New constitution should promote better representation of student body

Sam Stinson

Benjamin Franklin wrote in his article “Disapproving and Accepting the Constitution”: “I confess that I do not entirely approve of this Constitution at present; but, sir, I am not sure I shall never approve it, for, having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.”

Franklin’s words apply to the proposed Student Government Association constitution that will be voted on this week by you, a member of the student body.

After reading the document cover to cover, it is my opinion that Robert Watkins did a tremendous job of rephrasing preexisting text with changes distributed like chocolate chips in cookie dough that give just enough flavor to distinguish the sweet from the bland. I hope that the new constitution passes, but there are some old problems that remain in the new document that need to be taken care of without delay. You should think about these things before you vote.

SGA is given nearly $100,000 of student tuition money each year to do with as it pleases under the auspices of representing the wishes of the student body. The SGA constitution states who can be a member of the organization and how that person becomes a member. According to the current and proposed constitutions, SGA is comprised of students, students are members of the student body, so SGA must represent the student body.

Both documents – and the Western catalog – mention that SGA has three divisions, similar to the U.S. Federal Government. One is the legislative division that is comprised of elected members. The Western catalog states the following about the legislative branch: “The legislative branch includes all the elected members of congress. These members serve as a resource for the various committees of SGA and participate in policy making through the congress.”

Wait a second, do you remember ever electing a member of SGA congress? I don’t. Robert Watkins wrote the next SGA constitution to doubly state that the offices of the senate, which is currently the SGA congress, are to be elected from now on. To be sure that this happens, let’s apply a water test for these new rules.

According to Article Three of the new constitution, “The Senate shall be composed of the following: four senior class representatives, four junior class representatives, four sophomore class representatives, four freshman class representatives, two graduate student representatives and 17 at-large representatives.”

Consider that the new total number of senate members will be 35.

Simple division tells us that 51 percent of the senate will be made up of actual class representatives, while 49 percent will be “at-large representatives.” Our water test appears to show a leak!

Class representatives will be voted in by specific groups of students. At-large students represent everyone. The problem here is that 49 percent of the new senate is not directly accountable to any specific constituency of the student body. The constitution further states that “Vacancies in the Senate after the fall elections shall be filled by an appointment from the President and approval by the majority of the Senate.” If an election fails to happen, the members of the senate are simply appointed.

SGA has had problems keeping graduate student members. Therefore, Article three provides a solution: “If the graduate student position(s) are not filled in the spring elections, they shall change to at-large positions in the fall elections.” If you couldn’t see it before, water is streaming out now at all sides.

This situation should not be allowed to stand. Demand that your student representatives actually represent you. Don’t let SGA stay a social club funded by your tuition dollars. Be sure that the new constitution is ammended to convert the majority of new at-large positions to class representatives. Ensure that SGA accounts for each election and does not appoint members upon its own whims but the democratic choices of the student body.

Make it clear to your new SGA representatives that you expect them to fix this leaky vessel before taking it out on the river.

Sam Stinson is a Western alumnus from Bowling Green.

This commentary does not reflect the views of the Herald, Western or its administration.