Just two semesters after UGBC approved its new constitution, Matt Alonsozana, executive vice president and A&S ’14, presented to the Student Assembly (SA) on Tuesday a number of suggested edits and clarifications to the document that he helped draft.
“The constitution that we have been working off is a flawed document in every sense of the word-grammatically, interpretational [wise], and it also hasn’t been updated,” Alonsozana said after the meeting.
Alonosozana finished the edits last week and sent the revised constitution to the senators. Some in the SA were initially concerned that Alonsozana was overstepping his authority, but he explained at the meeting that his edits were only suggestions and that in order for the changes to take effect they would have to be approved by the SA.
Most of the edits are clarifications regarding practices that UGBC was already carrying out-such as officially designating the press secretary as the vice president of communications, a change that brings the constitution in line with guidelines set by the Student Programs Office (SPO). Already considered a vice president by SPO, the press secretary was already receiving a stipend. Only vice presidents, the presidents, and the executive vice president receive stipends.
In an email sent to senators after the meeting, Chris Marchese, candidate for executive vice president, president pro tempore, and A&S ’16, said that the proposed revisions would blur the lines between the Constitution and the Standing Rules, a set of governing guidelines that are adopted at the beginning of each semester. His main concern was with the designation of the press secretary as a vice president.
“Aside from blurring the lines between the Constitution and Standing Rules, the revisions also include substantive changes, such as making the press secretary a vice president,” the email read. “This was neither included in the original Constitution, nor was the idea vetted by the legislature.”
Marchese said that the constitution should be a flexible document that broadly outlines the structure, roles, and mission of the organization, and that it should not be concerned with naming specific staff, as one of Alonsozana’s changes would.
“Marchese believes it to be a substantive change-it isn’t,” Alonsozana said. “It really is getting the constitution in line the Student Programs Office rules and regulations regarding UGBC.”
Marchese was at the meeting but left early.
“While [some] changes do reflect what we have done this year, I didn’t feel comfortable with them being added to the constitution because I think that they are things that can be in the Standing Rules instead,” Marchese said in a separate telephone interview.
Alonsozana also suggested that the SA amend an inconsistency in the budget process. According to the current document, a proposed annual budget will go into effect even if the SA does not pass it. His suggestion clarifies that the budget will go into effect only if the SA does not take it up for a vote. This change would prevent a rejected budget from taking effect.
“The budget is probably the most substantive clarification I made,” he said. “It didn’t make any sense-that clause meant no sense. I’ve never heard of a government which doesn’t have the power to reject its own budget.
“In consultation with the Rules Committee I made [the edits],” Alonsozana said. “I can’t officially propose an amendment or bill, so [these edits are] like a framework. The Rules Committee will have to propose [its] own set of amendments.”
The executive vice president, who is also the president of the SA, presides over the SA meetings, sets meeting agendas, and serves as the liaison between the SA and the executive branch of UGBC. The constitution does not grant Alonsozana the power to sponsor legislation on his own, but he can make suggestions to senators.
The structure of UGBC is modeled after that of the U.S. government. Alonsozana serves as the vice president of the executive branch, and as the president of the legislative branch-much like the Vice President of the U.S. serves as the President of the U.S. Senate. These offices cannot propose legislation, but they do have substantial influence over what legislatures propose.
“It needed to be reedited and it was always a project of this year’s assembly to reedit the constitution and clean it up,” he said. “The problem was that nothing would have gotten done had the editing been done piecemeal. So, what I did was make all the edits myself, but each of those edits has to be approved by the assembly.”
The unedited version will remain the official document until the SA votes on an amendment that incorporates the proposed changes.
According to Isaac Akers, chairman of the Rules Committee and A&S ’16, the suggested edits will be incorporated into an amendment that will be proposed either by his committee or by an individual senator.
He anticipates that the amendment will be drafted over the weekend and will be voted on at Tuesday’s meeting.
Most of the edits were grammatical changes that were consistent with the five drafts that were proposed last January, when eight of the top executives in UGBC formed a committee to draft a new constitution.
“The process last year was rushed,” Alonsozana said.
The committee members represented the heads of the executive branch, the SA, the AHANA Leadership Council, the GLBTQ Leadership Council, and members of SPO.
“When that version of the constitution came out, there was a lot of controversy,” he said. “It wasn’t expected to pass all three voting blocks. It had to pass the [SA], ALC, and GLC.”
After the initial document was released, the committee solicited suggestions from members of the three branches. The final edits were made by the committee in order to appeal to those who rejected the initial version.
Alonsozana was a member of the final drafting committee and is the only member who is still in UGBC.
The final document contained a number of grammatical flaws and inconsistencies with section numberings. The SA passed the constitution unanimously, but ALC and GLC passed it by slim margins.
“I’m not proposing in the edits any substantive changes, but the interpretative areas that have clearly hindered our effectiveness as an organization have been cleaned up,” he said. “We didn’t want to edit the constitution in that way until we saw where the constitution wasn’t working operationally, so that’s why we didn’t do it in the fall.”