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Proposed amendments to constitution draws concern from DePaul SGA senators

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Many SGA senators have expressed concern over proposed amendments to the organization’s constitution that may significantly alter the balance of power between the organization’s two main bodies, the cabinet and the senate.

Most of the proposed changes have to do with impeachment and expulsion. A copy obtained by The DePaulia reveals that the Article V, Sections II and III, having to do with impeachment and censure, have been completely rewritten.

If enacted, the senate’s power to bring impeachment charges would be stripped and given solely the Chair of the Judicial Board, who is appointed by the president. And while the board is charged with investigating and making a judgment on such charges already, the general body would not be given the opportunity to confirm the board’s findings via a vote as the current constitution states. The only way for the body to overturn such a decision would be with a supermajority vote.

According to Vice President Cristina Vera, who also serves as the Constitutional Revisions Board Chair, the changes are proposed in order to condense and streamline the process.

“Section II of the current Constitution breaks down categories of censure, automatic expulsion, and impeachment,” she said. “The CRB proposed changes simply condense these three sections into one efficient process.”

She added that the senators and at-large students would have the same opportunities to bring up charges of infractions before the Judicial Board.

The proposed changes, however, do not sit well with many SGA senators, who view such changes as a power grab by the cabinet.

“They’re eliminating the outside actions of new senators because now they have to go through the system and go through the cabinet to make changes and it also exercises further control on the senators, especially with the changes to the impeachment process,” said SGA Senator One, who wished not to be identified. “Essentially, it’s terrorizing the senators into supporting the cabinet at all times.”

Another change would allow for the president to appoint an executive vice president if there is a vacancy in one of those positions. Currently, an open EVP position would be filled by the senator pro-tempore, the senator with the highest amount of seniority. But, under the proposed changes, that position would be eliminated, essentially making seniority meaningless.

“It’s allowing them to concentrate power in their hands and then if anyone rebels against that power, it allows them to stem it, and to kick out the people who are challenging them and their power,” Senator One said.

When looking at other student governments at other universities, according to Vera, the position was either non-existent or not used in the capacity that it is at DePaul. She added that it would make more sense to have a vacancy be filled by someone who is in the executive board and has been a part of the conversations that go on there.

“Right now, the senator who has been in SGA the longest would fill the Presidency if the Presidency and Vice Presidency fell vacant. This applies even if the senator has only been here a week longer than the other Senators, even if total tenure on SGA is 5 weeks,” Vera said. “The presidency and vice presidency would rarely fall vacant, but it would make sense for a cabinet member elected by students who is involved in all of the conversations as the president to fulfill the role in the event it is necessary. The general body still has the authority of approving this replacement of vacancy.”

Some senators do not view it that way, however, viewing it as a tilt in the balance of power towards the cabinet whether it was intended or not.

“There’s this culture at SGA of people who are going to be the next leaders and these leaders are groomed year after year after year,” Senator One said. “And the president is pretty much chosen when the next one is elected. We saw that with the election of Matthew (von Nida) and Casey Clemmons and we’re going to see that with this upcoming election unless there’s a really strong rebellion within SGA.”

According to a source close to the situation, the votes are not there for the measures to pass. However, Senator One would not completely eliminate that possibility.

“(President) Matthew (von Nida) so far in our meetings has seemed like a good president and seemed like he’s acting in the interests of the student body, so he does have a charisma that senators recognize and a likeability and a popularity that he enjoys and that might allow this to be passed.”

But for many senators, it is not about any current action, it is about the precedent that it would be setting for future actions.

“Even if their intent wasn’t malicious, what it does is it enables them in any future event to act in a way where they don’t need the senate,” said SGA Senator Two, who wished to remain anonymous.

Another change would be to the automatic expulsion policy. While many of the conditions for automatic expulsion stayed the same, the threshold for unexcused absences was raised to three meetings from two last year. And in what makes the decision even more permanent, the general body would be ridded of its power to overturn such a case.

This change appears to have been motivated by last year’s controversial expulsion of LAS Senator Shaza Loufti, who lost an appeal despite missing meetings in order to visit family who escaped war-torn Syria.

“They don’t want that type of situation happening again,” said SGA Senator Two.

The senator further described the organization’s absence policy as “messed up.”

“We weren’t elected by the cabinet, we were elected by the students,” Senator Two said.

The measure will go up for a vote Thursday night at the organization’s general body meeting. SGA meets every Thursday night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Lincoln Park Student Center.

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Proposed amendments to constitution draws concern from DePaul SGA senators