Members of student governments from across the University of Michigan attended a town hall Friday afternoon to discuss the Constitution of the Student Body of the Ann Arbor campus. Several voting members of the constitution discussed the document itself, including its establishment, current uses as well as the new amendments being proposed.
The Constitutional Convention is the authority for all student governments on campus, including Central Student Government and LSA Student Government. The purpose of its committee is to discuss and amend resolutions on its constitution which dictates terms placed on the different assemblies.
The last major student government constitution was created in 2010, when the Michigan Student Assembly formally transitioned to the current Central Student Government. Since this time, only one amendment has been added to the original document.
“There (are) some problems with the current constitution,” said LSA junior Nicholas Fadanelli, LSA Student Government general counsel. “At the end of last semester, this convention was called by a resolution to meet and address what these problems were, and propose amendments to this constitution, which, subject to approval by the voting membership of this convention, will be placed on the CSG ballot for this upcoming winter election.”
Delegates first proposed changes to document logistics, including altering gendered language and fixing several typos. They stated that throughout the document, there are no instances that specifically require gender or gendered language, and therefore plan to replace all pronouns such as “he/she” with “they.”
Other changes will include proposing the implementation of a cap on the number of representatives within the student government assembly, ensuring that the number of representatives are divided proportionally to each school or college, as well as adding ex-officio body members for first-year, transfer and international students.
“Ex-officio meaning they would have a seat on the assembly,” Fadanelli said. “They could speak, they could make motions, they could vote. The idea with this is to make sure that these communities, who often times are not here when the votes actually take place in March, have a seat and a voice at the table.”
Also mentioned was the implementation of referrals, which would allow for more control from the student body itself.
“In a lot of state constitutions there’s a way that the legislative branch can just send something to the voters, and California does it a lot,” said LSA senior Jacob Podell, the CSG chief justice. “We have no way to gauge student interest or ask students how to vote on something, so this would simply allow the assembly to put a question up to the students, giving the students more voting power.”
The aim of creating a greater sense of student interest and engagement was a common theme throughout the town hall, especially when discussing University Council. Delegates hope to take out some of the responsibilities of this council to increase its efficiency.
“I think I’d identify the re-imagining of University Council as another way to hear more voices from specific groups,” said Medical student Whit Froehlich, CSG Medical School representative. “It had been originally modeled after the United States Congress, kind of like the senate, (with) equal representation from each school and the assembly according to the size of each school.”
Law student Christian Bashi, the CSG student general counsel, further encouraged initiatives to increase awareness of CSG and its presence on campus.
“We always want to get our name out there on campus, we want students throughout this university to know what CSG is, and know that there is a legislature and to know that they can run in it.” he said. “When you have 40,000 kids at the University it’s hard to reach all of them, and that’s something I think we can improve (upon) greatly this year.”
The changes will be proposed to the student government body members, who will vote on them. The Constitutional Convention will host its next meeting Feb. 12 in the Michigan Union.