GA Approves New Wilf Constitution; Student Ratification Vote to be Held Monday
The Wilf Campus student government will run a ratification vote on the approval of a new proposed constitution Monday, coming after the General Assembly approved the constitution in a 4-1 vote Thursday.
The proposed constitution, along with an accompanying set of bylaws, is aimed at creating a clearer, more transparent and more efficient student government. It was written by the Wilf Amendments Committee with participation from student government and will restructure student government, creating a legislature and a budgeting oversight committee, and will consolidate each campus’ student councils as well.
Students will receive a ballot through email at 7 a.m. Monday morning, which will remain active until 11:00 p.m. Two-thirds of votes, excluding blanks, are necessary for the proposal to pass.
The Beren Campus student government will ratify a similar constitution internally Monday, with differences in the bylaws to reflect Beren Campus’s needs. It's unclear when or whether the constitution will go to a student vote.
The vote, originally scheduled for Thursday and delayed due to final edits on the proposed constitution, was announced at a constitutional convention held on Wilf Campus March 19. The convention’s goals were to inform students of the proposals and to encourage feedback, which remained open through town halls held on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The existing Wilf student government constitution was ratified in 2001. It has four student councils: Student Organization of Yeshiva (SOY), Sy Syms School of Business Student Council (SSSBSC), Yeshiva College Student Council (YCSC) and Yeshiva Student Union (YSU). These councils, along with Beren Campus’s Stern College for Women Student Council (SCWSC), Sy Syms School of Business Student Council (SSSBSC) and Torah Activities Council (TAC), will be consolidated into a single organization on each campus.
The proposed constitution will go into effect next year if ratified.
The new constitution was drafted to be more of a framework with accompanying bylaws to flesh out the document, Yitzhak Graff, secretary for the Wilf Amendments Committee, told The Commentator.
"The new Wilf Campus Student Government constitution was deliberately written as a framework for the basic structure of student government,” said Graff. “The benefit of this type of document is two-fold: First, the simpler document will be easier to understand for students who just want to know basic structure of the new government.
“Second, by placing all the finer details in bylaws, they will be easier to amend as the needs of the student body change without needing a full constitutional amendment."
Under the proposed constitution, student government will be divided into executive, legislative and judicial branches.
The executive branch in the proposed constitution will consist of a president, a religious affairs committee that will adopt the name SOY, an executive vice president, a finance committee, and a cabinet. Some of these positions, such as the president, vice president and SOY members, will be elected, while others will be appointed by the president and confirmed by the legislature.
The religious affairs committee will retain the name SOY since SOY’s structure and function, including having a president, will remain mostly unchanged and because SOY is a legacy aspect of Wilf Campus student government, dating back to the 1920s.
TAC will also remain at Beren.
The legislative branch, a 15-person student legislature, will have representation from different Undergraduate Torah Studies (UTS) programs and colleges, as well as from first-year on-campus and international students; these are termed “districts” in the bylaws.
The legislature, which will have a speaker, will be elected and will confirm presidential appointments, approve the budget, create legislation, run special committees, handle impeachments and exercise veto override.
The judicial branch will be composed of a five-person court, along with a Justice Pro Tempore to stand in should a judge need to recuse themselves, which remains unchanged from the current system. A new three-person election commission, also part of the judicial branch, will be created to replace the canvassing committee and will administer elections.
Justices and members of the election committee will be nominated by the president. Applicants will be able to complete an application for the role, and after nomination, will subsequently be confirmed by the legislature.
A document shared at town halls on Wilf Campus discussing the proposals Tuesday and Wednesday outlined several arguments for a new constitution. It argued that under the current constitution, clubs and student councils are not structured clearly, creating “fake positions with a lack of job descriptions” and allowing a general lack of fiscal oversight to exist, allowing “four students on Wilf [to] have unilateral control of $327,000.”
Wilf and Beren student campuses also lacked “parallels” between their governments, the document argued, making cross-campus cooperation difficult.
The new constitution aims to solve these issues, the document stated. It aims to solve transparency issues around clubs by changing club formats into three categories: societies, clubs and publications. Student organizations will be incorporated into whichever category best describes their goals.
Students running these organizations will also be required to attend club training and receive budgetary approvals when applying to form.
The proposed constitution also hopes to solve transparency issues in student government by creating better-defined roles and restructuring student government so its structure can be explained “on a single piece of paper instead of … five.”
To solve transparency issues around funding, the proposed constitution will also have a finance committee, which will keep track of student government funds and will publish reports of spending. Cooperation between campuses should also be made easier by the new constitution.
The total number of elected positions will remain the same, but non-elected positions will be reduced from approximately 35 to 20 roles.
YSU President Baruch Lerman (YC ‘23) told The Commentator that he believed the proposed constitution would make an impact on student government.
“I hope this new system will fully accomplish the goal we set out for it by creating more meaningful opportunities for students to get involved and make an impact on their experiences here,” said Lerman.
Lerman also told The Commentator that he was grateful to everyone involved in writing the constitution.
“I’m grateful to the various parties that played such major roles in the documents becoming what they are, specifically, the amendments committee, who spent so many hours working on this document, and my fellow student council presidents who provided invaluable insights and feedback throughout the process,” said Lerman. “I also want to give a shout out to the YU employees whose feedback we received; it was most helpful in our work.”
The results of Monday’s election will be announced shortly after polls close.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated April 2 to reflect that the previous constitution was ratified in 2001, not 2014, and that a constitutional convention did not occur on Beren Campus.
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Photo Caption: A student vote for the approval of a new proposed constitution will be held Monday.
Photo Credit: Yeshiva University