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.

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