After the Central Student Judiciary ruled the Michigan Student Assembly-led Constitutional Convention unconstitutional, the leaders of the former convention and 20 of its members formed a student group to continue the convention’s efforts to amend the campus-wide constitution.

On Sept. 29, MSA created the Constitutional Convention in hopes of amending the student constitution, but CSJ ruled on Nov. 23 that the convention’s participants were not properly elected.

Students interested in the original convention submitted applications to MSA President Abhishek Mahanti, who then selected about 40 applicants and presented their names to the assembly for approval. CSJ ruled that this process did not constitute an election as required by the constitution and ordered the Constitutional Convention be disbanded.

Immediately after the trial, members of the former convention mobilized to create the student group Students for Progressive Governance to continue the effort to revise the constitution.

Amendments can be added to a student-wide ballot one of three ways: by a duly created constitutional convention, a two-thirds majority vote by MSA, or by an individual student or student group with 1,000 student signatures in support of the changes.

About 20 members of the former Constitutional Convention have expressed interest in the student group, according to MSA Vice President Mike Rorro, former chair of the convention.

MSA Student General Counsel Jim Brusstar, former convention secretary, and MSA Rules and Elections Committee Chair Michael Benson, former convention vice chair, will also be involved in the new student group.

Rorro said that although many of the student group members are former convention members, and the group retains the same leadership, this student group is distinctly different.

“It’s not the same thing, even though there are some of the same people involved in it, we recognize that, we’re not trying to hide that,” Rorro said. “We’re not trying to seclude ourselves within the same group of people and continue work by limiting people.”

Former MSA Rep. Tim Hull disagrees. Hull said the involvement of MSA executive board members in the student group makes it hard to believe the group is really separate from MSA.

“MSA execs are participating in it and I feel, (though) that might be permissible under the Constitution, the circumstances behind the formation of this group make it hard to confer legitimacy,” Hull said.

Rorro said the group acknowledges that there are members who also serve on MSA, but since the attempt to amend the constitution through a body connected to MSA failed, forming a student group is the best option.

“We ran for student government to fix things and to make it a better University and unfortunately we couldn’t do that through the MSA’s procedure, because it’s not well-defined and it continues to not be well-defined,” Rorro said.

According to the group leaders, one of the goals of the revisions will be to clarify the procedures within the constitution that the convention violated.

“We attempted to work within the process and were unable to,” Benson said. “One of the reasons we’re trying to change this document is to make it so things are easier, (so) it’s clear.”

To become a member of the student group, a student must be nominated by a current member and then garner a majority vote of the group. Rorro said this process makes it much easier to join the group than it was to be a part of the convention.

Rorro said that because the student group will need 1,000 signatures before the document goes up for a student-wide vote, the process is valid, even with MSA members in the student group.

“It’s not an undemocratic process,” Rorro said, “because it might be a small group making the changes, but we’re having everyone look it over and finally every student that votes in the election is going to have a say in that.”

Brusstar said amending the constitution through a non-MSA affiliated student group is better than through a Constitutional Convention because the group is more open to the student body.

Hull said he thinks MSA should amend the constitution internally, possibly by creating a select committee to propose changes and then gain a two-thirds vote of the assembly to add them to the ballot.

Rorro said he thinks the process of amending the constitution will be most effective if it is somewhat separated from MSA. He said it’s hard for MSA representatives to support large changes to a governmental system they are central to.

“The inherent ability to challenge the status quo effectively is not there when you have only people that work within the system,” he said.

The student group must submit their completed petition to the CSJ five weeks before the election, which will take place sometime in March. Rorro said the group is planning to acquire the necessary signatures the week before spring break.

Rorro said he plans to hold town hall-style meetings and talk to student groups to get the 1,000 signatures.

Though the former Constitutional Convention had been meeting for about two months before CSJ ordered the meetings to cease, Brusstar said the convention got “bogged down” in procedure and was not very efficient.

Rorro said that in the past week the student group seems to be making faster progress.

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