Those students at SOU who have little to no interest in student politics may be in store for a shock later this month with the major changes transpiring in their student government.
The Associated Students of Southern Oregon University (A.S.S.O.U.) have recently enacted a special vote, the goal being a total overhaul of the current student constitution. The proposed constitutional reform has thus far been meet with an underwhelming amount of attention from many SOU students despite the confidence ASSOU officials have in the new bill.
The reformed constitution is only two pages long, less than a quarter of the originals length. Andrew Ensslin, the ASSOU Speaker of the Senate/Campus Life and Housing Senator, says the original document was an unnecessary one. He went on to say the ASSOU government wanted a less complicated document students could relate to more easily.
Taking into account the changing times Sen. Ensslin said “The rules in place now (for ASSOU) are from a time where our relationship with the administration was very different, (a time) before State laws had changed.” ASSOU Chief Justice Benjamin Katz, the official credited for spearheading the writing of the reform stated numerous motivations factored in to the drastic overhaul of the constitution.
Justice Katz believes the document itself is outdated, pointing to the fact that is out of line with current State laws which mandate ASSOU. The Organ Administrative Rules (OAR’s) clash with the current constitution in a way which binds the hands of the student body at SOU. In addition to this the document has rules which contradict each other and contains lines which refer to administrators that are no longer in existence. You can find the full interviews of Sen. Ensslin and Justice Katz in the link provided at the end of this article.
This is not the first time ASSOU has attempted drastic changes to the student constitution. Last year’s administration had spent a significant amount of time searching for a compromise before it finally puttered out half way through the year. Justice Katz took up where the previous administration had left off during the summer of 2012.
Working closely with his fellow justices, Stephanie Keaveney and Kyle Ragsdale, as well as ASSOU President Joshua Danielson, the administration was able to agree on a draft to present to the students by the Fall term of 2012.
The new constitution shaves the original down to the bare minimum. The proposed document lacks details containing only two pages as opposed to the original ten. It has completely done away with the student Bill of Rights and does not mention the Advisory Council of SOU. The Advisory Council being a collaboration of ASSOU officials who ensure the integrity of the student government. Representatives of ASSOU have said the simplification of the document is meant to help students understand ASSOU policies better as well as to give them an “up-to-date voice” according to Speaker Ensslin.
The proposed bylaws, which will go into effect if the Constitution is voted in, are extensive to say the least. They cover every single rule and regulation each branch of ASSOU must follow in order to ensure maximum efficiency from the student government. They also cover many laws which were not mentioned in the original document such as a more proper procedure for impeachment and grants a significant amount of disciplinary power to the Chief Justice. They tighten up the currents laws and remove the contradicting ones which some Senators believe have weighed down ASSOU for the past several years. A certain amount of hypocrisy ensues however when you take the bylaws length into account. It contains a whopping fifty-three pages of regulations which govern student politics and rights. This sharply contradicts the claim of simplification for the sake of better student understanding ASSOU officials have made.
Despite the major implications of this document, a significant portion of students at SOU are still either uneducated or uninterested in the special vote. Patrick McNulty, a sophomore at SOU, had no idea there was a vote on a constitutional reform until asked if he had voted on it. After looking into it however he found an email from ASSOU asking him to vote on the subject. He was quoted saying “I opened it (the email) up and saw like a fifty page PDF file. I just said to myself ‘eh’ not today and haven’t looked at it since.” When asking numerous students if they had voted on the reform the majority showed the same disinterest as McNulty. Keep in mind whether or not the reform receives more yes than no votes, it can only pass if 5% of the student body votes at all. That is barely over 300 students out of a population of nearly 7,000. A shockingly low set bar of expectation.In fact, Danielson and Vice President Robert Cochran made an announcement at the SOU Playoff basketball game on Feb. 20, that they still needed 200 votes, only one full day before the polls close.
Both Justice Katz and Speaker Ensslin have stated they are optimistic the document will pass. The underlying issue here being the message to vote has not reached the ears of students. The fact that only 5% of students are expected to vote shows a drastic need for change in the way ASSOU reaches out to students. Katz and Ensslin agree the goal of ASSOU is to get students involved in university policies. It appears abundantly clear this reform is not the change needed to get students involved. Maybe Speaker Ensslin has some ideas for better involvement when he runs for president in the spring?
-Ryan J. Degan