Two student government groups at William and Mary, the Undergraduate Assembly and the Student Assembly Senate, met last week, reaching important decisions on a proposed amendment to the SA Constitution.
“We’ll veto other bad amendments in the future too,” said Junior Class President Ned Rice during the Undergraduate Assembly’s 24 February meeting. The “Undergrad,” a collection of class officers, shares power with the Graduate Assembly to veto proposals to amend the SA Constitution after passage by the SA Senate.
The amendment in question was designed to reduce the number of Senators needed to propose future amendments. It passed through the Senate on a whim during its 9 February meeting. The point, however, became moot after the class officers said no.
Among the reasons for rejecting the amendment was that it was delivered to Undergrad three weeks late and incorrectly. While the actual amendment sought to change the number of Senators needed to amend from three-fourths in office to three-fourths present at any given meeting, the proposal given to Undergrad would have also changed all cases in which a three-fourths majority was needed, including removing impeached persons from office.
Weighing in on Undergrad’s decision was Dave Solimini, a senior adviser to President Brian Cannon. Solimini circulated a memo showing that the proposal could lower the number of votes needed to amend the constitution by as many as six. However, Solimini said, he was presenting as a concerned constituent rather than a presidential staff member.
“It’s not our place to be in this issue, […] they have the right to amend it,” said Cannon in a 9 February briefing. Though he said, “Our Constitution isn’t perfect,” he did insist that, “The amendment procedure should be the one we guard most closely.”
“We should just veto it until they send us a proper document. […] I don’t even see the point in discussing it,” said Junior Class Treasurer Jay Ford. His fellow officers agreed. “If you want to do this, try it again,” said Rice.
“If you veto this, basically you’re saying you don’t trust yourself,” said Junior Senator Luther Lowe, who had originally proposed the amendment on the Senate floor. He pointed out that Undergrad would always have the opportunity to veto amendments. According to Lowe, the high threshold in the Senate “paralyzed” the SA in the event of a “pressing Constitutional matter.”
“We’ve created a system where basically we have a very strong Executive and the rest of us have to scrounge for power at the bottom,” said Lowe. “I suspected the [Executive Branch] would come out and try to kill it tonight […] Do you trust Dave [Solimini] and Brian [Cannon] and everybody more than yourself?”
Lowe later moderated his remarks concerning the amendment.
“Let me first apologize,” said Lowe during the Senate’s 25 February meeting. Lowe apologized to “Eric and everyone,” for blaming Eric Kronman, Senate Chairman, for the miscommunication between Senate and Undergrad on the amendment. Kronman replied that he will hand-deliver amendments in the future.
The Senate will consider whether to send the amendment back for another try in a future meeting. Prospects for its passage, however, are grim according to Jamie Jackson, Undergrad Chairwoman. Jackson believes her group would have vetoed the proposal even if it had not been late and incorrectly stated.