The Evaluation and Review Committee (E&CR) suggested changes to the ASPSU constitution at the student senate meeting Wednesday. The proposed changes to the election process sparked debate and discussion among the senators.
The E&CR proposed changing the election process from strictly democratic to a more representative version. The recommendation was received with skepticism by the senate, while all other proposed changes to the constitution passed smoothly.
The E&CR, made up of Paul Paris, Elijah Micahlowski, Jane Lee, Amara Marino and Aaron Bertrand suggested changing the process for student senate elections. Currently elections are campus-wide, with the candidates receiving the most votes winning.
The E&CR recommended classifying candidates by the college or school with which they identify, and accepting only a predetermined number of representatives from each sector. The proposed change is an attempt to diversify the senate by requiring participation from the different schools and colleges at Portland State.
The E&CR proposed that of the 25 voting members of the senate, 16 come from the eight on-campus colleges and schools, five come from student development clusters, three remain at-large and one be a freshman appointee by the student body president.
The proposed change sparked an hour-long debate in which many senators voiced disapproval of the proposed change.
Senator David Jimenez was the first to voice his concerns. He felt that some colleges have students that historically participate more in student government than others, and that requiring the senate to have two representatives from each school and college could be problematic.
“Someone from one college could get 300 votes and not be elected to the senate, while someone from another might receive two and be elected simply because there is no one else wanting to run from his college,” Jimenez said.
The E&CR explained that its goal is to get more students involved in the student government process, and to integrate students from different areas of study into the senate. Marino said that representing a specific group would also make senators more responsible in their work.
“If you are elected as a representative of your college or school, you have a constituency to which you will feel accountable,” Marino said.
By a show of hands, it was confirmed that nearly every current senator is in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Ultimately, the proposed change would require nearly equal representation from all of the colleges and schools, in an effort to provide all students with representation.
Senator Cory Murphy suggested a compromise in which only one senator comes from each of the 8 schools, with the 8 seats left deemed at-large, bringing the at-large total to 11. The motion was narrowly defeated.
At this point it was brought to the senate’s attention that the figures proposed by the E&CR were incorrect. The E&CR had listed the school of engineering two times, so the total number of colleges was determined to actually be seven instead of eight.
No conclusion was reached on the issue of changing to a representative style of government, and further discussion is expected.
Other changes to the constitution were mostly cosmetic. The wording in some parts had been vague, so the E&CR changed it to be more clear or specific.
While discussing the changes, most of the senators expressed appreciation for the work performed by the E&CR. The committee has been called by some the most laborious and time-consuming of all senate committees, and its schedule includes several all day weekend meetings.
Most senators opposed to the constitutional change declared that although the motive behind the idea was commendable, the problems it would create were not acceptable.