Student groups suggest Constitution changes

Changes include redefining PU succession, decreasing minimum vote for leader removal

With Grand Marshal Week just two weeks away, the Union Constitution Committee—which consists of members of the Student Senate, Rensselaer Union Executive Board, and the Senate’s Rules and Elections Committee—has pushed to update the Rensselaer Union Constitution.

The document in question has not been updated since 1987, according to President of the Union Jonathan Stack ’13. He added that this version of the document, in turn, was essentially a rehash of the 1971 version of the document.

Stack explained that, currently, only seven amendments have been made to the Constitution. The latest of these was passed in 2011 prior to that year’s GM Week. The amendment increased the E-Board’s membership from 12 members to 15. It was also passed by approximately 1,000 votes. Stack added that the seven amendments were not administered consistently, leading to inconsistencies within the document. As such, Stack said that the focus of the update to the Constituion was organization.

The first proposed change to the Constitution split the greek senator position into two voting members, allowing for both the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council representatives to vote in the Senate. To balance this out, the change would also add another Independent Council representative to the Senate, increasing the total voting membership from 24 to 26.

The second change would alter the way the student government bodies handle the resignation or removal of the PU. Stack explained that, previously, the Grand Marshal would take over the duties of PU until the E-Board selected a successor from within their ranks, which the Senate must then approve. According to Stack, the members of the Union Constitution Committee had multiple concerns with this. He said that the GM has no real experience regarding balancing budgets or dealing with financial information. Additionally, they felt that increasing the responsibility of the GM to such a degree would not be beneficial to student government or the GM. The proposed change would allow the E-Board to place a member of their group in charge while they decide who to nominate as the next PU. The intention is to place the vice chair in charge in such a situation.

The third change alters the procedure for dealing with a tied election. Previously, the time and place for a runoff election was decided by the outgoing GM. However, the Committee was concerned that the situation could arise where the outgoing GM was running for reelection. In this case, that GM could arbitrarily choose the time to be “a year from now,” and remain GM for an additional year. The change allows the Senate by-laws to determine the time and place. According to Stack, this essentially means that it would be deferred to the Rules and Elections Committee.

The fourth change lowered the percentage of voters needed to hold a GM or PU removal election from 60 percent to 40 percent. This vote, though, would still require a two-thirds majority. Stack explained that, realistically, regular elections rarely see a 60 percent turnout. This would make a removal election nearly impossible to hold at 60 percent. Stack said that the Committee felt comfortable bringing it down to 40 percent to accommodate this fact. He added that he thought, even with the change, the required turnout was unlikely to occur.

The Committee also made some organizational and wording changes to make the Constitution more readable and easier to navigate. However, these are spread throughout the document and will not be presented completely on the ballot for the changes.

Stack explained that the changes listed above were approved by the Senate on March 4. Stack then presented them to President Shirley Ann Jackson for additional approval. The changes are expected to appear on this year’s GM Week Rules and Elections Committee ballot. For more information, contact Stack at pu@rpi.edu.