SGA seeks involvement with new constitution

Senior SGA President Eddie McDonald leads a full senate meeting following the constitution ratification.

Laila Jones|Marlin Chronicle

On March 4, the Student Government Association (SGA) held its first meeting since ratifying their new constitution. Members of SGA highlighted changes to the constitution and the importance of the organization as a whole.

“A constitution is pretty important to making sure that the integrity of the Student Government is maintained,” Eddie McDonald, senior and President of the SGA, said.

According to McDonald, a need to adjust how meetings were held prompted the new constitution. “We identified that there’s a need for change, that the way we’re operating our meetings wasn’t in line with the way our constitution was written,” McDonald said.

Senior Jack Palmer, vice president of SGA, sees the new constitution as better aligned with the current values of SGA. “It’s been quite a long time since it was last updated. So we wanted it to better reflect our modern practices, and how our student government has actually been functioning for the past four years,” Palmer said.

Palmer added that a large part of the changes were geared toward a better balance of duties. “We started noticing that too many responsibilities were falling on one person, so we wanted to make it formal so that there were checks and balances in place, and that not just one position could kind of overhaul everything,” Palmer said.

Sophomore Isaac Awogboro, SGA secretary, spoke on how he wants these changes to promote visibility for SGA. “We’re kind of hoping that it shows the student body what we’re about and what we’re for,” Awogboro said. 

James Johnson, senior secretary of SGA, reiterated the importance of aligning the constitution with SGA’s values. “Our dedication to students doesn’t change at all, but our constitution is now more reflective of our mission and vision,” Johnson said.

McDonald explained the ratification process. “In order to be ratified by the Student Government, it has to be ratified by two thirds of the Student Senate.”

There was “100% of the current student government voting to ratify this new constitution,” McDonald said.

The process spanned months. “The ratification process started out with a constitutional committee that started meeting mid-fall,” Palmer said.

McDonald explained the extra time they dedicated to developing the new constitution. “Usually at the end of the meeting, we adjourn the student government meeting and then start a constitutional committee meeting. And we go through the article, step by step, line by line, see what we liked, what we didn’t like,” McDonald said. “Once we had gone through the entire constitution, we brought it forward to the entire student senate.”

McDonald explained that when he was a first-year, the president ratified the constitution more unilaterally.

“The way we wrote it this time is making sure that everyone got involved…, which I think we really benefited from because if I had rewritten this by myself, it would look very different, and I don’t think for the better,” McDonald said.

Awogboro added that the SGA emphasized clarity for this new constitution, “It makes a lot more sense to anybody who wants to join, anybody who’s interested in participating and joining SGA so that they know the process, so that there’s a clear understanding.”

Regarding how this impacts the student population, McDonald said, “I think the most visible effect to the rest of the student body will be in the elections.”

McDonald explained that in previous years, the student body would vote for each executive board position, being the president, vice president, treasurer, secretary and events coordinator.

“Students will still be voting for their individual class senators, and then president and vice president of the executive board, but then internally, SGA will be deciding the events coordinator, treasurer and secretary,” Palmer said.

Johnson said that this helps maintain fairness in decision-making. “The president and vice president are still non-voting members, but now the secretary and treasurer are elected from the current senators by the senators as a motion that keeps the distribution of classes,” Johnson said.

McDonald also stressed that the process will give more time to decide on voting. “To decide who is going to be treasurer, secretary and events coordinator for the whole student government, at the beginning of the year, the student senators will have some time to make nominations and give speeches to the student senate, and then we’ll vote on it as a Student Senate,” McDonald said.

According to McDonald, this method makes more sense given VWU’s size. “On a smaller campus like this, it kind of makes SGA elections more approachable,” he said.

Additionally, Johnson mentioned the introduction of a graduate cohort for SGA. This includes four senator positions, falling in line with the number of senator positions in undergraduate classes.

“University policy affects them, so they should have a way to advocate for themselves,” Johnson said.

As a result of these changes, McDonald noted, “It’s never been easier to be involved.”

McDonald promoted the benefits of this involvement by defining SGA’s mission. “We take issues that are important to the students and we try to advocate for the students’ needs and wants,” McDonald said.

Palmer built on this. “Our job [is] to try to act as a liaison between the student body and administration, and the way we do that is by having a meeting with the administration of the university every other week, to express concerns that we received, to express concerns that we’ve come up with internally, all in an effort to increase and better the student experience,” Palmer said.

McDonald and Palmer listed opportunities for students to become more involved with SGA. “We have office hours every Monday during lunch outside the cafeteria, so you can come talk to us, because we really want to make this campus a better place for everyone,” McDonald said.

Palmer mentioned that it is easy to reach SGA, especially through meetings. “If a student ever wants to sit in on the meeting, they’re welcome to do that. We always have an open forum section,” Palmer said.

McDonald would like students to be aware of SGA’s Instagram page, because that is where they do much of their outreach. Additionally, McDonald said he “want[s] you to know who your student government representatives are so they can advocate on your behalf.”

McDonald emphasized that SGA does much work behind the scenes to improve the campus for everyone.

By Isaac Fick