To address concerns of a lack of cohesion among leaders and the need for a more unified student voice, the University of Wisconsin’s student government members are optimistic a newly-approved constitution, which is up for referendum during the Spring Elections, will allow for improved governance.
The new constitution will be released to the student body for a vote in the Associated Students of Madison’s elections held March 11-13, according to ASM Chair Andrew Bulovsky. He said the new constitution is a “much better structure” than the current constitution.
ASM Nominations Board Chair Sean McNally said the need for a new constitution dates back to a 2008 initiative. Since then, he said members of Student Council have been talking about the need for new legislation.
A new constitution would amplify the shared governance power of ASM, McNally said, adding it would help student government serve and reach more students.
“It’s a really complicated system right now,” McNally said. “[A new constitution] would make ASM more accessible.”
McNally said the proposed constitution would cut the existing ASM constitution, which is 160 pages long including bylaws, almost in half. The Student Council-approved constitution is currently 15 pages long with 40 expected pages of bylaws, he said.
A 15-member bylaw committee will draft specifics, McNally said, adding this kind of opportunity to redraft these documents is rare.
“There is a lot of stuff we don’t use anymore,” McNally said. “[The bylaws] contradict themselves left and right.”
Bulovsky agreed with McNally and said many existing bylaws are unnecessary and excessive.
In addition, Bulovsky said the ASM constitution is vague as it stands today. The new constitution would specialize the branches of ASM and allow Student Council to focus on grassroots initiatives and campaigns, he said.
The proposed constitution will combine all financial allocating bodies, including the Student Services Finance Committee, Finance Committee and the Student Activities Center Governing Board, into one branch. The new Appropriations Branch, will make it easier for groups to understand the funding process, McNally said.
Also, with the creation of an Appropriations Branch, McNally said all large grants approved by the Finance Committee and budgets approved by SSFC would no longer have to be approved by Student Council. He said this would allow the Council to focus on campaigns, grassroots initiatives and shared governance.
This will help branches of ASM specialize, Bulovsky said, adding a combined financial branch will help mitigate disagreements between Student Council and SSFC.
McNally said the new constitution would also create a Student Senate he described as equivalent to Student Council.
However, McNally said the biggest change to Student Council would be the creation of a President’s Council. This body would essentially look like Coordinating Council with the addition of the leaders from other large student organizations on campus, he said.
McNally said large campus ideas from the President’s Committee would allow strong grassroots initiative to be brought to Student Senate. This would make ASM more transparent and useful while also allowing increased input from students, he added.
“ASM is a web between the different actors on campus,” McNally said. “What this is trying to do is expand our reach and expand our web to have a much more unified student voice.”