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Volume 70, Issue 113, Wednesday, March 23, 2005

News

Senate to decide on new constitution

Revisions include axing political parties, paired executives

By Tina Marie Macias
Senior Staff Writer

The Student Government Association Senate will vote on a proposal for a new constitution at its meeting tonight.

Speaker of the Senate Bobby L. Warren presented the new constitution to the Senate on March 9, but senators tabled the bill because they wanted more time to look over the document.

The SGA Constitution was ratified in 1964 and last amended in 1996. The SGA Constitutional Reform Commission has spent most of the last year working on the new document.

The proposed new constitution makes changes in every section and adds a new one, Structure of Government. It defines the SGA and mandates that the organization be nonpartisan, a move that would prohibit future SGA candidates from forming political parties.

Warren, chairman of the Constitutional Reform Commission, said the party system "did not fit with the mission of student governance and only served to cause further division and strife" in a report he issued on the new constitution.

Though it eliminates the party system, the new constitution mandates that candidates for SGA president and vice president run as partners.

Other proposed changes in the SGA's executive branch include the election of the student regent by the Senate rather than by the students. The new constitution would also bar the SGA president from nominating students to fill vacant Senate seats.

Warren wrote in his report that the student regent, a non-voting member of the UH System Board of Regents, is not mentioned in the current SGA Constitution, but because the position is intended to reflect the will of the SGA, it's best to keep the election internal.

On Senate nominations, senators would be given the power to determine how best to fill the vacancies. They could choose to revert to the old system.

The new constitution would also add two at-large Senate positions exclusively for graduate and professional students. According to Warren's report, that move is needed because graduate students have unique needs of which undergraduates may be unaware.

In addition, the proposed constitution shortens the students' Bill of Rights by removing rights already guaranteed by the U.S. and Texas constitutions. It adds four rights for students: the right of all students to vote in SGA elections; the right of the press to attend all SGA meetings and access all business records; an equal protection clause; and requiring student government officeholders to be in good academic and disciplinary standing.

The Senate will discuss the new constitution at 7:30 p.m. today in the University Center Underground's Mediterranean Room. If senators approve the document, it will be placed before the students in the next SGA election.
 

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