The folks behind this restructuring plan think they can push through a new Constitution by disguising it as “funding reform.” They say it will increase efficiency, but the 25-page document they promote casts doubt on their claims. Most of the changes in the proposed Constitution have little if anything to do with funding. Most of the changes relate to the proposed GUSA Assembly. So what’s really going on?
The Assembly was already abolished because it simply doesn’t work.
In 2006, frustrated with the inefficacy of the GUSA Assembly, students chose to abolish it and establish the GUSA Senate. By reverting to the GUSA Assembly, we would be returning to a time when GUSA was less effective and overall worse than it is today. It was a disaster in 2006, and it would be a disaster in 2016. The proposed new Constitution will undo years of reform.
Restructuring will make GUSA elections into an even bigger joke.
The linchpin of this restructuring involves shrinking the Senate to 16 Representatives, who will be elected based on class year rather than residence. This will turn the Senate into an organization similar to the Academic Councils, where there is no turnover; the same people will be reelected every year, elections will never be competitive, turnout will plummet, and people will simply stop caring. Before the Assembly was abolished, hardly anyone ran, and hardly anyone voted. Last year’s executive election was similarly uncompetitive, and it resulted in Enushe and Chris struggling to beat a chicken sandwich. If this restructuring passes, you can expect GUSA elections to become an even bigger joke than they are now.
Restructuring will remove the GUSA Senate from policy decisions.
GUSA speaks on behalf of the student body, often important and pertinent issues such as dining, which directly affect all undergraduates. The proposed restructuring will completely eliminate the Senate’s involvement in policy decisions by stripping it of all policy and advocacy authority and eliminating all Senate co-chairs in the newly-formed Policy Teams. As a result, students will no longer have such a representative say in GUSA’s most important decisions.
Restructuring has a worrying lack of support from stakeholders.
Proponents of the new Constitution claim it has broad support from all involved, but that’s a gross mischaracterization. They actually found it difficult to get their proposed Constitution to pass the Senate, where its most vocal critics include Jasmin Ouseph (SFS’19), Isaac Liu (COL’20), and Saad Bashir (COL’19). Most worrisome, however, is the lack of support from the Council of Advisory Boards, which stands to gain representation in the Assembly. When it chose whether or not to endorse the restructuring plan, CAB voted NO.
Restructuring will make GUSA even less transparent and accountable.
As it stands, GUSA tries for inclusivity and transparency. The Senate’s weekly meetings are public, and it posts its records and minutes online, including FinApp’s, for anyone to read. The new Constitution would eliminate the SAFE reforms of the past few years, which made funding more open and democratic. Restructuring will cut off the Senate from policy decisions, make meetings far more infrequent, hand significant authority over to unelected Delegates, and overall make GUSA a far more exclusive organization. For an administration that says it wants to build bridges, GUSA can do much better.
A sampling of proposed changes, none of which relates to funding:
1) Strips the Senate of its “full power to secure the protection of student rights, interests, and free expression [and] to promote the preservation of academic freedom and responsibility”
2) Strips the Senate of its power “to establish all councils, commissions, boards, and agencies of the Student Association [and] to provide for the establishment of Executive departments and elements thereof”
3) Increases the required threshold for a veto override from 2/3rds to 5/6ths
4) Abolishes the position of GUSA Historian
5) Changes the tiebreaker in the Senate from the Vice President to the Speaker