Editorial: Despite issues, senate restructure plan deserves a chance

Kevin Griffin

Editor’s Note: The following represents the majority of the views of the editorial board.

The student body votes this week on a referendum that will, for the first time in more than 30 years, restructure the Student Government Association Senate.

The purpose of the new plan, if passed will go into effect spring 2014, is to broaden the scope of representation in the Senate by increasing the number of groups represented, including seats for individuals from the four undergraduate classes, academic colleges and student organizations, among other groupings, according to the referendum text.
This is a departure from the current system where individuals are allotted seats based on residence on or off campus and participation in university-funded organizations.

SGA Vice President Eric Barnes said he sees the plan as an opportunity to “broaden the voice” that SGA represents, and believes the plan has the potential to be transformative for campus.

We believe that the plan has enough going in its favor that it deserves a chance at success, despite some definite flaws.

The biggest complaints come from those who believe that the plan’s method of grouping and assigning seats will result in less representation for certain groups.
For example, the multicultural clubs, which includes a diverse cluster of over 30 clubs, will only have two seats to represent that entire group. There are natural concerns that certain groups will not receive adequate representation.

Barnes said he understands the concerns, and acknowledges some likely friction at the beginning of the process. But, he said he believes this will force the groups to communicate more to come to an agreement over who can best represent that category of students as a whole.

Of course, as Barnes acknowledges, there is the real possibility that groups won’t work together effectively, and that the lack of representation for specific demographics of people could become a reality.

Taking these significant concerns into account, we believe that the referendum can, if nothing more, act as a step in the process toward a more complete representation of the Appalachian State University student body.

As the referendum text mentions, this is the first time in more than 30 years that a change has been made to senate structure. Given the demographic shifts in the university during that time, it is clear a change should occur.

The plan’s most persuasive selling point is that it does open opportunities for more groups to be represented. Until this plan was proposed, there was no category based on undergraduate class or academic college.

Now, these important subsections of campus can have a voice.

If for whatever reason the changes do not work, a constitutional review committee will look over the policy in three years, and, if the need arises, write up another referendum to address the issues.

With the new system already setting precedent for greater diversity of voices, any new changes would likely only push us further in that direction.
Given that this plan can be amended if necessary, we believe it deserves a chance.