Students voted overwhelmingly to pass two Student Government referendums during campus-wide elections Thursday, even though the full details of the changes were not available on the ballot.
Philip Wiseman, chief justice for the SG Judicial Court, said the referendums would change the Student Government constitution. Some changes include adding specific protocols for transparency, establishing a method for apportioning college and school representation in the assembly and granting the president veto power over bills.
“At the end of the day, these reforms had several objectives, but it was to make SG more transparent, reinforce the checks and balances between branches and make sure we’re becoming in legal compliance with System rules and state and federal law,” Wiseman said.
Currently, colleges receive one representative for every 2,500 students enrolled. Some colleges include only undergraduates in this count while others include both graduate and undergraduate students. Wiseman said the change to this rule would apportion representation according to graduate and undergraduate populations within every college.
The amended constitution says the number of representatives will be “based upon the proportion of representation among the college and school representatives in the Assembly for the respective college or school as equal as possible to the proportion of the student body enrolled in the respective college or school.”
Wiseman said the amendment increases the assembly’s size and more proportionally represents each college. Andrew Houston, chair of rules and regulations, is the school of architecture representative and said he worked closely with Wiseman to improve representation.
“The school of architecture has 800 students including graduate students,” Houston said. “Graduate students make up a larger portion of the school, but those people did not count, and graduate students could not be served.”
Among the changes, the referendum also grants the SG president the power to veto bills. Before this amendment, the president only had the power to veto legislation. Wiseman said this would ensure that after the president submits the budget to the assembly, there would be a check and balance over any changes made.
“In reality, if the executive branch is the one carrying that out, there needs to be a check and balance between the legislative branch, and it just wasn’t there before,” Wiseman said.
Kori Rady, incoming Student Government president, said he does not see himself using the new power in the upcoming year.
“I think it’s definitely a last resort kind of deal,” Rady said. “You don’t want to use a veto unless you absolutely have to.”
According to Wiseman, SG passed amendments in 2011, which failed to garner any administrative approval, so Wiseman said SG continued operating outside jurisdiction of the UT System Board of Regents.
“This is something that hasn’t been accomplished since about 1995,” Wiseman said. “We’re not even sure those suggestions and amendments were formally and finally approved, so this could potentially be a process that hasn’t been done in over 50 years.”
In January, the amendments were passed through SG assemblies, and then passed as referendums during campus-wide elections last week. The referendums will move on to be signed off by the dean of students and the vice president of student affairs. Following this, President William Powers Jr. and the UT System Board of Regents must approve them.