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SGA judicial review committee proposed

The Student Government Association (SGA) may have a new and important committee for dealing with constitutional issues and complaints. SGA will soon vote on whether to create the Judicial Review and Oversight Committee (JROC).

The committee was proposed by Reform Committee member Peter Bautz ’15 to address what he and other Reform Committee members saw as a failure of SGA oversight.

“Currently, SGA doesn’t have a structure for judicial oversight of itself,” said Peter Aldrich ’15, another Reform Committee member. “While people are primarily held accountable to Campus Council and JudCo, there’s no constitutional body—there’s no sort of Supreme Court. In response to this concern, which has been voiced by a number of individuals—most notably Max Mindock [’15] a former Smounker Senator, with his constitutional amendment that was unsuccessful last semester—we as Reform Committee, working in tandem with the SGA Executives took it upon ourselves to create a body that could accomplish that task.”

The committee will consist of one student-at-large, one member of the faculty and the presiding officer of Campus Council. The at-large student will be appointed by SGA Cabinet and must be approved by at least two-thirds of Campus Council; this student will serve as the chair of JROC. Terms for the at-large student will be one semester with a limit of three semesters.

The faculty member will be appointed by the Vice President of Academic Affairs in consultation with the SGA Advisor. JROC will be expected to act as a neutral body between SGA and anyone who raises a constitutional complaint.

“They will be responsible for hearing challenges to the constitution or if someone feels that SGA has done something unconstitutionally,” Bautz said.

Any student that believes that the constitution has been violated can bring their complaint to JROC. If JROC initially decides that the grounds of the complaint are not a constitutional issue, the matter is dropped unless successfully appealed to Campus Council, which requires a two-thirds majority. JROC may also forward non-constitutional issues to their relevant committees.

“For example, let’s say the complaint is that someone doesn’t like a new by-law. There isn’t really a constitutional issue, but the committee would like it looked at. They could forward the complaint to Reform Committee to look at,” Bautz wrote in an email to the S&B.

If JROC agrees to review the complaint, they will hold an open hearing that should be publicized. Any students can come to voice their opinions and SGA will be able to defend the constitutionality of their actions. After the hearing, JROC will have two weeks to consider the complaint and issue a ruling.

If JROC rules that SGA has acted unconstitutionally, then action will be taken to fix the situation. If JROC rules that SGA acted within the constitution, then the decision is final. The only way to overrule such a decision would be to successfully pass a constitutional amendment.

Mindock attempted to create a similar body via a constitutional amendment last semester and the Reform Committee examined his proposal to see what it thought would work.

“We looked at Max’s proposal and thought that it was maybe a bit too much in the expenses category, especially since we are watching our budgets so closely,” Bautz said. “It was three full-time paid cabinet-level positions with office hours every week … if you think about the number of constitutional grievances that occur each year, it’s relatively small, maybe two to three per year. Creating three full-time cabinet level positions was not the way to go.”

While the motion was tabled this week due to time concerns, Campus Council will soon vote on whether to approve the resolution and create the committee.

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