Boxing Begins Over New A.S. Constitution

    Delivering on a campaign promise to redo the structure of student government, A.S. Council President Harry Khanna has begun shopping to constituents a rewritten version of the A.S. constitution, which, among other things, shrinks the political power of college councils, rescinds the presidential veto and swaps position titles and duties across the organization.

    Khanna, along with a task force charged with composing the first new version of the document in over 30 years, had presented the first proposal to the council and two of six college councils as of press time. The reaction has been mixed, Khanna said, but added that several councilmembers see the need for change.

    “The current [structure] was created with a slow, inefficient government in mind,” John Muir College Senior Senator Matthew Bright said during Khanna’s first formal presentation of the document to the council.

    Khanna admitted that the largest obstacle will be convincing college senators to approve his plan, because it would largely downsize the power given to college councils.

    Some senators have already protested Khanna’s departure from the original college-based system, which grants voting power to 24 college senators. The new plan adds five voting representatives from each academic division — biological sciences, physical sciences, arts and humanities, social sciences and engineering — while halving the number of voting senators.

    “I really do feel that the creation of major-oriented senators would contribute to disunity among the colleges,” Muir Sophomore Senator Meghan Clair said.

    Clair also questioned placing added emphasis on the campus’ “academic environment,” which she said is already dominant on campus. However, other councilmembers found that the six-college system had little practical use in student government.

    “I was the Muir College senior senator last year, but most of my work went to benefit all students at every college,” Vice President Finance Conrad Ohashi stated in an e-mail. “If senators really did only care about their constituents, nothing substantial would ever get done on this campus.”

    With added weight to campuswide officials in lieu of college representatives, the task force said it hoped to adapt to students’ interests that lie away from their respective colleges.

    “I see and understand [that] the changes … undermine the importance of the college system,” Revelle College Chair and task force member Emil Achmad said. “But I also see the overall goal that the restructuring is trying to achieve.”

    Even though the new system would downsize college representation, Khanna and the task force said that some sort of academic representation is important to the new structure.

    “With these senator positions, students who place a high value on academics, and feel passionately about the issues facing their academic department or division, can run on those issues,” the task force stated in its first constitution draft.

    Also under the proposed structure, the number of elected campuswide officers would be cut from 12 to four. Traditionally elected commissioners would be converted to several vice president positions, which would be appointed by the four elected officials under Khanna’s plan. Consolidation is key to running an efficient government, Khanna said, specifically by substituting elected officers for “technocratic” officials with expertise in particular fields.

    While the modification would also decrease the number of representatives students could vote into office, Ohashi stated that the nature of elections, based on party “slates,” can stop potentially worthy candidates from running.

    “This change allows the people who want to work, but not necessarily run an election, have a shot in actually making phenomenal changes to the student body,” Ohashi stated.

    Last year, discrepancies between two council documents launched members into an argument over technicalities during the campus Student-Run Television scandal. After an emergency meeting last fall, in which the council voted to censor sexual content from the station, some officials contested the meeting’s validity. The argument hinged on which officer had the power to call impromptu meetings — the council’s constitution and bylaws granted the power to two different officers.

    “Our rules now are full of inconsistencies,” Khanna said. “It’s high time someone did something about it.”

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