CSG Constitutional Amendments Background

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If you’ve already checked out the sample ballots at vote.umich.edu, you may have noticed the presence of two different Central Student Government (CSG) Constitutional Amendment Proposals in addition to the ballots for electing your student representatives. The Constitutional Convention was formed by all three branches of CSG to formulate suggestions to change our Constitution. We also happen to represent five of the nineteen different schools and colleges at this university, which gave us some differing perspectives as we crafted these Amendments over the past several months. We would like to explain some of the changes we’re suggesting, so that you can vote this week with a better understanding of what they are and why you might consider them.
 
We’ve created to two Amendments with the intention of distinguishing changes made to remedy deficiencies in the text of the current Constitution from those which in a more substantial manner adjust CSG itself. Amendment 1 therefore contains only those changes to portions that as currently written are unambiguously incorrect or contradictory. Amendment 2 includes all of the changes from Amendment 1 but adds others affecting the structure and function of CSG in ways that, in the view of the Convention, will improve it.
 
Amendment 1 warrants less explanation. Its changes make the Constitution internally consistent and gender-neutral in language, and remove several functional loopholes such as ambiguity in who exactly can serve in CSG and how an impeachment should be conducted. In the interest of illustration, in these cases we clarify, respectively, that one must in fact be a student to serve in CSG; and that justices of the Central Student Judiciary (CSJ) may not be involved in their own impeachment proceedings.
 
In Amendment 2, we’re adding the definition of “official” to designate members of CSG serving in positions to which they were either elected by the student body, or appointed by those who were. This is so that the provisions elsewhere in the Constitution permitting impeachment and disallowing service in multiple roles will apply to the intended people. This is more of a correction than a change of function, but given that the current Constitution is ambiguous, service in multiple positions or eligibility for impeachment could be adjudicated by CSJ if challenged. We intend to preempt such a determination by writing a better Constitution.
 
We’re also setting the size of the CSG Assembly at 45 elected Representatives, and, in order to make that function correctly, specifying the use of the Huntington-Hill method for apportioning seats to the schools and colleges at the University. The primary purpose for this change is to ensure that the Assembly is consistent from year to year despite fluctuations in enrollment and continues to function effectively as a legislative body. As an aside, these policies mirror those of the United States House of Representatives which has been the same size since the admission of Hawaii and Alaska as states despite fluctuations (most increases) in state populations since. The House has used the Huntington-Hill method since 1941.
 
We’re also adding several ex-officio seats on the Assembly to increase representation of students who may not be able to participate in the elections and as a result are not well-represented on the Assembly. Specifically, one seat will be allotted for each of the following constituencies: first-year undergraduate students, first-year graduate students, non-traditional students, international students, and transfer students. These members will have all of the rights of full participation in the proceedings of the Assembly except the ability to vote. This represents a compromise, of sorts, in ensuring representation but maintaining fairness to the individual schools and colleges by leaving intact the association of voting membership and enrollment.
 
We’re reforming the University Council (UC) by removing their involvement in elections and impeachment proceedings; and removing the size minimum for student organizations to apply for ex-officio representation on the UC. The UC is a body of representatives from the governments of each school and college on campus, which historically has been challenging to coordinate. This difficulty along with the fact that its members are not elected or appointed through CSG processes (as that authority remains with the school and college governments) means that it was an odd fit for the roles of appointing the University Elections Commission and conducting impeachment proceedings against CSG members should the need arise. We’re delegating these responsibilities to the Assembly and to CSJ, respectively. Having done this, the UC takes on a more clear role as a mechanism for gathering student input in an organized manner from across campus, and we hope to increase this capability by removing the size requirement (currently 400 students) for student organizations to be represented on the UC by ex-officio members. The UC will have the power to set requirements for such membership as befit the needs of the body.
 
We’re adjusting the procedure for filling vacancies on the Assembly by permitting the use of appointment to fill seats if the government from that seat’s school or college doesn’t fill the seat. This has been a problem for a few years given the differing organization levels across the various governments in question, and it makes it harder for the Assembly to function properly as a representative body when several schools often have empty seats. Appointees will still be required to be from the school or college they’ve been chosen to represent.
 
We’re clarifying the use of the CSG President’s veto power over Assembly resolutions to apply to all legislation unless that legislation affects only the Operating Procedures of the Assembly. The Operating Procedures of the Assembly are documents which are internal to the body, while everything else, we believe, should be subject to the intended effect of checks and balances between the branches of CSG embodied in the veto power.
 
We’re removing the Constitutional requirement for the President to appoint a Chief of Staff and Chief Programming Officer. These positions are crucial to the function of the Executive Branch and typically among the more influential members of the Executive Committee, but serve roles that do not interact directly with the other branches of CSG. Accordingly, they do not need to be Constitutionally defined, and we may permit the President to restructure these responsibilities as appropriate to fulfill the needs of the Executive Branch.
 
We’re defining a new process called a Referral. Currently, the Assembly can pass legislation directly or the student body can initiate it directly using the initiative process (often called a “referendum” at the level of US state government). The new Referral process allows the Assembly to pose a question to the student body through the elections process, either solely to gather input or in the form of legislation that if passed by a majority vote will be enacted just as if passed directly by the Assembly itself. This serves as a mechanism for additional input from the student body for issues on which the Assembly may not feel that it is able to fully reflect the will of the electorate.
 
Finally, we reviewed the section on Student Rights and are changing them to properly fit the authority of the Constitution as a document outlining the powers of student government, removing some that we are unable to promise but assuring those against which student government might encroach. This revision will allow the Rights to actually be meaningfully enforced in CSJ, which previously would not have been possible.
 
Full-text versions of the changes are accessible on the preview ballot at vote.umich.edu, and will appear in the same format during the election March 22nd and 23rd. Feel free to send any further questions to csg.cc2017@umich.edu.
 
– CSG Constitutional Convention