Referendum poses changes to SGB Constitution

By Danielle Fox / Staff Writer

A single vote could change the Student Government Board Constitution today.

Under existing rules, there is no minimum number of votes required to change the SGB Constitution, as long as a simple majority of students vote in favor of it.

“Technically, you could have one person vote and change and dictate everything for everybody,” Joseph Kozak, SGB’s Judicial Review Committee chair, said.

Kozak introduced a series of recommended changes – or referenda – to the SGB Constitution and bylaws on Tuesday at the Board meeting in Nordy’s Place. SGB President Gordon Louderback said the current versions of these documents include sections that are misnumbered, misspelled and not clearly worded. He also said the bylaws need to be updated to reflect that responsibilities of the Board that had never been officially documented.

The student body has the opportunity to vote on three referenda to the SGB Constitution that are on the election ballot today.

One referendum includes the establishment of a minimum amount of votes needed to pass future referenda. If this referendum is passed, 3 percent of the student body, or roughly 600 students, would have to vote on future referenda. A simple majority of 301 votes would be needed in order pass.

The referendum also includes semantic changes and the addition of sections outlining the Board’s purpose, which is included in the preamble of the current SGB Constitution. 

This referendum also adds a section that defines terms that appear in the document and a section that explains the different types of SGB committees and their roles, structure and responsibilities.

Another referendum would decrease the number of candidates for Board for whom each student can vote from five candidates to three.

An additional referendum would increase the minimum GPA requirement for Board members and the president from 2.5 to 2.75.

Students will decide today whether to amend the SGB Constitution, current Board members will decide next month whether to amend SGB bylaws.

Louderback said he and the Board members began examining the Constitution and bylaws during an SGB retreat last January. Neither document has seen revision since 2011. The Judicial Review Committee began working on the changes at the beginning of this semester, but Kozak said other judicial obligations slowed down the committee members’ work.

Kozak said the Judicial Review Committee members were each assigned to an internal committee. Half of the members began to review the Board’s bylaws in September, and the other half were free to handle potential judicial complaints.

The Board will not vote on the bylaws until its last public meeting on Dec. 3, and the current Board will not be affected by the proposed revisions. Since the decision will affect incoming Board members, Kozak said he and Louderback considered allowing next year’s Board to decide.

“Although nothing is a dramatic change or controversial, they are still influencing individuals who are coming in without knowing [the revisions] fully before they were running,” Kozak said.

Louderback said he did not think the time frame should restrict the Board from revising the Constitution. He added that if the next Board disagrees with the changes, future Board members can conduct their own revisions.

“I think that it’s the Board’s prerogative to put their opinions and thoughts into the document,” Louderback said. “It’s a living document.”

The majority of the proposed revisions are semantic.

Kozak said the current Board members already have the additional responsibilities, but putting them into the bylaws will make for a better transition between the current Board members and their successors.

He also said that the proposed changes to the bylaws would give prospective Board candidates a better idea of what to expect if they run for Board. These responsibilities include the addition of Section 2.03, which states that Board members must attend meetings for committees to which he or she is appointed. These might include the Board of Trustees or the University Senate Council.

Board members also act as liaisons for the SGB committee chairs. Section 2.04, another proposed addition, would require each Board member to meet with the committee chair for whom he or she is a liaison “once a month and as needed.”

Another proposed revision would move Section 2 of the SGB Constitution into the Board’s bylaws. This section states that the President and the three Board members who receive the highest number of votes in the election will serve as representatives to the University Senate Council.

Under the proposed change, these rules would become sections 1.11 and 2.05 of the bylaws.

Kozak said his committee and the SGB Constitutional Review Committee wanted to move this section because the Constitution is voted upon by the student body and is a “way that students can help regulate how they would like to see SGB run.”

Kozak said his committee decided the section does not impact how the Board governs, which is why they recommended the alternative placement.

Louderback agreed with Kozak’s reasoning.

“The Constitution is just a general outline, a skeleton of Student Government Board’s role. The guts of the organization should be in the bylaws,” Louderback said.