Constitutional Review Committee Selected

The Constitutional Review Committee is a strange beast. “We”, the student body, are reviewing/revising/rewriting the Union constitution, but no one is elected, anot too many people are appointed by the Student Union, either. (Full disclosure – I was appointed by the Union to this committee).

Instead, members of the Constitutional Review Committee are selected by constituent clubs and organizations themselves, such as “secured non-media” or “club sports”. The result is interesting: most of these people don’t seem like they’d normally have much to do with the union at all, yet here they are rewriting the constitution.

That reminds me: The members of the Constitutional Review Committee so far are:

ICC – Kenta
Club sports – Benjy cooper
religious organizations – Matthew Feinberg
Secured media – Andrea Fineman
Secured non-media – Jessie Steinberg
Senate – Ryan fanning
performance and artistic- andrew litwin
eboard – Jenna Brofsky
f-board Julia Cohen
non-sports competition – Nipun
division of student affairs – Steph Grimes
CA- Tamar Brown
at large – Sahra Massachi and Alex Schneider


8 thoughts on “Constitutional Review Committee Selected”

  1. Art,

    A good question.

    Secured organizations have an incentive to keep the “secured” concept of guaranteed funding, and would undoubtedly oppose any funding decrease. Student Events, for example, receives hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, but is an opaque organization with no real oversight of how it spends its dollars. Tonight’s Ben Folds event featured an expensive-looking misplaced digital light array which added little to the performance. A good deal of money was wasted on ineffective, expensive advertising – hundreds of glossy postcards with Ben Folds’ face were printed up for no apparent purpose. Is this the best way to spend SAF money? But any sizable change in secured club allocations are difficult when the secured clubs currently receiving those allocations have extra seats at the table.

    Similarly, representatives from the F-board, Senate, and E-board have a vested interest in maintaining the power of those organs, currently being the administrators of that power. Changes which drastically cut the hierarchy of the Union government or lessen the role of appointed and elected student officials in favor of a more directly democratic model have small chances when those very officials have disproportionate control over what changes might be considered. This is not to accuse anyone in the Union government of being corrupt or power-hungry, but it cannot be denied that they have a natural predisposition not to radically change the system they have successfully navigated.

    I cannot see why Stephanie Grimes would be on the committee to review the Student Union constitution, not being a student herself and representing an Administrative body which expressed an interest in annexing the Student Events portion of the SAF my freshman year.

    Essentially, I cannot see any reason why all the candidates chosen should not have been candidates at large. For every position, we have to ask ourselves, is it so important to represent this constituency particularly? Should our review committee be composed mostly of insiders to the system they are reviewing? The answer seems pretty obvious to me.

  2. Lev, that is correct. Representatives are supposed to be “elected or appointed by their respective constituencies” according to the Union Constitution.

    I do think, however, that this is a curious way of selecting a review board. Some of the represented organizations seem arbitrary – for example, do CAs have such an important, unique perspective on the Union structure that they merit their own seat in lieu of an at-large seat?

    More troublingly, groups and institutions which have power under the current constitution and have an interest in the status quo are overrepresented, meaning the Committee is inherently biased towards preserving that status quo. Those groups who currently get large slices of the Student Activities Fee are also overrepresented. It seems impossible for the Committee to look at the Constitution objectively when most of the interest groups which compose it benefit so much from the Constitution’s current structure. Any truly radical idea (completely restructuring the Student Activities Fee allocation, for example, or changing the basic format of the Union government) would violate the self-preservation interest of one of at least one of the represented interest groups.

    The result: the review committee, whose purpose should be to consider whether the current institutions and practices are really the best way to represent and serve the students, will have a very difficult time seriously considering any alternative. It would take a tremendous, nearly-impossible-to-expect act of openmindedness and selflessness for the Committee to truly fulfill its mandate.

    Unfortunately, the Committee structure is laid out in the current Constitution. I hope that the Committee, if nothing else, abolishes its own interest-group focused, status-quo preserving representative structure for the next incarnation, in favor of something more truly democratic.

  3. I don’t actually know, since I was not there and was not present on any of these email chains, but my understanding of it is that the union was only supposed to ‘organize’ the selection of these people if the organizations were unwilling to do it internally themselves.

  4. The union officials attempting to organize the meetings at which these folks were selected (at least in terms of secured media) were terribly incompetent. I can provide email chains if anyone is interested. I’m also curious to know whether other constituent groups (like ICC or club sports or whatever) had similar issues.

  5. Strange that Steph Grimes is on the committee. The committee is supposed to be made up of students only.

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