[Summer Slowdown, Summer Showdown Part 2]
[UPDATED, See Comments]
This legislative recap is brought to you by UP reporter Dylan Bouscher.
Old Feud, New Constitution
The Constitution Revision Commission has met three times this summer — and nothing in the constitution is revised yet.
The CRC is a group of students appointed by various leaders of Student Government. Their job is to update SG’s founding document by voting on proposed amendments.
Three members are appointed by the student body president, three are appointed by each of the campus House of Representatives, and two by the chief justice of the Student Court. These members of the CRC can vote and approve the CRC’s amendments, others can volunteer but not vote.
Yesterday’s CRC meeting was calm and quiet until one member erupted while reading his amendments.
“Why the fuck are you here? Get the fuck out,” Jonathan Mustain yelled across the room.
He’s a former assistant to former Boca Gov. Ryan Ebanks and was yelling at Stefon Napier, another former assistant of Ebanks.
Mustain, Ebanks and Napier were all sitting in the meeting when Mustain was in the middle of reading his amendments. Napier then motioned to table them indefinitely. This meant removing them from any consideration by the CRC.
Mustain’s amendments were 14 pages long, the same length as the SG constitution itself. Napier’s motion nearly stopped Mustain’s chance at revising the constitution in his words.
Some CRC members thought Napier’s motion was personal, none of them seconded it. The CRC took a five minute recess after the outburst.
“I think it was just a personal vendetta,” Ebanks said afterward. “If a person goes and revises the entire constitution to the point of making consistency between the constitution and statutes verbiage, I don’t think that person is being insincere.”
Napier disagreed with Ebanks about why he motioned to stop Mustain’s amendments, but didn’t propose any amendments himself.
“I felt like he was trying to be a diva. I didn’t think he was being sincere about it,” Napier said. “I didn’t speak because it was him, I have no problem with him, some of his amendments are good.”
Ryan Frierson, the assistant director for SG budget and finance, was at the CRC meeting representing Corey King, the dean of students. Frierson walked in and out of the meeting.
By the end of the meeting, there weren’t any grown ups in the room.
Earlier this summer, Jonathan Mustain submitted a petition to the Student Court about the constitution amendment process.
Because the current constitution says the CRC can only meet once every five years, and because the CRC amendments from 2010 were never sent to the Board of Trustees for approval — even though the student body voted and approved them — the CRC is meeting again this summer. The last step in the amendment process is the BOT vote to ratify amendments approved by the CRC and student body.
And although Napier was unaware of Mustain’s amendments before the last CRC meeting, Mustain has been trying to update the constitution since April. His first amendment was written as a bill passed by the Boca House of Representatives on June 8.
This amendment would give the SG president more time to sign bills passed by campus Houses, which helps bills passed on other campuses because of the time it takes for them to reach SG President Robert Huffman’s desk.
When Mustain tried to pass his amendment through the Boca House instead of the CRC, however, administrative alarms went off.
“This student body on its own cannot change those on the constitution, and there is a process,” Terry Mena said at a Boca House meeting in May.
Mena is the associate dean of students, and was referring to the CRC. He didn’t realize there are other ways SG can amend its constitution.
If an amendment were submitted as a bill for each campus House of Representatives to pass — as Mustain’s amendment was submitted — then the CRC wouldn’t need to be called.
Any amendment made by a campus House of Representatives, however, must be passed by a majority vote from all three campus Houses (Boca, Broward and Jupiter) in two meetings each. There used to be a campus House for the university’s Treasure Coast campus, but the campus has been suspended since June.
Mustain’s bill was voted on, and passed by the Boca House, twice, then sent to the other Houses and the Student Senate for approval.
When Mena spoke against this process, however, Mustain petitioned the court to find out if he really needed the CRC for his amendments to be official.
The Student Court agreed with Mustain’s method in its decision. It also changed how amendments from the campus Houses are passed. To guide the court’s decision-making, Chief Justice Nicholas Scalice read Article VII of the constitution (which outlines the amendment process), and asked the associate justices to interpret the section.
In their final decision, the court agreed on a literal interpretation of Section C. in Article VII.
- C. Upon approval of three (3) of the Campus Houses of
Representatives, the proposed amendment shall be placed on the
agenda of the Senate at their next meeting.
– D. Upon a two-thirds (2/3) approval of the Senate, the proposed
amendment shall be placed on the ballot at the next regularly
scheduled Student Body election.
So although any other bill passed by a campus House has to be signed by the respective campus governor, the court’s decision makes any amendment passed by a campus House able to skip the campus governor and go straight to the Student Senate.
Now, If Mustain’s amendments are passed by the campus Houses and Senate, then signed by the SG president and Charles Brown, the vice president of student affairs, they’ll be on the ballot this fall whether the CRC approves them or not.
And if the student body approves them in the fall election, Mustain’s amendments will go to the Board of Trustees for ratification.
“We interpret this as being a literal guide for which amendments must follow. There is no additional process needed,” Scalice said.
But the CRC has met three times now, creating the additional process Scalice and his court decided was not necessary.
Here are the most important amendments the CRC is considering:
- Raising the minimum GPA requirement for SG officials to 2.7
(Even though University Regulation 4.006 says FAU students only need to maintain a 2.5 GPA, and university policy trumps SG policy.)
- Removing the runoff election from SG president / vice president elections
- Eliminating the SG president’s veto power over bills passed in a campus House
- Changing the impeachment process for SG officers
- Changing minimum requirements for SG officers on other campuses
Because multiple amendments are being made by multiple members of the CRC for these issues, I’ll include the final version of the amended constitution in my next post. I’ll also provide a list of SG positions vacated and filled over the summer.
Stay tuned to OwlWatch for the third and final entry of the summer slowdown, summer showdown.