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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Staff editorial: Constitution needs reconsideration

At the end of last semester, the S&B printed an article in our Dec. 13 issue entitled “Constitutional amendment fails, Senator questions SGA’s actions.” This piece outlined an amendment proposed by then Smounker Senator Max Mindock ’15 to add a judicial branch within SGA and, while only 134 students participated in the vote, 63.3 percent voted in favor of it. The proposed amendment advanced to President Kington, in need of his signature for ratification. However, by the time Kington received the request to ratify, the maximum two-week period between initially proposing an amendment and final ratification had concluded. With Kington unable to sign the amendment in time, it failed.

Senator Mindock complained not only that the the brief period of time made it difficult for any amendment to pass, but also that SGA seemed to work against his proposal, complicating his effort. This complaint was perhaps lent credence by Administrative Coordinator Cynthia Amezcua and SGA President Thomas Neil’s admission that they explicitly recommended Kington not sign the amendment.

This stood in contrast to an amendment proposed earlier in the semester. In September, SGA proposed an amendment to remodel the weekly meeting of Senators and others formerly known as Joint Board, and to change its name to Campus Council. The S&B article printed on Dec. 13 illustrated how, seemingly, the only way for that amendment to have passed would have required a breach in the Constitution, by either ignoring the two-week period or ignoring the necessary grievance period required of any vote. Although SGA was lenient in allowing the Campus Council amendment to pass, Mindock’s proposal was held to a much stricter standard.

The SGA noted multiple reasons why they opposed the passage of Mindock’s amendment. However, the S&B would like to point out that it is not the SGA’s job or right to determine the legitimacy of an amendment that students have petitioned for and voted on, but rather to uphold the democratic process. With that being said, we believe the greater issue at hand to be problems with the Constitution, specifically in the amending process.

As mentioned in the Dec. 13 article—per the SGA Constitution’s Article VIII, Section 2.A.—constitutional amendments may be proposed by petition of 200 students, by petition of two-thirds of Senators or by the President of the College. It was by the first of these methods that Mindock’s amendment reached an all-campus vote. Regardless of how an amendment reaches the ballot, Article VIII, Section 2.B. states that “All amendments must be ratified within two weeks, excluding time when the College is not in session, by 60 percent of the students voting and approved by the President of the College.” The Constitution does not list a minimum requirement for voter turnout, allowing a situation in which only 134 students—less, even, than the number that petitioned to bring the amendment to a vote in the first place—were the exclusive voice in the passage of what would have been a very significant change to the structure of student government. As such, it was only Kington’s pocket veto that prevented this amendment from passing.

Clearly, the Constitution’s criteria for amendment are in need of revision and the S&B urges the Campus Council and SGA Cabinet to take the necessary steps to implement stricter rules—that is, if future amendments are expected to carry any weight as democratically endorsed proposals. The minimum turnout of 50 percent of the student body demanded by the Constitution’s guidelines for student initiative votes would seem like a reasonable requirement for amendments.

Until then—especially given the irregularities between the Cabinet’s handling of the judicial branch and Campus Council amendments, as well as their open opposition to Kington’s approval of an amendment that ostensibly represented the will of Grinnell College students—can the amendment process truly be described as democratic?

Max Mindock was Sports Editor of the S&B last semester. 

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