Student body to vote on revamped student government constitution

SGA president Alex Sutton holds the signed Constitutional Revision Act | Elise Gregg, PantherNOW

Elise Gregg | Editor-in-Chief

Tomorrow, students can vote yay or nay to a series of changes to the student government constitution, revamping the old constitution created in 2021

Voting is open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at https://voting.fiu.edu/

The proposed changes are the culmination of two semesters’ worth of work from SGA’s constitutional convention, established by executive order in June of 2023.

“I’m overjoyed that we got this done,” said SGA president Alex Sutton in a press release to student media. “As I wrote in my letter to the editor back in April of last year, reform is needed to make our SGA work even better for the student body.”

“This took a long time, but I’m proud it was done through consensus, compromise, and a democratic and open process.”

Members of the Constitutional Convention pose with the signed Constitutional Revision Act | Elise Gregg, PantherNOW

Sutton’s executive order creating the convention acknowledged that the 2021 constitution has altered the balance of power between branches, which a PantherNOW investigation revealed heavily favored the executive branch.

That constitution included the expansion of the executive order system, which made FIU the only public university in Florida to have such a system without any oversight other than the approval of the senior vice president of academic and student affairs.

That constitution was revised just before Alexander Rubido, 2021-22 SGA president, ran unopposed and became head of the executive branch.

He used the executive order system 10 times during his presidency, most notably during renovations of the Game Room

In comparison, 2022-23 SGA president Cris Lugo passed six executive orders, though Sutton had at least nine orders during his 2023-24 term

“This referendum will finally put the ‘student’ back into the Student Government Association’s Constitution,” stated the Chair of the Constitutional Convention, Brian Levine in the press release. 

“For the last 3 years, the SGA has been operating under a Constitution that was drafted behind closed doors, and then enacted by administration without approval of the Student Body or the Student Senate.”

The new constitution includes a students’ bill of rights – section two of the old constitution included several of the same rights, but the new proposed constitution vastly expands many of those rights, including “a right to take exception to any decision, policy or view — academic or otherwise — of the University, and bring their grievances to the appropriate SGA official(s).”

The new bill of rights explicitly recognizes the rights and freedoms of student media at FIU and includes a commitment to diversity, among a myriad of other expansions. 

Section ten of the new constitution also expands some of the due process rights for students included in the 2021 constitution.

The constitution includes several changes to the processes of student government, including name changes to some positions (“senate president” would change to “speaker of the senate”). 

In a phone interview with PantherNOW, Sutton clarified several other changes that may be important to the student body as a whole. 

Of note, the executive order system is still in place.

“The other branches are getting more power,” Sutton said, claiming that with other internal changes to the judicial and legislative branches, the executive branch will have less of a monopoly on power even though executive orders remain the same.

One of those changes to the senate will allow senators to discipline its own members instead of the judicial branch. The newly added internal affairs committee will investigate “malfeasance or nonfeasance” and make recommendations for censure or removal.

Per the old constitution, the judicial branch was responsible for investigations and removal for any SGA official in response to writs filed by the attorney general. 

The Biscayne Bay Campus is also getting some more power through the recommended BBC Legislative Council.

“They will confirm members of the governor’s cabinet instead of the senate,” Sutton said, adding that when the senate performs those duties, it means that Modesto Maidique Campus students are largely responsible for confirming BBC executives.

This council will also be responsible for filling any vacancies that arise for BBC governor and lieutenant governor. 

The constitutional revisions would also extend judicial terms from one year to two.

“This will hopefully increase continuity and accountability,” Sutton told PantherNOW. 

Finally, elections would be moved to two weeks after spring break, instead of the week after. Students would also have a write-in option for candidates of all positions under the new constitution. 

To prepare for voting, students can review the proposed constitution online as well as the old constitution on SGA’s website

“I am proud that the Convention had a fully open and transparent process, that actively solicited student feedback,” Levine stated in the press release. “Now, the final decision rests with the student body where it belongs.”

“This Constitution will ensure that a government of the Students, by the Students, and for the Students shall not perish from our University.” 

This article used reporting from a 2022 investigation of the SGA executive branch by 2022 investigative director Michael McEwen. 

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