Student Government revises constitution, looks for final approval from faculty, Board of Trustees in October

Among+other+changes%2C+the+constitutional+revisions+introduced+the+roles+of+parliamentarian+and+inclusivity+officer+to+the+Student+Government+Executive+Board.+%28Photo+by+Shreya+Raizada+25+for+Lafayette+College+Student+Government%29

Among other changes, the constitutional revisions introduced the roles of parliamentarian and inclusivity officer to the Student Government Executive Board. (Photo by Shreya Raizada ’25 for Lafayette College Student Government)

The Student Government voted overwhelmingly on Thursday, Sept. 29 to amend its constitution and bylaws, thereby adopting revisions that will decrease the Student Government’s size and, members hope, streamline its operations.

The vote marked the culmination of over a year’s worth of work.

“[It feels] excellent,” Fatimata Cham ’23, current vice president of Student Government and chair of the Constitution & Bylaws Ad Hoc Committee, said of the vote. “It feels like we’re moving in a good direction and that we tried to address some of the concerns that were raised in the past year from student body members.”

Before the new constitution officially comes into effect, it must be approved by the faculty and then by the Board of Trustees. Student Government hopes to present the new constitution to both groups in October. 

A key aspect of the new constitution is the revised governance structure. Student Government hoped to distance itself from a centralized, committee-led structure to one that relies more on ad hoc committees so that all members of Student Government can cooperate on projects.  

For example, the Student Government budget will no longer be voted on exclusively by the Executive Board but by the entirety of the general body if the constitution is officially approved.

Another key example of the decentralized nature of the new Student Government constitution is a reduction in the responsibilities of the standing committees.

“All the committees were rethought, rebuilt from the ground up,” Public Relations & Marketing Committee Director Trebor Maitin ’24 said. The goal is to have the standing committees serve only the most basic functions of Student Government. 

In addition to reducing their power, the number of standing committees will be reduced from nine to seven; the Greek Life and Athletic Affairs Committee will be absorbed into the Student Life Committee.

Members of the board explained that this decision was made in part because fraternities and sororities are represented by organizations like the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Council, while athletes can turn to the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for support. Given that these two committees were tailored to specific groups on campus instead of the student body at large, Cham said that it made more sense for them to fall under the leadership of the Student Life Committee.

Nevertheless, some members of Student Government were unhappy with the change.

“With athletes and Greek life [members] being [about] a quarter of the student population each, I do think there should be some sort of committee on the Executive Board [for them],”  Greek Life Committee Director Jonathan Pursell ’23 said.

Board members responded that athletes and members of Greek life will still be represented in Student Government and can still lead projects via ad hoc committees.

“I don’t think we’re erasing these committees. They’re still here and the people that want to represent their groups will still be here,” Cham said.

Complementing the reduced number of standing committees, the revised constitution now mandates that there be only 27 total members of Student Government: 21 general body representatives and six executive officers. 

The previous Student Government constitution placed a cap at 36 members. However, it wasn’t unusual for Student Government to violate this constitutional principle; last year it had over 50 members.

Placing a cap at 27 members was not only a way to ensure that Student Government did not have too many members, but to “re-emphasize that this constitution will be enforced,” Student Government President Matwos “Matt” Tadesse ‘24 said. 

In order to ensure proper compliance with the constitution, a parliamentarian, or someone who ensures that constitutional procedures are actually followed, will become an independent executive position. Formerly, the vice president fulfilled this role. 

The other new executive position is the inclusivity officer. This individual will foster an inclusive environment and ensure that Student Government projects adhere to diversity, equity and inclusion principles.

“[The constitution] says that [Student Government] is a body for the free exchange of ideas, right? The implementation of the inclusivity officer ensures that new ideas are being brought to the table and that there’s always a discussion surrounding issues that are very important to many members of the campus community,” Maitin said. 

Lastly, thanks to the constitutional revisions, Student Government operations will switch from an academic to a calendar year to ensure smoother transitions of power and a committed general body. This means that elections for the new and reformed Executive Board will be held this November. 

Much of the work in revising the constitution began because of the efforts of Student Government vice presidents Ross Coleman ’22 and Lia Charles ’22. Cham hopes that students continue to pay attention to Student Government even after the passage of this new constitution.

“[Student Government] is a place for everybody and, if they want to change something related to their specific demographic of people or group, they can do that here,” she said. 

The entire text of the revised constitution and bylaws can be read online by clicking the link in the Student Government’s Instagram bio.

Disclaimer: News Editor Emma Chen ’24 is a representative on the Equity and Inclusion Committee and Managing Editor Trebor Maitin ’24 is the PR and Marketing director for Student Government. Neither contributed writing or reporting to this story.