OUSC update: The constitution controversy and what’s to come

On Friday, March 28 revisions to the Oakland University Student Congress constitution did not pass. The constitution needed at least half of the total votes to pass, the total being 1,144 and the constitution receiving 530, just shy of the halfway mark.

The proposed changes included removal of the Student Program Board chairperson and Student Activities Funding Board chairperson from the executive board of Student Congress, the removal of voting rights of the RHA representative, and the addition of a Greek Council non-voting representative.

While many students were aware of the elections for Student Body President and Vice President, few knew that the constitution was up for approval.

Keeping students informed

Junior Anthony Spak voted for president and vice president but did not vote on the constitution because he had no knowledge of it, he said.

Spak, who lives in Vandenberg Hall, was particularly concerned with the fact that the RHA representative could lose his or her voting right.

“If I would have known that information I would have voted to keep their voice,” Spak said.

Spak said he considers himself to be a student that stays informed and he was not happy learning about the issue so late.

“I was upset that I wasn’t informed about the issue,” Spak said. “I was in a position to vote for something I knew nothing about.”

There are many questions Spak had that he believes other students have regarding the constitution and OUSC practices.

“Where do you even find the constitution?” Spak asked. “How does the average student find this stuff?”

Transparency and communication is what is needed in order for OUSC to properly work, according to Spak.

Spak suggested ideas such as a weekly podcast, email updates, or just taking advantage of the new media as options for OUSC to keep the student body informed.

A lengthy process

Senior and former two-time OUSC legislator Nusrat Zaman explained how all of the proposed changes came about.

Zaman said the chair of Student Activities Funding Board Phillip Johnson and the Chair of Student Program Board Kalik Jones sat down with Judiciary Chair Kyler Johnson, Student Body President Brandon Hanna, and Student Body Vice President Jibran Ahmed to discuss having SPB and SAFB taken off the executive board so they can fully operate as their own entities.

Zaman said that this was per request of SPB and SAFB.

As for the RHA representative, Zaman said the issue went through multiple discussions and the consensus of the legislators. Because the RHA representative was appointed by RHA and did not go through a student body vote, legislators decided that the representative should not have voting rights.

Zaman said the presence and voice of the RHA representative is still important.

“RHA still needs to have a position,” Zaman said.

Because the constitution did not pass, Zaman said the new administration will have to rewrite the constitution and have it go through another student vote.

According to Zaman, it is the judiciary chair that initiates the process of constitutional amendments.

From then on the proposed amendment(s) must go through a first and second reading at a meeting at least seven days apart; be passed by two thirds of the legislature; be passed by a majority vote in a student referendum; and finally, must obtain ratification from the Board of Trustees.

Zaman said that the new administration would have to look at several aspects of the constitution before putting it through another vote.

“I feel they need to focus on the terminology,” Zaman said.

Overall, Zaman said the key to getting things done in Student Congress is to “be respectful about everyone.”

Fellow former legislator Marissa Coloske also understands the amount of work that will be needed to get a new, working constitution passed.

“Them having to go through that process again is a huge thing,” Coloske said.

Coloske said she believes the constitution did not pass because of the RHA upset.

She said she hopes the Grizzly Alliance program will be brought back because it could help with any miscommunication between student organizations and OUSC. The alliance was created to allow the leaders of student clubs and organizations, direct communication with the leaders of OUSC, according to Coloske.

Coloske noted that with this election, only 17 students ran for legislator of 23 that the congress holds. 16 are needed for quorum, or, to vote.

“That’s hugely disappointing,” Coloske said.

Coloske said she has high hopes for the new administration with the new Student Body President and Vice President in their ability to bring importance back to OUSC.

Looking to the future

Current Student Body President Brandon Hanna commented on the constitution as well as the future of OUSC.

“I think many students may have been misinformed on the constitution,” Hanna said. “It’s our duty as student congress to better inform the student body on what is in the constitution.”

Hanna said this is the first time the constitution has been updated since 2006, and updated for the second time in 1994.

He said he is happy that there were students that voted and voiced their opinion.

“It’s really important that those students’ voices were heard by voting yes or no on the constitution,” Hanna said.

If student concerns about the constitution continue, a student referendum vote can happen at any time, according to Hanna.

The OUSC constitution states that in order for the student body to pass amendments to the constitution there must be a “collection of petition signatures totaling two-thirds of the total number of votes cast in the previous presidential election,” then a majority vote by students in the referendum, and finally ratification by the Board of Trustees.

Hanna will serve as a legislator in the new administration and said he is excited to see what the new student body leaders will bring.

“I know they’re going to do a good job representing the student body,” Hanna said.