The Sept. 14 Student Association Executive Council meeting saw a new draft for the group’s Constitution. In the midst of the proposed changes, which many in the SA say will make their Constitution more elastic and flexible, current freshmen and sophomores might see a change in the Student Association’s leadership, effective Jan. 1, 2017.
A change was proposed at the meeting to eliminate the position of speaker of the Senate and bestow those duties to the executive vice president. However, this will not affect current officials in any way.
The Council conducted a straw poll at the meeting, where they voted 4:2 in favor of the change.
Although he did not vote in the poll, SA President Kevin Clayton feels there is value in the position of executive vice president. He said there is “definitely a place” for the executive vice president, but the role has been poorly defined and hasn’t been fully utilized.
“There’s always room for more coordination,” Clayton said.
Vice President of Finance Jessica Rappaport voted in favor of the role change but said that in order to make the proposed constitutional changes happen, the SA must gain 10 percent of the student vote, and two-thirds of that 10 percent must vote yes.
Rappaport said this is her third legislation with the SA, and she has observed speakers of the Senate and executive vice presidents – both of whom have been busy – but one person could be able to take on both roles.
She said that the speaker of the Senate organizes the Senate and acts as a liaison between Senate and executive council, and the executive vice president’s duties entail office management and enforcing office policy. Both the speaker and executive vice president sit on Executive Council and the Senate during both meetings.
“I don’t believe the EVP has so much responsibility that they can’t take on the responsibilities that the speaker has,” Rappaport said.
Rappaport said this observation comes not only from this legislation but the former two as well.
“I think giving them these new responsibilities of the speaker will make the role a lot more dynamic and a lot more attractive,” she said.
The current executive vice president, Sapoonjyoti Duttaduwarah, said he would advocate a position where the executive vice president would take on the duties of speaker.
“If there is a person who attends both the meetings, I feel like it should be one person’s job to make sure they chair the Senate meetings as well as (being) the vice chair for (Executive Council). That is what used to happen,” Duttaduwarah said. “Why would you need two people when the job can be done by one?”
He said the proposed constitution would be “quite the revamp” from what they have now, and the added duties to the executive vice president position would make it a bit more prominent.
As it stands, there are currently two points of contact for the Senate – the speaker and the executive vice president.
“A lot of times, having two people is better for human resources,” he said.
He said some might feel more comfortable expressing their concerns to Speaker of the Senate Veronica Marchello, but he said that is the only current positive to be potentially lost from where he stands.
“People would much rather have more people to talk to about their problems than just one person, even though we have the advisers,” he said.
Marchello disagrees with Duttaduwarah and Rappaport and said she believes the duties of executive vice president and speaker of the Senate are too much for one person to handle.
“I would prefer that it stays two roles,” Marchello said. “I think it is too much work for one person, and I think that someone should be looking out for just the Senate.”
Marchello said she is responsible for putting together meetings for the Senate. She also oversees all the senators and chairs the Senate meetings every week.
“It can take up a lot of time,” she said.
Marchello also said this change was big to propose at the end of a meeting.
“When you are building a house, you don’t add a new room to the house at the last minute when you’re almost done,” she said. “I’m not sure when they were proposing it, they were necessarily advocating for it. I think they were just trying to feel what the sentiment was.”
Marchello said the Senate also conducted a straw poll at the Sept. 16 Senate meeting, and they voted 7:5 against elimination of the speaker position with one abstention.
SA Student Court Chief Justice Adam Saccardi said that although he brought the idea forward at the Sept. 14 meeting, the idea has been talked about by SA Executive Council Adviser Jacob Avery and PSUC Vice President of Student Affairs Bryan Hartman, who Saccardi said came to the meeting as a “concerned party.”
“Bryan and I have spoken about it briefly. I’ve spoken about it with everyone on the committee at some point, just proposing the idea,” Avery said, adding that the role of speaker is relatively new.
“We mostly wanted to get the input of Executive Council and the Senate as to how they would feel about the change, and then if we got a response decidedly in one direction, then we would discuss how to implement it,” Saccardi said in a Sept. 20 interview.
“Since the response has been split, we have to have a meeting to discuss how we’re going to move forward. We have not yet had that meeting.”
Saccardi said that while his only stake is to act in the best interest of student government, he feels that it would be best to preserve the speaker position.
“I think it’s important for the Senate to elect its own leader,” Saccardi said. “I think that’s a very important thing for them to do.”
Email Timothy Lyman at firstname.lastname@example.org