In the Thresher’s previous issue, an investigation uncovered unconstitutional actions in Student Association proceedings. The litany of discoveries include straw poll voting conducted without the level of documentation required by the constitution. In addition, representatives spent a cursory “15 to 20 minutes” debating and discussing legislation that could impact Rice students. The SA’s duty to consider the impact of legislation on current and future student bodies as well as the greater university undoubtedly requires more time than a lunch break.
In response, SA President Griffin Thomas and the SA have introduced a variety of new initiatives. Thomas has decided to follow the constitutional procedures, albeit for the remaining 50 percent of his administration. The Committee on Constitutional Revisions, in the aftermath of the fallout, will begin its work despite being created last April. One can assume the changes, ostensibly marketed as “reviewing and updating” the constitution, will seek to legalize these shortcuts.
As a student who believes in the potential of the SA, I propose a number of policies to increase transparency. First, the SA must publish all pending legislation and initiatives well before voting so that students can give feedback on the legislation. The SA votes on all policies regardless of media coverage by the Thresher. Particularly affected are those laws that can set precedents for future legislation.
Pursuant to the proposed changes to the constitution, the SA must publish proposed amendments to the constitution for student perusal and discussion. Past administrations have passed amendments for ostensibly “good” reasons, and students should have the opportunity to monitor proposed constitutional revision.
Lastly, the SA apparatus should restore its relevance and leverage by critically examining legislation pass rates. With its 94 percent pass rate, the current SA is rapidly becoming a rubber stamp. By performing an in-depth investigation and discussion of each policy, the SA can raise the standard of passed legislation and consequent authority.
At this time it is best to remind students that the SA is ultimately accountable to YOU. Contact your college representatives, attend SA meetings and make your voice heard. Every class at Rice leaves a legacy, and we, the student body, have the opportunity to enact legislation that can improve students’ experiences. For our part, the American Enterprise Institute Executive Council invites all student groups, University administration and faculty to the first Rice politics roundtable. The roundtable is a platform for members of all campus organizations to discuss campus politics and national legislation that can affect the Rice campus. Our goal is to reach a common understanding while exploring ways that Rice can become an active participant in our nation’s political future. Only by coming together as a university can we leverage our collective talents to great heights.
We at the Executive Council believe that the roundtable can begin to address issues facing student government. The Thresher reports that when notified of the constitutional violations, “Thomas said the SA was unaware the straw poll voting was unconstitutional, as the leadership had misinterpreted the constitution.” A government misinterpreting its own constitution is a serious problem. Thomas blames “the detailed nature and length of the constitution and parliamentary code.” Although very long, the constitution is remarkably straightforward. These violations should spur students to hold the SA accountable. Are there more violations to be revealed?