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UCourt changes approved

By Ellen Liu     2/22/12 6:00pm

Justice will soon be served differently in the student body. Two University Court constitutional amendments passed by an overwhelming majority after the first round of Student Association General Elections ended last week.

These two amendments aim to reduce conflicts of interest among UCourt officers, create better-defined election processes and establish streamlined long-term UCourt procedures, UCourt Chair candidate and current Vice Chair Lauren Theis said. The amendments were made to Articles II and V of the UCourt constitution, respectively.

Specifically, the amendments proposed electing four central UCourt officers in addition to college representatives, decreasing the number of new student representatives from three to two and choosing the organization's chair through the General Elections after an initial screening process.

To further reduce possible conflicts of interest, the amendments prevent members of a college court from holding UCourt officer positions and prohibit UCourt members from serving on a college court as chief justice or in another leadership position.

"Though we want college representatives to provide perspectives of their home colleges, our biggest challenge was determining what circumstances lead to the biggest conflicts of interests so that we could reduce them as much as possible," Theis, a Wiess College junior, said. "We found that such conflicts arise when students are deeply involved with both their college courts and University Court."

Theis said UCourt had been considering constitutional changes since the beginning of the year, though it did not start wording the amendments until after the fall semester.

"This year was a big step for University Court, with almost entirely new membership filled with fresh and dedicated minds," Theis said. "We have worked all year to agree on the logic and feasibility of each of the proposed amendments."

UCourt Secretary Brian Baran said members of UCourt unanimously voted to proceed with the amendments when they were discussed internally. The bigger challenge was writing the amendments to ensure student approval, he said.

UCourt worked with the SA to include the amendments on the General Elections ballot, Baran, a Duncan College freshman, said. According to SA Parliamentarian and Duncan senior Jonathan Stewart, both amendments passed with around 93 percent of the vote, though it should be noted that the default voting option was "Yes" for both amendments. The changes are now in effect.

According to Theis, all students will be affected by the amendments and UCourt plans to expand the roles of college representatives in the years to come.

"College representatives act as a student resource for the code of conduct and offer college specific perspectives to best embody the spirit of campus as a whole," Theis said.

Theis added that UCourt changed its freshman representative position to a new student representative position to gain the viewpoints provided by transfer and international students.

McMurtry College Chief Justice Matthew Rohde said he supported the amendments because they would effectively allow students to better judge their fellows. He added that removing chief justices from UCourt would allow the justice to feel more comfortable with referring cases which could not be handled in college courts to UCourt.

However, Sid Richardson College junior Julianne Roberson said she disagreed with the amendment's stipulation for chief justices.

"I think the chief justice should be able to serve in UCourt because they tend to know more about what is going on," Roberson said. "They are supposed to serve as a liaison between the college and anything having to do with justice."

Roberson added that she knew a freshman justice at Sid Rich who was forced to quit because he was involved in UCourt.

"He would have made a great chief justice one day, and it is pretty unfortunate that he can't do that anymore if he continues with UCourt," Roberson said.

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