After months of meeting behind closed doors, the Constitutional Review Committee has released its final report.

In a previous post, I discussed how critical it was to change the Union to make it a less self-important body. While the changes recommended the Constitutional Review Committee fall short of where I’d like – they certainly do take some interesting and important steps forward.

Some highlights:

Legislation

The changes propose the elimination of the Senate as we know it, and instead replace it with two separate bodies.

The first is called “The Assembly.” Unlike the Senate, which currently has over 20 members, the Assembly has just 13 members – 2 per class, 2 at-large, 1 TYP, 1 midyear, 1 “Representative for Historically Underrepresented Races” (more on this mouthful later).

While thirteen members certainly make for a smaller body, it’s still quite large. This may be ok though, I am not sure yet. The most significant thing to notice about this new Assembly – that I see – is that it is largely stripped of any real power. The function of chartering and recognizing clubs is no longer a function of the legislative branch, and thus the only “real” power they have is to pass legislation – which never actually happens.

Its one step shy of fully eliminating this body, which is what I advocate for. I think in the long run, maybe even after just one year of trying out this “Assembly,” people will see its uselessness and eliminate it entirely. Or maybe it will be a success – having been stripped of all real power, it will serve as a brainstorming, idea-generating arm of the Union. That would be nice.

Chartering and Recognitions

The power to charter and recognize has instead been given to a new body, the “Club Support Board” which will be comprised of 9 members. One from each major “club category” and one from the Executive Board. Each of the 8 elected representatives to the club support board will be elected by and from the entire student body.

This is a really interesting idea. It makes the Union a lot more “Democratic” in that suddenly everyone has to vote for as many as 12 different representatives (2 class, 2 at-large, 8 for the support board) at a given time. What I wonder is if there are actually eight people interested in running for this board – and how well they will represent their supposed ‘constituents.’

The Judiciary

The Union Judiciary has been changed to a “Student Judiciary” and the new language actively encourages the SJ to promote mediation as a tool of conflict resolution, rather than the current ‘mock trial’ approach. I like the language change – I believe that this language is actively trying to make the UJ less of a joke. I have no idea if it will actually work – but it’s a start.

Racial Minorities

For both F-Board and the Assembly, the position of member for Racial Minorities has been changed to “Representative for Historically Underrepresented Races.” The name change doesn’t seem to do a lot for me, but the significant change here is that anyone can run for the position. Voting is still only open to self-declared ‘Underrepresented Races.” Personally I’m just glad the position wasn’t eliminated – opening it up to anyone seems like a fairly reasonable compromise.

Secured Organizations

Not a lot of change here, the big news is the official securing of SSIS and SEA. Noticeably, the committee did NOT recommend securing The Hoot.

Voting Systems

One interesting development, I assume thanks to the influence of Sahar, is that the committee recommends implementing Instant Runoff Voting for all Union Elections – to spare students and candidates of the burden of voting twice in a three-day period. I don’t particularly feel like explaining the concept here, but it’s a pretty cool idea and it makes things a whole lot easier for everyone involved.

One problem? The new potential wording of the constitution doesn’t seem to address how to deal with write-in campaigns. The current constitution makes it quite easy for a write-in candidate to win on the second ballot – all they need to do is get 10% on the first and they become official. Such a system, I believe, would be impossible with IRV (unless someone knows how this might work – I’m curious to know).

Constitutional Review

In this self-referential category, the committee attempts to work out some of the problems that emerged from forming the committee this year. None of them address the most serious concern – that the constituents represented on the committee are actively invested in maintaining the status quo (for instance, the Justice gets a representative on the committee, and the Hoot doesn’t… and notice which newspaper didn’t get secured). This is a serious problem, but I did not expect this committee to actually deal with it, since they are clearly invested in maintaining it!

Club Sports

This is a fairly minor change with no real major implications. Essentially, the new constitution actively acknowledges the relationship between the Union and Athletics on the issue of Club Sports – without changing it. That’s ok, it works pretty well right now.

Vice President

Also, we’ll no longer vote for a Vice-President, instead that will be an internally elected position – effectively merging the current roles of “Executive Senator” and “Vice-President’ into one. Not a big deal – unless the President dies or resigns.

My Verdict?

Good changes. Not great, but good. If you ask me for my vote on this constitution as a whole – I would definitely vote for it. There are a lot of things that are missing still, but I suppose that’s the result of a lot of compromise. But the new proposed system looks significantly better than the current broken ‘government’ that we have now.

7 comments on “Constitutional Review Committee Releases Final Report”

  1. Art Says:

    why eliminate the ability to vote for VP? god forbid the meek students self-represent, eh?

  2. Andrea Says:

    As the representative for secured media, which includes the Justice, WBRS, BTV, and the yearbook, I’d like to point out that the managing editor of the Hoot was a member of the committee with equal voting power, just like any of us.

  3. Lev Says:

    Duly noted Andrea – thanks for the correction.

    As for the VP role – in terms of real responsibilities it actually makes quite a lot of sense for the VP to be internally elected. The VP is essentially responsible for leading the Senate (Assembly in the new constitution) – and it makes a lot more sense for that group to choose who they would prefer to lead them. Other than that the VP has no actual power and therefore the Student Body doesn’t really need to directly elect them.

    What doesn’t make sense is that the Vice-President is the successor to the President. In that sense it makes much more sense for the Student Body to elect the VP – because that could be an issue. What would make even more sense would be for the VP to simply be a “filler,” holding the Presidency only until the Student Body elected a new one.

  4. Brandesian Says:

    …arent jews historically underrepresented minorities? Isn’t that 50% of the student body…?

  5. Tina Says:

    You may want to reconsider the Instant Runoff Voting.

    The “Burden of voting” vs. the perverse outcomes of trying to explain what happens when a person gets more votes but does not win is much less troublesome in the long run.

    The past week, people died for the right to vote in Iraq and it’s “a burden”?

    Here’s the mess IRV created last week at Univ. of Virginia:
    http://www.cavalierdaily.com/2010/03/03/marginal-mayhem/

    And here’s a quick YouTube of how IRV works:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEkrFkqIHHI

  6. Gideon Says:

    Ha, brandeisian, note that it’s “Rep for H.U. Races”. Races is the key word here, implying that – still – the ability to vote is restricted by race.

    I gather, then that Yemenite and Moroccan and Ethiopian Jews will be permitted to vote on these positions while Romanian, Lithuanian, and French Jews will not.

  7. Art Says:

    heh, romanian jews? Yes, i am a minority!