Student files challenge seeking assembly of house of delegates
Student Government wants to overturn a recently discovered section of its legislative codes that would create a house of delegates consisting of representatives from student organizations, according to an unnamed member of the executive staff. The staffer also said SG sought to hide these codes from the general public and The Daily Gamecock.
But first, SG must defend itself in an organizational challenge — the SG equivalent of a lawsuit — filed by a student organization that says its constitutional rights are being breached by not allowing representatives to assemble and present legislation as part of the house of delegates.
Legislative codes 700 through 799, referred to as “the 700 codes,” define the house of delegates, which entitles every registered student organization to have one representative delegate. They were discovered by SG’s Constitutional Council during a legislative audit during the spring semester.
After the audit, the 113 pages of legislative codes were distributed to members of student senate, including Josh Snead, who represented the Darla Moore School of Business.
The general public was not made aware of these codes at the time. Until 8 p.m. Wednesday, the link to the codes on SG’s website led to a locked Google document, access to which had to be approved by an administrator. It was made public at the request of The Daily Gamecock and can be accessed through student senate’s webpage.
What you need to know about the ‘700 codes’
Every student organization in good standing is entitled to, but not required to have, one delegate in the house of delegates.
The house of delegates may write and pass legislation, which must then be passed by student senate.
The house of delegates may set its own rules, as long as they do not conflict with Student Government’s legislative codes.
The house of delegates shall have a speaker of the house, deputy speaker of the house and secretary.
Any changes to the 700 codes governing the house of delegates must be approved by both the house of delegates and the student senate.
When Snead, who is also president of the South Carolina E-Sports Club, felt that SG wouldn’t implement the 700 codes without an organizational challenge, he decided to file one.
“I submitted a formal request to the student body president this semester via email asking that Student Government execute the 700 codes in their entirety within the next 30 days, and I received no response,” the third-year international business and global supply chain operations and management student said. “So, that’s when I decided to submit an organizational challenge.”
The challenge requests the same thing. If Constitutional Council decides in Snead’s favor, the house of delegates must be convened.
Attorney General Devon Thurman has until Sept. 10 to file a formal response to the challenge, according to Chief Justice Donnie Iorio. After that, Constitutional Council must decide if the challenge has standing in accordance with SG’s constitution. If it does, a public hearing will take place and the council will decide whether SG must enact the 700 codes and call the house of delegates into session.
According to the current codes, any changes to the house of delegates would have to be approved by the body. After learning of the body’s existence, conversations among executive officers and staff focused on how to dissolve it, according to the executive staff member.
“It was immediately, ‘How do we kill it?’” the staff member said. “They don’t think it’s feasible. They are trying to dissolve it without it ever meeting.”
Ideas discussed in meetings of executive officers and staff included filing a constitutional challenge against the codes with the goal of having them stricken by the Constitutional Council or calling a meeting of the house of delegates consisting of only delegates who would vote to dissolve the body, the staff member said.
But Snead said SG should have called the house of delegates into session as soon as the codes were discovered.
“It’s a worthy conversation to have whether or not it would be good, but what matters is what’s currently in the codes,” Snead said. “If anyone currently in SG has an issue with the codes, they have a right to challenge exactly what codes they believe to be invalid.”
According to SG’s legislative codes, all codes must be carried out as written, even if undergoing a constitutional challenge, which would force Constitutional Council to rule on their constitutionality.
Outreach to and engagement with student organizations was an overarching theme in the last round of SG elections. However, members of SG’s executive branch do not believe the house of delegates would be an effective tool for this, the staff member said.
“It was a conversation of ‘I don’t think we can logistically do it. You don’t want to get people’s hopes up by promising this and having it not work,’” the staff member said. “Student senate is accomplishing a lot of goals that the house of delegates would through different avenues right now.”
Snead said the house of delegates would not only enhance legislation related to funding student organizations and the relationship between SG and USC’s student groups, but would make SG more representative of the student body.
“Because it is such a grassroots body, your average, everyday student has the opportunity to get involved in this process without having to commit the time to elections or committee meetings,” Snead said. “You have a process that can give a voice to more relevant legislative issues. It would legitimize Student Government and give them the legitimacy to say we actually represent the everyday student. The everyday student doesn’t walk through the Campus Life Center or submit legislation to Student Government. The average student spends time thinking about what they care about most in their life.”
Student Body President Chase Mizzell, Student Body Vice President Ryan Bailey, and Chief Justice Donnie Iorio would not comment on the case, pending Thurman’s response.
But, for now, there’s only one thing Snead really wants.
“Carry out the codes,” he said. “That’s all we’re asking.”