Last semester was largely unprecedented for Elon University’s Student Government Association. The Chick-fil-A controversy that erupted on campus prompted an ad hoc committee to draft several amendments to the organization’s constitution, some of which will appear on SGA election ballots this week. The amendments will be finalized if a simple majority of the student body approves them.
In a 38-2 vote Feb. 7, the SGA Senate passed an amendment limiting the age of candidates for the executive president, vice president, secretary and treasurer positions. Many senators agreed eligible candidates should be rising juniors or seniors, for the executive branch is often tasked with making difficult, and sometimes controversial, decisions.
The Senate also passed an amendment permitting organizations and committees to allow their SGA representative to speak during the budget allocation process to “provide additional information on his or her constituent’s behalf, should the constituent so desire.”
The Senate debated two proposed amendments at length. After much discussion, an amendment affording the executive president veto power over both resolutions and bills did not pass. The constitution currently allows the executive president to veto bills, not resolutions, and some senators expressed concern that the ability to veto both types of legislation would afford the executive president too much power.
Greg Zitelli, junior class president, said it’s important to understand the difference between a bill and a resolution. A bill is a call for action, while a resolution simply expresses a sentiment. In the past, resolutions have expressed the Senate’s condolences for victims and mourners of tragedies in the Elon community.
“I think that resolution was intentionally left out of the constitution,” Zitelli said. “A group of people can still have a say on something if an action is not taken.”
Others argued that limiting the executive president’s veto power creates a constitutional loophole. Some referred to the Chick-fil-A legislation that the Senate examined last fall. It first presented and passed as a bill, but after Executive President Darien Flowers vetoed it, it resurfaced as a resolution and passed in a 30-8-2 vote.
“The opportunity for a bill or resolution to be in the Senate is a way to bring an issue to light,” said junior Patrick Brown. “Having a means to bypass the executives is not the best way to do that.”
After considerable debate, the amendment failed in a 17-22 vote. Flowers said the failure of the amendment unnecessarily expanded the power of the Senate.
“There are things the Senate does that should, if a simple majority of senators can speak for their constituents, have no checks or ramifications,” he said. “But we want to make sure there is a constraint on government. We don’t want it to expand itself beyond oversight or outside of its charge.”
An amendment requiring candidates for executive positions to have at least one year of SGA experience also failed in the Senate. Some argued no amount of Senate experience will prepare a student for an executive role, and others said the amendment would unfairly restrict executive eligibility requirements.
“I believe in age requirements, but I don’t believe in saying ‘Well, you don’t know the senate process, so you can’t run,’” said junior Ricky Rosati. “There’s a learning curve no matter what.”