The Student Association Constitutional Revisions Committee is set to announce changes to Rice University’s Student Association constitution in late January, according to SA President Griffin Thomas. The changes include revisions in length, structure and style to eliminate confusion and improve the document’s clarity.
The current constitution was written three years ago, and SA Parliamentarian Annabelle McIntire-Gavlick said several problems have been identified, including its length and confusing descriptions of processes which have prevented certain committees from operating.
“As we put the new document into practice, some problems revealed themselves,” McIntire-Gavlick, a Lovett College senior, said. “Some of these exist in the length; 111 pages is a lot for any document, much less one that is supposed to be accessible to all members. Some of the processes are limiting and creating situations where it’s impossible for the SA to function like it should, so we’re working on identifying those situations and rectifying them.”
Last semester, Thomas, a Lovett senior, cited the constitution’s length and complexity as the main reasons for two constitutional violations. In October, the Senate held several minutes of closed session without first holding a required two-thirds vote, and for the last several years the Senate has unconstitutionally voted on many pieces of legislation without a roll call vote.
McIntire-Gavlick is responsible for advising Senate members on writing legislation and ensuring the SA follows constitutional procedure.
“The constitution serves as the guiding document for not only all of the processes in the SA but also our general purpose and direction,” she said. “We exist to serve the undergraduate student body and use the constitution to set the methods and procedures by which to do so.”
The Constitutional Revisions Committee, formed in spring 2016 and led by the Parliamentarian, is in charge of identifying any deficiencies and recommending the necessary amendments.
Over 100 pages long, the constitution is divided into 14 articles, each addressing separate branches that include executive, judicial, organization, initiatives and referenda, elections, and amendments. Article 12, for instance, details how the elections must operate; the introduction outlines the SA’s responsibility for electing officers and representatives of subsidiary organizations, along with members of the Honor Council. It then designates the criteria for voter and candidate eligibility, and how the elections of the SA officers and Student Senate members will work with regards to dates, announcements, scheduling, and any necessary changeovers that may take place.
In addition to shortening the constitution, the committee plans to separate the constitution from the SA bylaws, which are currently located within one document as “Class A” and “Class B,” respectively. Changes to the bylaws only require Senate approval, rather than referendum approval by the full undergraduate student body.