SGA Constitutional Conflicts

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Several members of the Student Government Association (SGA) of Sam Houston State University approached The Houstonian suggesting that the constitution for the SGA is in violation of the Texas State University System (TSUS) Rules and Regulations.

On April 18 and 19, 2017, the SHSU student body voted 75% in favor of the new constitution on the ballot.

Since student approval, SHSU Vice President Frank Parker, SGA Co-Advisor Chelsea Smith, and several SGA members have met to make changes to the document, amending portions with updated wording and additional procedures. The modifications that are taking place after the ballot are what lead members to believe they were acting in violation of the TSUS guidelines.

The new document made changes to many sections of the bill. “[The changed version] is a naked attempt by certain members of the administration to control how we want our organization to be structured, and how it will operate,” SGA Sen. and co-author of the proposed constitution, Rhys Blavier said.

“It is obvious that they made many knee jerk changes without understand why we put some things in, or why specific language was used. Nor do they seem to have cared,” Rhys said.

 

Rhys’ accusations were specific.

 

“On page 6, they make a note of “clean up” without telling us what they actually mean. And on page 7, they want resignations to only be accepted in writing without, apparently, understanding that you cannot force someone who wants to leave an organization to jump through any hoops.” He said.

“The division of Student Affairs, mainly Vice President Frank Parker and SGA Co-Advisor Chelsea Smith, is tearing the new constitution apart with no input from those who were involved in writing it, and with no defense of the document,” one SGA member, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “Sam Houston State University is currently in violation of 7.13 and 7.14 of the TSUS Rules and Regulations.”

Chapter 7 of the TSUS Rules and Regulations pertains to student government. When amendments and repeals of the student government’s constitution are called into question, the system’s stance is stated in section 13 and 14.

 7 .13 Amendment or Repeal by the Board of Regents: The Board shall amend or repeal any portion of the constitution and bylaws of a student government when, in the judgment of the Board, the interests of the particular Component shall require it.

 7 .14 Amendment or Repeal by the President: The President shall have the power to amend or repeal any provision in the constitution or bylaws of the student government, when in the President’s judgment, the interests of the Component require it. The action by the President shall be subject to review Subsection 7.13, above.

Further investigation, however, illustrated that the SGA constitutional process is not in any violations of the TSUS Rules and Regulations.

The section from the TSUS Rules and Regulations does apply to ratified and approved component constitutions from the various student governments in the system. All governing documents and most policies at a university must be approved by the university president before they come into effect, but until that happens they are considered works in progress and remain open to improvements.

“The last SGA constitution on record that was ratified and then approved by the university president was in 2005. Since no changes are being proposed or made to that document, TSUS Rules 7.13 and 7.14 do not apply and therefore, no violation has or will occur,” Vice President Parker said. “The constitution in question is a work in progress and not approved.”

Therefore, only if the document was already approved by SHSU President Dana Hoyt herself, would it be in violation of 7.13 and 7.14 of the TSUS Rules and Regulations.

“It is not very reasonable to expect a university president, who has the most complex and demanding job in higher education to read and review a raw document that is more than 48 pages and is in need of re-writes,” Parker said.

“The members of SGA involved should be commended for developing a new Constitution for the organization. They have worked diligently during the spring semester to get this document ready for implementation for the fall semester. However, there are some items that need to be tweaked or changed before the President will approve the document for full implementation. As her designee in this matter, I have worked with Deans Yarabeck and Smith and they in turn, are working with SGA members to complete the task.” Parker said.

The SGA members and advisors have since continued to make improvements to the constitution until it is ready to be ratified officially by Hoyt for the fall of 2017.

The SGS meets weekly on Tuesday nights at 7 in the LSC Room 326.

Parker’s Complete Response:

“Thank you for your e-mail concerning the constitution of the Student Government Association (SGA) for Sam Houston State University. The section from the Texas State University System (TSUS) “Rules and Regulations” does indeed apply to ratified and approved Component constitutions from the various Student Governments in the System. Any governing documents and most policies at a university must be approved ultimately by the President before they come into effect and, until that happens, they are considered works in progress. The last SGAConstitution on record that was ratified and then approved by the University President was in 2005. Since no changes are being proposed or made to that document, TSUS Rules 7.13 and 7.14 do not apply and therefore, no violation has or will occur. The constitution in question is a work in progress and not approved.
Emily, the members of SGA involved should be commended for developing a new Constitution for the organization. They have worked diligently during the spring semester to get this document ready for implementation for the fall semester. However, there are some items that need to be tweaked or changed before the President will approve the document for full implementation. As her designee in this matter, I have worked with Deans Yarabeck and Smith and they in turn, are working with SGA members to complete the task. Unfortunately, there are those who do not understand the process or may be stuck in the “pride of authorship” mode and thereby offended by any suggested changes. The ultimate goal is to have all of the ratification and approval process completed well before the end of the fall semester. This all reminds me of the time I set out to write the System Rule that created the Regent’s Scholar Program for the TSUS. Several time I thought I had a completely perfect document that the Regents would readily approve. Little did I know, it would take five re-writes and four months to complete. I stuck to it, swallowed my pride and the end result is that we now have a TSUS Regents Scholar Program in which two SHSU students have received the award.
We will continue to work with SGA to complete the task and I will make sure it does not take five re-writes and four months. I hope this answers your questions, if not I am always willing to have a conversation about the process.
Frank”