I believe that this will be the case next year for the first Student Government Assocation.”