Michaele Townsend and Mahnoor Zahra set to lead new ad hoc committee
The Xavier Student Government Association (SGA) has formed an ad hoc committee focused on creating and proposing changes to its own constitution, revamping talks which stalled at the end of last year after proposed constitutional changes failed to pass.
The constitution committee will be led by Vice Presidents Mickey Townsend and Mahnoor Zahra.
According to the executives, they have built a diverse group of 5 senators, ensuring one representative from each of the four main committees, representing each class, with a mix of new and returning senators.
All three of the executives discussed how they think the SGA constitution needs to be changed. “Being a Senator last year, and an executive this year, I can certainly tell that the SGA constitution has not been updated in a while,” Townsend said. “I commend (former Vice President) Alfredo Mercedes for leading that committee last semester and being willing to change the issues he saw.”
“You can open up the constitution, you can go through it and see that it’s a fine document, but you can also see that there are inconsistencies… poor phrasing, bad wording, as well as general vagueness about some of the roles and responsibilities,” President Thomas Wehby said.
“We should have more people involved in more roles and positions and more defined roles as well,” Zahra said.
Townsend said that the committee will be looking to change the constitution in a variety of ways, from simple word corrections to structural changes to the number of senators and executives.
Townsend also recapped the failure of the constitution changes last year, noting that SGA wanted to ensure a representative from each college at Xavier, but the Board of Elections (BOE) was unable to ensure that change on such a short deadline after communication fell through between the groups.
In order to correct the mistakes by last year’s SGA, Wehby said that the committee will keep open communication with Peter Korchak and the BOE.
“We don’t want what happened last year to happen this year, where we fail to communicate our changes and that lack of communication stunts the progress we are trying to make,” Wehby said.
The changes the constitution committee will have to bring their ideal changes back to the whole senate body to be confirmed by a vote.
While the executives are unsure of when the changes will be ready to bring to a vote, they are hoping significant progress will be made in the coming months so that the changes can be approved with ample time for BOE to make the requisite changes.
“This May be a bit bold, but I hope by the first three weeks of the fall semester we will have these changes ready to present to the Senate,” said Wehby.
Directly following the whole senate body meeting on Monday, Vice President Townsend led the Constitution committee’s first meeting. During the meeting, Townsend presented a powerpoint to the committee that included changes to the constitution first drawn up by former Vice President Mercedes and last year’s senate, and had been revised by the executives this year.
The presentation included several new specific roles on both the senate and executives side. These roles included a Director of Communication, a Director of Finance, a Speaker of the Senate, and a Chief Justice.
The committee then debated these roles, particularly how each would take their positions. Possibilities range from running exclusively for each position during the general election, to being appointed to these roles by the executives.
Senator Fernando Arguello noted that he liked the changes that he had seen so far.
“My main goal in joining the constitution committee was to push for increased diversification of the roles in SGA,” Arguello said. “Some of these new roles (in the proposal from last year) add much better structure for the executives as well as the senate, and the roles will be much clearer.”
However, no decisions were made on any of the roles or potential changes to the Constitution yet. “We want to give you all time in order to sort through your thoughts about these different roles and make changes based on your thoughts,” Townsend said during the meeting. “Obviously, this bill didn’t pass last year for a reason.”
The Constitution Committee will again meet on May 18th to discuss changes after each senator on the committee fully reviews the constitution and last year’s proposed changes.
President Wehby said that the constitution committee, as well as other SGA committees, will continue their work through the summer, despite all circumstances, even though there will not be official full senate meetings.
“With COVID-19, we were offered the option to stop, and I was completely dumbfounded by that option. I said ‘No, of course we’re going to continue in every way that we can, because that’s what we were elected to do’”