Wilf Campus Student Government Holds Forum to Discuss Amendments to Student Constitution
On December 14, the Wilf campus Student Government held an open forum for students to propose and discuss potential amendments to the Wilf campus Student Constitution. Despite the Constitution's requirement of a semesterly Amendment Convention, this marks only the second Convention that has occurred since the Constitution was amended extensively in 2014. The event was announced in an email to the student body the day before the forum by the Student Government Presidents, and was attended by seven students.
The hour-long event was run by Yeshiva Student Union President Zach Sterman and Student Life Committee Senior Co-Chair Jesse Silverman, both members of the General Assembly, the governing council of the Student Government. The majority of the event was spent discussing amendments that were submitted by students via email prior to the forum. Attendees voiced their opinions on the proposals in an open conversation with Sterman and Silverman, as well as fellow students. In the latter part of the gathering, participants suggested and discussed their own amendments to the Constitution. According to Sterman, the General Assembly currently plans to hold the General Student Body Amendment Vote, where the students will vote whether to ratify proposed amendments, after the winter break.
Proposed amendments discussed include a new requirement for Student Government to be more transparent about their budgets, a clause allowing students to apply for club status at any time during the academic year, and removing all mentions of The Commentator, the WYUR radio club, and the Yeshiva College Dramatics Society from the Constitution.
The Wilf Campus Student Constitution states that the Student Government “shall convene a Constitutional Amendments Convention each semester with the purpose of raising any potential amendments to the Student Government Constitution. All students shall have the opportunity to state opinions with regard to specifics of the Student Government Constitution, as well as to propose their own amendments.” The Amendment Forum event was born out of a desire by members of Student Government to offer students such an opportunity to publicly share their thoughts on proposed amendments and the Constitution.
Sterman stated, “I thought the forum was very positive. It's important to discuss and amend the Constitution, and, more broadly, it's important to have opportunities and open channels for discussions between student council and student body.”
Yeshiva College Junior Yair Lichtman, who attended the event and proposed amendments, stated, "I found the event productive overall. We discussed the Constitution frankly, acknowledging its limitations while exploring ways in which it can be improved, and I found President Sterman and Co-chair Silverman to be receptive to the perspective of other students...For my first few semesters on campus, no amendments convention of any kind was held. Last semester, the 'convention' was held online, and the whole process felt shrouded in secrecy. I hope that the transparency and openness to student input continue throughout the process—especially in the General Assembly's decision on which amendments to put on the ballot."
According to the formal amendment process outlined in the Constitution, the General Assembly must create an Amendments Committee, which is tasked with running the semesterly Convention. During the Convention, students are given an opportunity to submit amendment proposals, after which the General Assembly votes on which proposals will be voted upon by the entire male undergraduate student body in the General Student Body Amendment Vote.
In the Spring 2017 semester, the first Convention since 2014 resulted in controversy after an ambiguity arose regarding the implementation of a ratified amendment requiring the Canvassing Committee to release the full, detailed results of Student Government Elections. In a case held in the Student Court after the ratification vote, the Canvassing Committee argued that the amendment only applied to succeeding elections, not the election vote during which the amendment itself was ratified. The Court ultimately ruled in petitioner David Rubinstein’s favor and required the Canvassing Committee to release the results. However, the Office of Student Life was the only body in possession of the full results, and released an abridged version of the results after the court decision. YC Senior David Rubinstein, currently the Managing Editor of The Commentator, also penned an opinion piece in the paper last year casting doubt on the historicity of the original ratification of the Constitution, writing, “the constitution, and as a result, any amendment to it, is invalid.”
Rubinstein stated, “Regardless of whether the student constitution does bind students, there is serious unawareness of what the constitution says and there is repeated violation of it. I welcome the student council's attempt to spread awareness of the constitution and to encourage student participation in its amending...[and] I hope that the drafters of any future constitutional texts are clear about the date that it will take effect.”