SGA amends constitution at heated 5-hour meeting

SGA amends constitution at heated 5-hour meeting

The Student Government Association (SGA) approved two major amendments and four minor amendments to their constitution and bylaws in a tense five-hour Joint Senate meeting Monday.

Of the 10 amendments proposed, two dominated the majority of debate time and provoked passion from senators on both sides of the issue.

The most controversial proposal was written by former SGA President Michael Benson and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael DeRamo, which proposed an amendment to the SGA bylaws that would change the way “no confidence” votes are counted in the election of executive board members.

In the past, when a senator voted “no confidence,” it was counted as an abstention from voting. With this amendment it would be counted separately, and if a majority voted no-confidence, candidates could be prevented from taking office.

The amendment calls for multiple special elections to be held until a candidate can be nominated and elected, and allows the executive board to appoint a senator to temporarily serve as an acting officer after one failed attempt at special elections.

The amendment met opposition by senators concerned that it would be unwise to let the six members of the executive board appoint someone to the position, even if the position would be temporary. Some also voiced concern that repeated special elections would cause chaos and reflect poorly on the association.

President Ashley Adams temporarily stepped down from her neutral position as chair of the senate to express her opinion that the “power and responsibility” of the senators to nominate qualified candidates would be taken away by votes of “no confidence.”

Those in favor of the amendment said they felt a more powerful “no confidence” would give senators more options and not force the senate to settle for a candidate, especially in uncontested elections where only one candidate runs for an office.

DeRamo was met with applause when he referenced the motto on the SGA logo, “Vox Populi,” meaning “voice of the people.”

“We should have the voice to say no,” he said.

The debate lasted for over an hour, during which there were multiple failed attempts to postpone the vote until later, strike the section of the amendment that discussed “no confidence” votes, and divide the amendment into two parts to be debated separately.

With debate over and a much smaller senate left due to the late hour, the senate moved to vote on whether or not to pass the amendment, which passed 26-11. Because the amendment pertains to the bylaws it goes into effect immediately.

After the vote was counted Vice President for Student Affairs John Guilfoil, who was against the amendment from the start, said the amendment “will result in a circus” in future years.

Vice President for Financial Affairs Billy Haddad echoed similar sentiments, encouraging senators to submit further amendments pertaining to the “no confidence” votes for the next Joint Senate meeting April 11.

Another proposal to amend the constitution, written by Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs MJ Paradiso, which would raise the total percentage of special interest senators represented from 20 percent to 25 percent, also met opposition by many senators who said they feel it is SGA’s responsibility to represent the student body as a whole rather than individual student groups.

Former President Bill Durkin said he felt the increase in senators who represent a specific student group instead of the 50 or more individual students represented by other senators would “dilute” the purpose of the SGA.

Paradiso maintained that the current percentage was forcing SGA to turn interested people away, and it was better to include them than exclude them because of a ratio. The debate eventually boiled down to a vote and the amendment, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass, passed with one vote above the required number.

The amendment will go into effect when Northeastern President Richard Freeland signs his approval of all the amendments to the SGA Constitution.

There were three more amendments presented to the senate, but postponed when the authors decided to edit and rewrite portions of their proposals and present again at the next Joint Senate.

These included a proposal by Durkin to require all senators to attend four senate meetings and/or committee meetings before being allowed to vote in an election, and a proposal by Haddad to combine the Financial Aid Advisory Council and the University Budget Committee and form a new Financial Affairs Committee.

The new committee would oversee all matters related to student financial services and the university budget outside of the Budget Review Committee’s role to allocate funds from the student activities fee.

Of the four other proposed amendments passed Monday evening, two presented by DeRamo and one by Haddad were passed unanimously because they simply clarified language in the constitution and bylaws and did not affect great change.

Of the 80 members that make up the student senate, a total of 24 senators were absent and unexcused from the Joint Senate meeting. According to the SGA constitution and guidelines, those that do not attend Joint Senate meetings are removed from the roster and are no longer senators, which came as a shock to many of the senators remaining.

Guilfoil expressed disappointment at the high number of absent senators, but assured the senate that some could be added back to the roster if they have a good reason they did not attend and present it to Adriana Campos, vice president for administration and public relations.

The Joint Senate ended with a passionate plea from Senator Molly Simpson to reschedule elections, currently scheduled for the evening of April 13, the second night of the Jewish celebration of Passover.

Simpson called the error “disrespectful” and said the second night of Passover, an eight-day holiday, is one of the most important, and scheduling elections on that evening excludes Jewish senators from voting and running for office.

Adams apologized for the error and said she would do everything possible to reschedule the date for elections. A specific date is still uncertain, but Adams said Passover ends at sundown on April 18 and they are looking to reschedule elections for that night.

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