Proposed amendments to separate class governments from Senate shows tensions between two bodies
The USG Senate and class governments could become two independent bodies if the Senate passes several amendments in its upcoming meetings.
The proposed amendments were discussed and written jointly by the class governments and members of the Senate, USG president Shawon Jackson ’15 said. Class of 2014 president Luchi Mmegwa added that the discussions about the amendments have lasted several months, dating back to last spring.
One of the amendments would separate the class governments from the Senate, rather than having the class governments under the umbrella of the Senate.
“We think this is just reflecting current practices in terms of our relationship between the class governments and the Senate in the constitution,” Mmegwa said. “We both serve the student body, we serve it in two very different ways, and we’re just reflecting those differences in the constitution.”
Jackson said this separation was done partly in order to limit the feelings of hierarchy between the Senate and class governments. Jackson said that, on the basis of his personal conversations with others, there is a sense among some USG members that the Senate is better than the class governments or that the class governments have to answer to the Senate. He added that he does not think those “tensions” are necessary or overly present now, but he said he wants to avoid conflicts in the future.
“I disagree that the hierarchy is as restricting or dictatorial as the proponents claim and I think that some extent of hierarchy is a good thing,” U-Council chair Elan Kugelmass ’14 said. “I think they have a huge amount of flexibility and independence in the current structure.”
The amendments would also mandate that each class government publish a class budget and report of the semester’s projects at the end of each semester. Additionally, the class governments would hold monthly public meetings for students to ask questions and provide suggestions to the class government. This amendment was proposed in order to increase accountability, Jackson said.
“What this proposal is intended to do is to have each class government have the same basic threshold of accountability,” Jackson said, “and that’s why we think it’s important to have one section of the constitution saying that each class government should do a, b and c.”
Mmegwa said the class governments have “always been very open” and “accountable to the student body,” but the changes reflect new ideals for how the class governments can better serve the student body.
The proposed amendments sparked debate at the Senate’s weekly meeting last Sunday. Senate members questioned the effectiveness of separating the class governments from the Senate, the transparency and accountability of the class governments and how much control the class governments should have in amending the constitution.
“The main consequence,” Kugelmass said in an interview, “is that it limits the USG Senate, which is responsible for considering matters affecting the undergraduate student body. It restricts it from being able to independently reconsider the role of class government as it affects all classes equally.”
Kugelmass added that the proposed amendment says that only class governments can amend the section of the constitution that refers to how they are comprised, so the class governments would only have to answer to themselves. This change would also be irreversible, Kugelmass said.
“Article 9 addresses class governments — what their structure is, their mission, et cetera — so in making these changes, we wanted to give them ownership over that section,” Jackson said. “If USG is amending the constitution, class governments will be able to amend their particular section and the Senate will be able to amend the sections that affect them.”
The Senate will be discussing the amendments again at its meeting on Sunday night, and the amendments could go to a vote at the end of the discussion. In order for the amendments to be put into effect, the Senate would have to vote in favor of the amendments in two consecutive meetings.
If the Senate so chooses, the two sections of the amendments — the separation and the accountability sections — could be voted on separately.