A proposed Student Senate amendment was approved by the Board of Trustees in January would allow for Student Senate to have greater autonomy.
During the Board of Trustees Governance and Compensation that took place on Jan. 8, the amendment was introduced by the Student Senate executives. President Maddie Sloat, Vice President Hannah Burke and Treasurer Lydia Ramlo presented a bill that would cut out the Board of Trustees’ approval on amendment changes to Student Senate’s constitution.
Currently, there are three steps in Student Senate’s constitutional change process. The constitutional amendment must be passed by Senate, it must be passed by a campus-wide student vote and then the Board of Trustees must approve the amendment. The bill would remove the final step, making students the final say in Senate’s constitutional changes.
This constitutional change would still allow the relationship between Senate and the board to remain close, as it requires a yearly meeting between the two groups.
“Instead of approving constitutional changes, which inherently say little about real concerns of students and the work being done in Senate, the Board will receive updates that reflect the pulse of the student body, which is a better way to bring student voices to the Board and also continues our mission of shared governance,” Sloat said in an email.
Sloat said the idea for this change came from summer research she did with the other Student Senate executives. It was discovered that Ohio University is the only school in the state to require board approval on student government constitutional amendments.
“Additionally, we discovered that the requirement of Board approval came at a time early in Senate’s history when students had no interactions or way of coming before the Board and used this constitutional change process as a way to get that face-to-face time,” Sloat said in an email.
The Governance and Compensation Committee did not object to the proposed constitutional change. The trustees recommended that the Board of Trustees approve the change.
During the meeting, Graduate Student Senate addressed that it does not like some of the language that was put in the bill. GSS President Maria Modayil voiced her concerns in an address she wrote to the Board of Trustees. Graduate students make up 26 percent of the student body at OU, but there is only one voting HCOM senator and no other voting graduate students in Student Senate.
“Graduate and professional students are diverse in age, professional experiences, and life circumstances,” Modayil said in her address. “So, it is implausible that undergraduates or the Student Senate could effectively represent these voices.”
Modayil also said in her address that the Student Senate constitution lacks clarity and doesn’t include graduate students in its promise to represent all students on campus.
Some Governance and Compensation members expressed concern over GSS’s opposition to the constitutional change.
“I would like to have some more information,” Trustee Cary Cooper said.
Sloat said out of the five representative senates on campus, only Student Senate will be affected by this change.
“This simply gives the student body the final voice in Student Senate’s constitutional changes moving forward,” Sloat said in an email. “Graduate Student Senate is able to also pass a bill before the Board similar to this if they so choose, but that is their prerogative as representatives of that body.”
Getting board approval on the constitutional change was only the first step in the process, Sloat said. The bill still needs to be voted on by multiple other parties.
“Currently, our constitution does not reflect this change and will not until these changes are officially passed through both the Student Senate and student bodies later this semester,” Sloat said in an email.
“You get more autonomy and freedom with your constitution,” McClain said. “This is good news.”