SGA votes against amendments

A series of changes to SGA’s constitution failed to pass on Monday

By Mo Juenger and Ryan Kambich | Staff Writers

Student Government Association senators voted against changing the organization’s constitution. The proposed changes were a point of contention among some of the senators and with the Board of Elections.

The Student Government Association (SGA) senate voted against a series of major constitutional changes on Monday that would have restructured much of the organization. Monday was SGA’s final meeting before the start of a new term with new members in January. 

The proposed constitutional changes aimed to usher in four major revisions to the structure of SGA beginning in fall 2020: reducing the number of elected senators from 20 to 17 and establishing a speaker of the senate position; providing for one SGA vice president instead of two; creating three new appointed cabinet positions (chief of staff, director of communications and director of finance) and a chief justice position; and requiring that each college elect one senator to serve on SGA’s four-member Academic Affairs Committee.

This last change would have required significant revisions to the Board of Elections (BoE) code to accommodate the specific election of at least one senator from each college. All SGA senators are currently elected at-large regardless of college membership.

Revision of the BoE code proved to be the sticking point in the final vote. Three-fourths of the senate must vote in favor to pass amendments to the SGA constitution. After confusion during a first count, several senators switched from affirming the changes to opposing them. The final vote count was seven in favor, eight against and one abstained.

Vice President Alfredo Mercedes, the main proponent for and architect of the proposed changes, stated that their goal was to align Xavier’s SGA more closely with student governments at other Jesuit universities.

Mercedes introduced the proposed changes 12 weeks ago, though many senators and the BoE learned about them as recently as three weeks ago.

“It wasn’t until the first week of November where we finally started to actually start changing language (in the constitution)…not even enough to update the entire SGA about it,” Mercedes said.

On the changes to the BoE code, Mercedes noted, “BoE? Not going to lie, they weren’t included… Originally, when we had the conversation last semester, it was very brief with (BoE Chair) Miles (Tiemeyer)…then we completely forgot about it. And then I completely forgot about BoE, not gonna lie.

“BoE said it would be hard, extremely difficult, given the time constraints, in order to find a way for them to be able to have students vote for their specific college or whatever. But they said in our meeting two weeks ago that, over the summer, they were able to communicate with other universities to update their election code.”

Senator Beth Root, who was involved in the creation of the new constitution, expressed during the meeting that she believes the measure could have passed if BoE was involved earlier.

“It’s our fault for not reaching out to BoE sooner,” Root said.

Nonetheless, Mercedes believes that the plan fell through because of SGA oversight and what he perceived as the BoE’s inefficiency.

“They’re lazy,” Mercedes said of the BoE. “They don’t want to work, they don’t want to put in the work behind finding a new system. If you can talk to other schools…Other schools do it, so that means there’s a way to do it.”

BoE Chair Miles Tiemeyer wrote in a statement: “As a board, we tried to understand the changes and met with Alfredo to better understand how the changes affected us. At the next Senate meeting we expressed our concerns. We know that with our current system of voting, the changes being suggested would make it extremely hard, if not impossible, to run a fair election. That is our only goal as a board.”

Tiemeyer also stated that BoE sent a survey to other Jesuit schools to learn how they ran elections.

“Last semester we made significant changes to the code. As a part of that process, we sent out a survey to other Jesuit schools to better understand how (they) ran their elections,” he said. “We used that information to better understand how schools handle their own problems so that we could attempt to address ours.

“Those small changes to our code (during the last revision) took us months to work on. We offered to meet with the SGA executives throughout the process and fielded questions from senators. Those code changes took a while to work through. We simply did not have the time to do that with these constitutional changes, which arguably deserve much more and wider conversations.”

Many senators attributed the failure of the plan to a “friendly amendment” added to the proposed amendments during Monday’s meeting. That amendment stated that the deans of the four colleges could choose the four senators on Academic Affairs, rather than have those senators elected by the student body.

“This (would) bring us to a total number of eight appointed officials,” Senator Sam Peters said during the meeting. “Doubling the number of nonelected students would be problematic.”

Peters’ discontent was shared by Vice President-elect and current Senator Mickey Townsend.

“This is a student club, not a faculty and staff club,” Townsend said in a discussion after the decision.

Mercedes, whose term expired on Monday, believes the Senate will discuss the constitutional changes further in coming months. He expects a new version to be passed in February or March.

“I don’t know what exactly happened,” Mercedes said. “I’m hopeful that it’ll change, because I think we just want to ensure that SGA in the future is well off and is actually doing things right, not really just 15 to 20 people who are just half-in half-out, don’t really know what they’re doing and don’t really know why they’re there. More so people who are actually dedicated.”