EDITORIALS

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February 23, 2017

Constitutionally Yours

SG’s referendum makes slight, but necessary changes.

Students will be asked to vote Monday on a referendum changing the constitution of the University’s Student Association, which governs the highest level of Student Government (SG). On this issue, it seems fair to suspect, the campus’s Overheard pundits will remain mum. The Maroon Editorial Board, then, rushes into the gap: There doesn’t seem to be anything tricky going on here. The changes are straightforward and worthwhile, if not exactly earth-shattering. You should vote yes.

The biggest change in the proposed referendum would allow students on Extended-College status living relatively close to campus a vote in SG elections. They were not able to vote in last year’s election, since the constitution, last amended in 2010, did not provide for that status, which was established by the University in fall 2015. Students on Extended-College status are fourth-years who finished their graduation requirements ahead of schedule and no longer take classes. They do, however, pay the Student Life Fee, which provides SG’s multimillion-dollar budget. If they’re paying into SG’s budget, then they ought to be able to vote for the people who decide how that money is spent.

The other changes are clarifications and amended typos. The referendum is part of a broader process of clearing up ambiguities and inconsistencies in SG’s governing documents.  This month, College Council, Graduate Council, and SG’s General Assembly (GA) each approved amendments to their bylaws; GA also approved edits to the Student Government Funding Code. At the end of last month, Assistant Vice-President for Campus Life Michael Hayes signed off on amendments to the Coalition of Academic Teams charter, which had persisted unchanged since 1998. As documents are amended and the situation on campus changes, problems are going to accumulate. It’s to SG’s credit that it is addressing them. 

It’s worth considering what a more ambitious set of changes to the constitutional framework at some future point could look like: whether, for instance, a required period of public comment could give more people time to weigh in on SG budgets, which have sometimes been sent out within 24 hours of the vote. But on the whole, a consistent, up-to-date set of governing documents is better than the alternative, and a yes vote on this referendum helps us get there. 

—The Maroon Editorial Board

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