Graphic by Megan Eloise and Nino Cricco/The Gazelle

Amendment proposed to check powers of Student Government

Last Sunday, at the Sept. 6 General Assembly, an amendment was proposed which if passed would create a new body in the Executive Board and ...

Sep 12, 2015

Graphic by Megan Eloise and Nino Cricco/The Gazelle
Last Sunday, at the Sept. 6 General Assembly, an amendment was proposed which if passed would create a new body in the Executive Board and fundamentally alter the structure of Student Government.
Mimicking the concept of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices, this new Board of Appeals would have the power to resolve any debates surrounding the Constitution; its duties would consist of interpreting the document and dealing out binding decisions, which Student Government would then have to implement.
The new, proposed body has its roots in the current Parliamentary Board, a group of students who currently weigh in on matters of the Constitution but in only an advisory capacity.
If this new board is established, it would present an effective check on the executive powers of the current Student Government. The Parliamentary Board members who proposed this amendment said that the idea arose from a perceived disorganization throughout past semesters of Student Government, which saw particular controversy during its last election.
Last semester, Student Government neglected to elect new members to an Elections Commission, a constitutional body that is formed every time there are student elections in order to oversee voting. The absence of an Elections Commission has delayed elections for the Freshman class representative and another Student Government position, the Officer of Student Activities.
Tom Klein, the president of the Parliamentary Board, when introducing the amendment said: “We are proposing an amendment which would solve the major structural and constitutional problems going forward.”
As it was introduced on Sept. 6, the amendment describes the Board of Appeals’ role as “independently issuing written opinions of Constitutional interpretation.”
These opinions would be binding upon the General Assembly and the Executive Board if the amendment is passed.
According to the amendment, members of the potential Board of Appeals would be nominated by the Vice President from the last term of Student Government, meaning that as the Vice President finishes their term, he or she must choose members for next semester’s Board.
However, the first Board of Appeals would consist of the current acting members of the Parliamentary Board. At the Sept. 6 GA, Parliamentary Board members explained that this was because they did not want to wait a semester for the new Board to be chosen, should the amendment pass.
As part of the Executive Board, the new Board of Appeals would be subject to impeachment at any time.
The GA proposal came after an introductory post by Parliamentary Board member junior Vladislav Maksimov on the NYUAD Student Life Facebook page. The post included an attached Parliamentary Board opinion, which Maksimov alleged had met attempts at censorship by the Executive Board.
In keeping with the Parliamentary Board’s current role, however, the opinion published on NYUAD Student Life is not binding and is only advisory.
This opinion, written by Maksimov and the rest of the Parliamentary Board, advised the Executive Board to “delay Freshman [class representative] elections until a functioning and constitutional Elections Commission is created.”
The opinion also noted that “this instance, along with recent electoral memory, points strongly to severe miscarriages of justice in the absence of a constitutional arbiter.”
Commenting on this opinion and the precedent it establishes, Tom Klein said, “I think it was a short term opinion in terms of its implication. But maybe the greater implication … is that it shows we have some legitimacy and knowledge of the Constitution.”
At the GA on Sept. 6, the amendment was brought up as the first item of the New Business section, which follows the section for the regular agenda. Although the amendment had been communicated to the Executive Board prior to the GA, due to miscommunication and timing issues, it had not been allotted a spot on the agenda.
After being introduced, a motion was raised by senior and GA attendee Massimiliano Valli, who wanted to send the vote to a referendum. The referendum would call for the entire student body, not just attendees of the GA, to vote on the proposal.
This was then superseded by a motion to table the amendment, introduced by senior class representative Angela Ortega Pastor. She explained that this amendment was not on the agenda, and that students could need more time to inspect the amendment.
This motion failed to pass, and the amendment was not tabled.
Subsequently, the motion to introduce the amendment at the next GA was voted on and passed. Valli’s motion to move to a referendum was not voted on.
Quan Vuong, vice president of Student Government, noted that at the time, “I disagreed with what Max was proposing because I think there needed to be more time before we're going to have a referendum.”
Klein was also circumspect about this vote going to a referendum, reflecting that “we were not going to get it to referendum at this meeting.”
In this week’s GA, held on Sept. 13, there will be a vote on the amendment and the changes to it that were canvassed in the Town Hall on Sept. 12.
gazelle logo