SGA reforms pass, spring elections stay
The results of Student Government
Association's (SGA) referendum and
election last week have been tallied, resulting
in an approved constitution and
a rejected proposal regarding dorm
president elections. A new Treworgy
dorm president and junior class representative
were also elected to office.
Though the constitution passed in a campus-wide vote, dorm presidents will continue to be elected in the spring instead of the fall. The proposed change was voted down 60 percent to 40 percent. To have passed, a minimum 66 percent of those voting would have had to approve.
Outside of the all-campus vote, Kaggie Orrick '10 was elected the new junior class representative and Matthew Boyes-Watson '12 was elected dorm president of Treworgy. SGA President Patrick Boland '09 is happy that the new constitution was passed. "It's very exciting," he said, adding that it was inspiring to see his wish for reform accomplished through the diligence of the SGA reform working group. "I think a lot of the changes that we made to the constitution will help the SGA run more efficiently."
"While it was disappointing that dorm presidents will not be elected in the fall, I accept that I will not be able to change it and hope that the next SGA will tackle this issue," Boland said. SGA proposed fall elections to the student body partly in the hope that having dorm presidents elected by their actual constituents for the year would help make them more accountable and further democratize the election process.
The new constitution requires that amendments need at least half of the total student body to vote. Future SGA presidents and vice presidents will also now have more flexibility in their delegating powers. Boland explained that this newfound freedom will allow everyone in SGA to focus on their strengths. The role of SGA parliamentarian has been changed so that the parliamentarian will now set the agenda for SGA meetings and can call informal brainstorming sessions to help SGA set a course for the future. The position of SGA secretary will be replaced by a new position: administrative assistant.
Boland said that the administrative assistant will have the responsibility of taking notes at all SGA meetings.
Class representatives will now be called class presidents, and will have increased influence in SGA. Going forward, each of the two individuals call presidents will now have their own vote to cast, replacing the old system in which each pair of class representatives voted once between the two of them.
"That's a really big change and I think it will be very beneficial," Boland said, adding that class presidents will now be able to both better voice the specific concerns of theirclassmates while continuing to program for their class. Election reforms passed as part of the new constitution will also change the nature of campaigning in coming years.
First-year class presidents will be elected by their peers, as the representatives were this year, and will no longer be appointed as they have been in the past. Negative campaigning is no longer allowed, and candidates will be allowed to campaign throughout the duration of the campaigning process. Posters printed on standardsized paper (8.5" x 11") will no longer be permitted in an effort to be more environmentally conscious. "What we did instead of that [printing posters on standard sized paper] is to allow chalking," Boland said. Along with chalking, candidates will be allowed to wear campaign paraphernalia as well as post a campaign video. "We're more focused on a face-to-face campaign," said Boland, noting that 22" x 28" posters are still acceptable under the new regulations. Joel Pitt '09 originally opposed the new SGA constitution over fears that the document's wording blurred the lines of authority. "I can accept the new changes to the constitution as being a starting point for more changes to the SGA. While the new constitution does make things more fluid in terms of responsibilities given to members of [the Presidents' Council] and the Executive Board, there also comes a lack of structure," Pitt said. He also expressed continued concern that the new SGA constitution could be manipulated in order to sideline certain issues.
"While I know that this constitution will work for the current year, I just wonder how it will be received a few years down the road by SGA members who were not involved with the formation of this constitution. The previous constitution was rigid in terms of duties but left wiggle room by not having such things as working groups as official SGA policies. I think it is better to have a stronger structure rather than to have vague guidelines when it comes to a constitution," Pitt said.
"I was very impressed with the efforts made by the SGA Reform Working Group and the Exec. Board [in making the referendum accessible]. They explained what was being changed, why it was being changed and offered up a counter to their proposals," Pitt said.
Student reactions to the new structure brought about by the special SGA election were mixed. Leslie Hutchings '11, dorm president of Averill, supported the new constitution, saying that it would allow SGA to be more efficient. In terms of the proposed move to fall dorm president elections, Hutchings said, "I hoped the amendment would pass because elections for dorm president in the fall are more democratic."
Tarek Emara '11, on the other hand, dislikes the new SGA constitution. Emara felt that the election was poorly publicized. "I heard about it once. If they had options for me to vote on paper [instead of online], then I would have [voted]," he said. Emara was also opposed to fall dorm president elections, as the incoming firstyears would be unable to keep abreast of what is happening on campus. "By allowing us to vote for dorm president in the spring, all students have the opportunity to get a feel of who would do a good job as dorm president," said Emara.
Tim Buckingham '12 echoed Emara's sentiments, stating that the election itself was ambiguous. "I got the e-mail, I clicked the link, and I didn't know what I was voting for," Buckingham said. He suggested that SGA should include e-mail explanations on what people will vote on in the future.
Boland disagreed about the clarity of the elections. "The opportunities were there for people to learn about this," Boland said, explaining that all dorm presidents were required to hold a mandatory meeting that explained all the proposed changes to the SGA constitution. Furthermore, a Facebook group and two boards in Pulver Pavilion were dedicated to explaining the advantages and disadvantages of changing the SGA constitution. "We definitely tried, unlike other referenda in the past," Boland said.