The Plattsburgh State Student Association Constitution has been approved by the executive council and the student Senate after multiple rounds of revision, and now the document will be presented before PSUC students on the Nov. 10 electoral ballot.
Students will have the opportunity to vote for who they think will best lead the next legislation into the future; whether the SA fee should remain mandatory, affecting all SA-funded clubs and organizations; and whether to institute the approved draft of the Constitution.
For the past few weeks in executive council and Senate meetings, the Constitution Revision Committee — a group of three students — has been tasked with drafting the existing Constitution into a more practical document. Multiple drafts have been presented, and both the executive council and the Senate have proposed changes they have seen fit.
Student Association Chief Justice Adam Saccardi, SA President Kevin Clayton and student Senator Tyler Hargraves all constitute the aforementioned committee that has been working on the Constitution.
Saccardi said he has done all he can do and that he will be talking to students about the Constitution and the upcoming referendums. However, he said he is simply one person, and this is a job for the entire Student Association.
“One person is capable of explaining to a board of 15 or a board of seven my ideas and why I think the Constitution was good, but I am incapable of convincing 6,000 students on my own,” Saccardi said. “For that, it is the duty of the whole Student Association to go out and inform the students why they should vote for the Constitution.”
SA Adviser Jacob Avery said before Wednesday’s Senate meeting that the committee had spent 35 hours speaking about the Constitution.
Both Saccardi and Hargraves said the committee’s time drafting the Constitution would at least double the 35 hours spent speaking about it.
“Anyone who’s concerned that we haven’t given this quite a lot of thought and consideration, rest assured, we’ve bashed our heads against this document to the umpteenth degree,” Saccardi said. “I think it’s a very solid document. I think that everyone’s ideas have been addressed. It’s substantially different than what we’ve presented back in April of last year — substantially different — and it’s much better.”
Clayton said the U.S. Constitution has survived for so long because of its elasticity.
It prescribes the general structure for government, how things will be done, the general powers and leaves smaller details to subsequent legislation, to laws passed by Congress,” he said. “It tries to outline structure and serve as sort of a contract between the people and the government, outlining proudly what they can and can’t do. We tried to adopt a similar system.”
Clayton said that, up to this point, the SA Constitution has been very rigid in outlining and defining the nature of each position, but he said this has led to some differences of opinion regarding “one sentence in the — what is currently a 20-plus-page document.”
He said that revising the Constitution is a “massive undertaking” and that it has consumed the bulk of SA meetings this semester.
SA Vice President of Finance Jessica Rappaport said she is “content” with the way the final draft of the Constitution turned out, and she believes that this is a sign of progress.
“I was very much against the idea that the judicial branch should handle matters that they don’t necessarily know anything about, and that was rectified in this version,” Rappaport said. “It’s going to make the Student Association a lot more efficient, a lot more clean-cut, and it’ll solve a lot of our issues.”
Special elections in particular have been a problem. When a change needs to be made, the SA must hold a special election so students may vote on the proposed change. This process is a required the SA Constitution.
There has been a concern among SA members that holding a large number of special elections could hinder student interest in the general election that takes place annually in November, especially one like this year, in which two-thirds of student voters must vote affirmatively for the proposed changes to the Constitution and whether the SA fee should remain mandatory. The new Constitution would allow for more internal freedom from within the SA so the student body would not be burdened by repeated special elections.
“I have run in two special elections and one general election, and I think, while I’m grateful for those opportunities in the special elections, they’re very burdensome, and the students get sick of hearing from us saying, ‘Vote, vote,’ because it’s a lot,” Rappaport said.
She said that when she was a sophomore, she and other SA members pushed for this change to take place, and now, in her senior year, those changes are on the horizon and beginning to take shape.
“That’s pretty cool to see,” she said.
Email Tim Lyman at firstname.lastname@example.org