SGA Confusion

By Lisa Crawford

September 18, 2007

After investigations made by Academic and Student Affairs administrators, the Student Government Association was informed that the current constitution, voted into effect in April 2006, was invalid due to a lack of administrative approval.  SGA’s new advisor and Interim Assistant Provost and Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs,  Cindy Heider, said she came across the absence of administrative approval while familiarizing herself with the processes of the organization prior to the SGA constitutional convention scheduled for Sept. 16. “Some resolutions were still in a kind of a limbo, and we needed to make sure they were getting formally approved or that they were being revised,” Heider said. “But I couldn’t find anywhere that the most recent constitution had actually been approved at the administrative level.” She then approached Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Joseph Bragin with the issue.  Heider said Bragin wanted to make sure the constitution had the authority and the approval so that it could operate and there wouldn’t be any question on what is and is not allowed.   SGA Vice President Luke Herrington believes the constitution was adequately approved because the current Dean of Student Development at the time, Paul Shang, had to have signed it because elements in the new constitution such as the existance of the Student Court were printed in the Student Handbook, which is published by the dean’s office. Herrington believes that since the student body approved the constitution more than a year and a half ago and no one has raised objections, then the administration must know and should recognize without question that these changes have been in place. Herrington assumes the constitution was lost on its way to the Vice President because of transitions made between former Vice President David Arnold, Interim Vice President Jeanie Daffron and eventually Bragin. Herrington also believes that regardless of where the constitution was lost, it would have been made valid by the dean of student development’s signature alone. Every previous constitution was approved after a student body vote, a signature by the SGA president and a signature from the dean of student development.  None of the previous constitutions has required signatures from the provost and president.  In addition, there is nothing in The Handbook or the Missouri Western Policy Guide that mandates the additional two signatures.  Still, Heider and Bragin both argue that the constitution is illegitimate because it is lacking two additional signatures from the provost and university president. “I think a lot of this is tied up with the SGA fee that’s been instituted, and the SGA really has to be sensitive to the fact that since they have the ability to recommend allocations of money and things like that that there is going to be more scrutiny over what they do and how they do it,” Heider said. The SGA fee was implemented in fall 2003 and gave SGA the opportunity to spend over $400,000 on the students. Herrington feels the students should have the right to spend their money as they wish.   “They are trying to treat us like one of their departments…which has to do whatever they say,” Herrington said. “They are not letting us properly represent the students, which is what we are supposed to do. We are not supposed to be a tool of the administration.” With the fear of the constitution truly being illegitimate, senators contested that their positions would all be invalid as well. Under the previous constitution, the Articles of Association, SGA would be reduced to 20 senators, the Student Court would not exist, and the terms of office of the executive members would have expired this past spring after an election held in April. Since an election was not held in April, under the Articles of Association, the only legitimate member of SGA would be Student Governor Harold Callaway because his office is appointed by the state of Missouri. Heider confirmed that SGA is a recognized organization on our campus and that they have a constitution. “We continue to have a smooth operation,” Heider said. “We didn’t want this to be disruptive in any way at all. We are just asking them to update their constitution and have it have re-approved.” Though some changes were proposed at the constitutional convention Sunday, SGA plans to continue with the convention forum in October. “The convention is a regular effort by the student body to update their constitution,” Heider said. “And I think they can reaffirm the parts they believe are still current and update the parts that they would prefer to have changed and then we can move that forward.”