Student Government passed sweeping and historic revisions to its Constitution Wednesday night, paving the way for graduate students to have much greater representation in the organization.
The legislation passed with more than 90 percent of the vote, much more than the two-thirds needed for any constitutional change. Should the student body support the revisions in a special referendum vote in the fall, the changes will go into effect in March 2011.
“This is huge,” Graduate Student Association President Alan Tauber said. “It validates our place as full students of the university, and it allows us to productively work towards the solution of graduate student issues.”
The bill creates a bicameral student government, with two separate branches dealing with issues pertaining to undergraduate and graduate students, respectively. Both branches have their own vice presidents and treasurers. The student body president can be either a graduate or undergraduate student.
The changes to the constitution have been in the works since December 2008. Then GSA President Reed Curtis scheduled a meeting with Sen. Ben Bullock and then-Student Body Vice President Meredith Ross with a long list of grievances and saying the organization would like to completely split from SG.
“Meredith and I looked at him and couldn’t find a single grievance that wasn’t justified,” Bullock said. “And we said to Reed, give us time to address this issue and find a solution to this problem. And he let us, and this is the solution we have.”
Bullock, Sen. Matt Ungar and Tauber gave impassioned speeches on the Senate floor, begging senators to vote for the legislation. They were all quick to admit the bill isn’t perfect. But after a year of committee meetings and compromises, they said this represents the best solution for all parties involved. Most seemed to agree.
“On the whole, this bill will best represent all the students in the university,” Sen. Michael Chisholm said.
No one spoke against the bill during a period of debate, and only Ungar, Sen. Chad Devlin and Sen. Ray Curbelo voted against the bill. After the vote, Devlin and Bullock exchanged terse words in the back of the chamber.
“Your resume looks good now,” Devlin said.
“I didn’t do this for my resume,” Bullock shot back.
“I bet,” Devlin said with a smirk.
“If I did this for my resume, I wouldn’t have worked so hard on it,” Bullock retorted before walking away.
Tauber, one of the biggest champions for the legislation, gave four fist pumps in the back of the room when the bill passed. He’ll give up his term in May and likely won’t be in Columbia this fall.
“It’s bittersweet I won’t be here,” Tauber said. “But it’s sweeter than if it wouldn’t have passed at all.”