Will Scannell ’24
With last week’s vote of approval by the student body, the Trinity College Student Government Association (SGA) Constitution has been officially amended. “This constitution has been more than two years in the making, with input from community members and student governments at other NESCACs,” stated Head of the Constitution Committee and Senator Joshua Jacoves ’23.
As previously reported by the Tripod, the SGA met on Sunday, Nov. 1 and passed the amended Constitution. An email would later be sent out, seeking approval of the student body in a referendum. However, according to Co-Vice President of Communications Maddy White ’22, the SGA received only 23 votes out of a total student body population of 2,098. Of those 23 votes, 17 approved while 6 disapproved of the amended Constitution.
One of the major new additions to the SGA Constitution is the implementation of a “Judicial Commission.” According to Jacoves, it will be the duty of the Judicial Commission to “safeguard the rules and procedures of the SGA.” Members of the Commission will act as “fact-checkers” during meetings and will report violations of rules and procedures to the Executive Board after a 3/5 majority “binding decision” from the Commission. Jacoves stated further, “…this commission will make sure that the student government upholds the constitution that the student body voted for.” The Judicial Commission will consist of the Parliamentarian, two members elected by the Executive Board, and two members elected by the Senate.
The SGA Constitution was last amended in Dec. 2018 with the 2020 Constitution revealing how SGA’s governing methods have evolved over the two-year timespan.
The evolution of the position of Parliamentarian is one of the more prominent examples. In 2018, the Parliamentarian was an Executive Board position. However, the Parliamentarian is now a member of the Senate and does not retain as many responsibilities in 2020. Most notably, per the 2020 Constitution, the Parliamentarian is no longer tasked with the enforcement of Robert’s Rules of Order, a manual of parliamentary procedures widely used in the United States by most representative bodies and student government associations. Furthermore, the SGA has entirely done away with following Robert’s Rules, as there is no mention of it in the 2020 Constitution. In a Tripod opinion-piece, Editor-in-Chief Brendan Clark ’21 describes Robert’s Rules of Order as a mechanism that, “…assures that the citizenry has a right to hear the positions of its elected representatives.” In his piece, Clark voiced his concern over the SGA’s discussions to potentially eliminate Robert’s Rules and the position of the Parliamentarian. SGA’s debate to no longer abide by Robert’s Rules started at a meeting in Jan. 2019, where members decided to implement a system in which their names and voting information would be released publicly unless they opted-out. Then, in Apr. 2020, the SGA introduced Article X, Section 6, which reserved “the right to have a closed vote” in a draft of the now-amended Constitution. At the time, Jack Stone ’22 said that the policy was a response to members feeling threatened during the Churchill Club controversy in the spring of 2019. Now, over one year later, there is still a Parliamentarian in the SGA, but the 2020 Constitution’s omittance of Robert’s Rules in tandem with Article X, Section 6’s reservation of “the right to have a closed vote” makes way for streamlined representative anonymity within SGA.
Article IV outlines the positions that comprise the Executive Board as well as the responsibilities for each individual position. When comparing Section 2 in the 2018 Constitution to the 2020 Constitution, it becomes clear that the SGA has eliminated the Secretary position, shifting responsibilities such as recording notes and serving “as an ex officio and non-voting member” to the Vice President, and replaced the Finance Chair with the Vice President of Finance. The SGA has also added the positions of Vice President of Communications and Vice President of the Multicultural Affairs Council to the Executive Board.
Article V outlines the organization and responsibilities of each member of the SGA Senate, including the obligation that each class representative and class president must serve on two committees under SGA. In the 2020 Constitution, Section B now states that class representatives will comprise “any other ad hoc committees created by the SGA.”
Article VI of the 2020 Constitution outlines the responsibilities of the various liaisons in SGA. Nominated by the President, liaisons serve as bridges between SGA’s Senate and Executive Board and the organizations they represent. There is a Greek Affairs Liaison, a Programming (Barnyard) Liaison, and a Sustainability Liaison.
The 2020 SGA Constitution has also added “Emergency Declaration and Powers,” “Liaisons,” and “Bylaws,” and “Amendments to Standing Bylaws.”
Article XVI of the 2020 Constitution, Emergency Declaration and Powers, states that the SGA President has the power to “make a written declaration of emergency” should “extreme circumstances present themselves which reasonably obstruct the business of the SGA.” Section 2 states that such declarations by the President may include “calling virtual meetings of the Senate, suspending and postponing pending elections, appointing SGA members to discharge temporarily the duties of a vacant office…and other measures which would be reasonably necessary for carrying out SGA business.” The Student Government Association President must publish any emergency declaration to the Senate; the Senate has the power to override an emergency declaration by a 2/3 majority vote.
Another notable addition to the SGA Constitution is “Bylaws, and Amendments to Standing Bylaws.” According to Sections 1, 2, and 3 of Article 13, any proposed bylaws require a 2/3 majority vote by all voting SGA members to pass and must be presented to the Executive Board. Further, Section 3 states that, “A resolution proposed by a student outside SGA” shall require sponsorship by one senator.