Associated Students hosted a Constitutional Convention Tuesday evening to explain changes, take suggestions and hear debate over new and deleted sections of its structure and basic laws.
About 30 members of various A.S. entities, as well as students not involved in A.S., attended the one and a half hour-long event, expressing opposition to certain sections and support for others. The newly proposed A.S. Constitution would make a variety of changes to the current system, ranging from a clarification of presidential succession to how members of A.S. Judicial Council are appointed, as well as smaller, grammatical matters.
Internal Vice President Adam Graff said A.S. Legislative Council will approve a final draft of the new A.S. Constitution at its first meeting next quarter. From there, undergraduate students must decide whether to accept or reject the new constitution during this year’s Spring Quarter elections.
Graff said the current draft represents a year’s worth of discussion between A.S. entities, advisors and students at large. He encouraged students to voice their opinions and concerns about the proposed changes.
“It’s not our constitution, it’s your constitution,” Graff said in an opening statement. “What you see in this document is what you get. There are no loopholes. We are being transparent about this because we have nothing to hide.”
Most of the time allocated for audience discussion focused on whether the position of advocate general in the A.S. Office of the Student Advocate (OSA) should be an elected position. The OSA acts as a liaison for students accused by the university of violating policy, such as plagiarizing.
Several OSA members took turns at a provided microphone to explain why elections would help make the position more legitimate.
“The position has not been filled for the past eight years,” OSA Chief of Staff Chris Karlin said. “If an elected position, it will remain filled.”
Members also said the position should be elected because the current process, in which the A.S. president appoints the advocate general, could lead to cronyism.
However, Leg Council Representative-at-Large Christina Leets said making the advocate general an elected position would politicize the process, hurting the office’s ability to help students.
In addition, Leets said, the president appoints all other A.S. committee chairs, usually from within the organization in which they work. It would therefore be out of place to give OSA special treatment, she said.
“Saying your organization is different – is better – is not fair,” Leets said.
KCSB Advisor Elizabeth Robinson questioned the practicality behind placing the advocate general position on a ballot.
“I don’t know anyone on campus who knows university policy well enough to run for the position,” she said.
Amongst the changes, the draft of the constitution specifies the order of succession for the position of A.S. president. The order suggested runs from the internal vice president down to the state affairs organizing director, after about five other positions.
In the event that an executive officer position becomes vacant either during fall or winter quarter, the draft of the constitution states that a special election will be held to find a replacement.
One of the major changes to the constitution involves the appointment of Judicial Council members. Currently, members of the council select new members, which Leg Council then decides whether to approve. The new constitution would give the A.S. president the power to appoint members, who would still need to be approved by the Leg Council.
“It’ll make sure we always have a full Judicial Council,” A.S. University-Owned Housing Rep. Felix Hu said, citing the current council’s insufficient number of members.
Another important amendment to the new constitution would lower the amount of voters it takes to approve a lock-in fee that is placed on the ballot by Leg Council.
Currently, lock-in fee initiatives can be placed on the spring elections ballot one of two ways. First, initiative organizers can obtain a petition with a set amount of student signatures, and then place the lock-in fee proposal on the campus-wide ballot. It would then require a 50-percent-plus-one approval to pass.
Initiatives can also be put on the A.S. ballot through Leg Council without having to obtain a petition. The trade-off, however, is that the initiative must receive two-thirds approval to pass.
The new constitution would lower the two-thirds approval to 50-percent-plus-one.
Hu said the suggested threshold to pass a lock-in could be increased back to two-thirds – the change to 50-percent-plus-one is merely a suggestion, and he would be open to additional input about what percentage to select.
At the conclusion of the event, Graff stressed the importance of receiving input, and said he appreciated hearing the concerns and opinions of all parties involved.
“There’s ample time to make revisions – there’s a reason it says ‘draft’ on it,” Graff said. “It is an organic document; it is a work in progress.”