Undergraduate Student Government (USG) president Shaheer Khan revealed that major discrepancies were found within the USG constitution and the USG code at a senate meeting on Thursday, Aug. 29.
USG hired lawyers to look into its governing documents over the summer. In May, USG announced a $15,000 hike in legal fees for its 2019-2020 academic year budget. The now $50,000 allocated towards legal fees is paying for lawyers who review the constitution and code.
“This year’s going to be a very transformative year for the Undergraduate Student Government,” Khan said. “For the first time in a long time, the USG will be going in depth and really analyzing our constitution and making tangible changes to it.”
The issues found with the two documents can cause serious problems for USG as an organization, Khan said. During USG training, Khan said all of the senators and executive council members sat down to read the constitution and found themselves baffled.
“We were reading it and we’re like, ‘This is so confusing,’” Khan said. “Shouldn’t a governing document be something that everybody can read and understand? And if students themselves can’t understand it, then who’s it written for? If we need lawyers to read it, that just doesn’t make sense.”
Khan said USG couldn’t make sense of their own governing documents, which he saw as a problem. The main issue between the constitution and the code he pointed out is that they often don’t align.
“The code is something that we can change internally within USG,” Khan said. “Often times while we’re adding to the code, our constitution is being left behind. And when you compare the two documents, sometimes the constitution will say, ‘Please refer to code xyz,’ or the code will say, ‘Please refer to page 3 in the constitution,’ and they don’t match. They don’t talk, and that’s a big issue.”
Mohamed Heiba, the USG Executive Vice President, saw problems within his own title and powers.
“Under my responsibilities, it says that I am the chair of the senate, but if you look under the senate information…it says the chair of the senate, but it does not specify who the chair of the senate is. That’s very problematic,” Heiba said. “It’s referring to anyone being the chair of the senate, when under my responsibilities, it says that I’m the chair of the senate.”
USG Treasurer Adrian Ortega said that though USG doesn’t have a set date, he expects they’ll be finished with the revisions by October.
“Over the summer, we’ve already started speaking with our legal council and red marking what we need to change and then going from there,” Ortega said. “It’s been a process. Now, we’re going to try to move forward a lot faster with it.”
Since the USG constitution is decided upon by the students, Khan said the process is going to be an “open forum.”
“In order for [the constitution] to change, we have to put it out for a vote,” he said. “The student body has the right to vote for which changes need to be made, which is great because we need transparency, we need accountability, and at the end of the day, we serve our student body.”
Khan hopes a more comprehensive constitution will encourage more students to participate in USG.
“We want to simplify [the USG governing documents] as much as we can so students can understand it, read it, and then actually apply to it,” Khan said. “Our whole thing is just to make it easier and more accessible for students.”