New SGA Constitution Aims to Break Through "Elitist" Barrier
“We should be empowering the students, not more so limiting or creating barriers for them to expand [their interests] as much as possible.”
These were the words of Student Body President Ted Dolce regarding a newly revised constitution of the Marist College Student Government Association.
The new constitution was adopted on Aug. 31, 2018 after an approximately four month drafting period. Its creation follows the SGA suspension that occurred in the spring semester of 2017.
Following the suspension, a committee of students, faculty, and administration met to review the structure of SGA at the time. Dolce was one of the students who served on this committee.
Dolce felt as though an entirely new constitution had to be written in order for SGA to function effectively and move forward.
“[The old] system was archaic and became very bureaucratic,” Dolce said. “Rather than being a platform for students, it became a barrier and a place where many felt like SGA was elitist, saw no purpose to it on campus, and did not see results that were visible or tangible.”
The most notable change written in the new constitution is that there are now two branches that represent SGA, which are the Assembly and the Justice Board. Three branches served prior to the redrafting.
One group that was added to student government are the representatives, who serve under the Assembly and represent specific geographical areas on campus.
These positions include: a distance students representative, who will act for students from outside the tri-state area, a transfer student representative, two commuter student representatives, two North End representatives, two South End representatives, and two East Side representatives.
Another notable addition under the Assembly is the expansion of voter power. Voting was previously restricted only to senators, but has now been expanded to the president’s cabinet, all vice presidents, and class presidents.
These individuals can also bring forward new legislation, which was restricted to senators in the previous system.
The role of the Justice Board, according to Dolce, is to provide students with a greater voice when it comes to club disputes and conduct issues, such as parking ticket appeals. The Justice Board includes one chief justice, four associate judges, the director of the elections commission, and the parliamentarian, all of whom are students.
In the previous student government system there was also a legislative branch, but this branch has been terminated with the adoption of the new constitution.
“We recognize that if we wanted to in any way be effective to the student body and to the people that look at us, we need to make sure that there was a reason for the positions inside of SGA,” Dolce said.
The constitution doesn’t please all. “From my perspective…the [new] constitution didn’t sit right,” said a former SGA senator who wished to remain anonymous. “This is not robust enough and, even though there were flaws in the old constitution, it still got the job done.”
This former senator was the only member of the senate to vote against the new constitution. While the student stated they respect and admire both Dolce and Ankofa Billips, the executive vice president, they felt the need to resign from student government due to the revised constitution.
The student disagreed with many of the new provisions under the document, stating it will complicate SGA internally and that SGA cannot expand while the problem of low voter turnout exists.
“The constitution wasn’t the problem, it was the people who were in SGA previous years that were a problem,” the student said. “Students voted all these people in, and once they got in their positions they did nothing. That’s not on the constitution.”
Dolce viewed the discontinuation of the Senate as a transformation that now works for more students than it had before.
“[For] many of them this is their legacy, this is what they’ve created, so to change that it felt like their work was being taken away from them. But I saw it as a continuation with every new administration,” he said.
Dolce also stated that most former senators now serve in SGA as representatives for the area they served under previously.
“Ankofa and I will be happy that we’ve transitioned this platform to be more representative and to allow more people to have a voice,” Dolce said. “And I think that’s one of our biggest and proudest accomplishments thus far in the administration.”