Constitutional Council: Rule in favor of students

Whenever campus politics make enough noise to catch the attention of the student body, it is usually cause for celebration. We tend to believe that Student Union recognizes this as well. So when that very government puts up obstacles when a student tries to change things, we can only react with dismay.

Over the past two weeks Trevor Mattea has sought signatures for nine proposed amendments to SU’s constitution. Some of these amendments include allowing undergraduate students who are abroad to vote in elections and run for office and allowing the president to propose the general budget. Mattea has already collected well over the 900 signatures that are required to put these amendments on the ballot in the upcoming SU elections. But an anonymous grievance lodged against Mattea alleges that his methods of collecting these signatures violate constitution protocol. Should the majority of the five judges on the Constitutional Council rule against him on Tuesday, his proposal will be dead in the water.

The grievance submitted to the Council does not elaborate on the nature of Mattea’s alleged infraction. Mattea said that Associate Justice Justin Taylor, a sophomore, wrote in an e-mail that the hearing will answer the question of when a signature on a petition to amend the Constitution is valid. Additionally, the hearing will determine if a petition proposing a body of Constitutional amendments signed by 15 percent
 of the constituency of Student Union must be voted on as one 
unit or if the amendments can be voted on separately.

Should Mattea have collected 900 signatures for each of his nine proposals?

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These are legitimate questions so far as they go. As Americans we take some pride in the rigorous discourse that any change to our constitution entails. But we fear in this case, undue regard for procedure might strangle much needed reform.

The argument appears to be that since Mattea intends to try each measure independently, he should have sought signatures for each amendment. Or, conversely, that his amendments currently deserve only one referendum.

The student judges have the responsibility to ensure that Mattea’s amendments see the light of day. But such an outcome is by no means promised. The court could very well decide to have Mattea’s initiatives summarily rejected. An individual student trying to enact change of such magnitude within SU is unprecedented, and preventing these proposed changes from going on the ballot would create a dangerous precedent.

It would have been practically impossible for Mattea to have gathered the 8,100 signatures needed for his nine amendments. We can presume that a defeat for Mattea will discourage such bold attempts in the future. It therefore strikes us as oddly self-defeating that SU, a group long-plagued by the apathy of its community, might smother the only issue in recent memory about which 15 percent of people demonstrably care. The message it would send to Mattea’s 900, and to the student body at large is potentially dangerous: SU doesn’t care what you think. For his part, Mattea is confident he followed the rules.

“I think I did everything honestly, and my arguments are sound. To the degree that this is something vague, I think the council should err on the side of the students,” Mattea said.

We couldn’t agree more.

  • Hawkings

    It appears that there is a faction who would like nothing more than to backdoor these amendments before they are put before the student body for a vote. I wonder why that could be?

    Why could this faction not speak to Trevor directly about his proposals or actively argue why they do not wish to see them take effect, WHILE the amendments were on the ballot?

    Frankly, this just seems petty to me. Those opposed to these amendments need to understand that sometimes, you arent going to get your way. Sometimes, what you think isnt the only right answer. Thats how life is. Lets be adults about it.

    This is a prime example of the old mentality of SU: resistant to change, offended by discourse and adamant that you know whats best for everyone else through your adherence to your “infallible” logic. This group seems to believe that the only way to properly deal with discourse is to anonymously block the opinions of those who dont agree with you.

    Perhaps it would be much more productive to have a transparent debate about these amendments, instead of shrouding the entire process in secrecy and cowardice. I suppose that may be too much to ask of the SU gossip circles.

    I have not been privy to these amendments, but if their aim is to fundamentally change the operations and mentality of SU then I wholeheartedly support them.

  • student4

    student3, the point of having people collect signatures is so a significant portion of the student body knows about what’s going on the ballot. trevor should have talked to people way before about this and then gotten signatures for his amendments, and having been vp admin he also should have known that he couldn’t collect signatures like this. there’s nothing stopping trevor from calling a special election with 900 signatures he’s collected with the final version of this in the event that con council rules against this, or putting it on the ballot in the fall. the most significant of these changes are for exec elections and wouldn’t take place until next spring anyway.

    this anger is totally misplaced. don’t be mad at constitutional council if they rule against this; be mad at trevor for completely failing to follow rules he should have understood. furthermore, getting 900 signatures isn’t that hard if you have a group of people helping, as the many block funding proposals and dac legislation that will certainly be on the ballot show– if trevor had bothered to form a group like this he wouldn’t have had trouble getting signatures for a final version as late as a week ago.

  • student3

    The way Trevor explained it to me, the ideas he was presenting were potential amendments; he never promised that those would be on the ballot. He also asked for input regarding the changes while collecting signatures. I think the overwhelming majority of people that sign petitions don’t care what they are for anyway. SU should stop being so bureaucratic and self-important. What would be the greater injustice: These amendments being shot down on a point of protocol or allowing the students to decide on the ballot?

  • student2

    Yeah, this staff editorial completely missed the most important point from complaint that was made. Although the argument about the number of signatures is valid, I think the more important question was whether or not Trevor could change his amendments after getting signatures. Personally, when he came to my door asking for a signature, he even admitted that he didn’t have all of his plans on him, and that he was still working on them. Other people signed his petition before he added certain amendments to his lists of reforms- they might not have signed if they had known that those would be added. I think that this is a very valid grievance, and I worry that the editorial board of StudLife is just trying to make out SU’s Constitutional Council to be the bad guys, and make Mattea look like some sort of societal hero facing oppression. Stop exaggerating real life in order to make people read your news, StudLife.

  • student2

    as student1 said, that’s the real issue, that trevor changed his amendments while getting the signatures, which is something that the editorial failed to explain. if the amendments don’t stay the same it’s like signing a blank check for trevor, as opposed to signing for what the amendments are.

  • student1

    The real problem is that trevor changed his amendments while he was obtaining signatures. I signed his first sheet, and during this time he explained that treasury was going to be combined with Senate. This is no longer apart of his proposal, however that is what I signed in confidence for.

    In my opinion, that is unconstitutional for my signature to count towards his current set of amendments.