As GUSA members rally students in the week prior to the presidential election, GUSA president Kelley Hampton (SFS ’05) has decided to bring one last issue to the table. Her proposed GUSA constitutional overhaul has its precedents in a similar plan put forth by Jack Ternan (COL ’04) in 2003, a plan of remodeling the student association that harkens back to the days of The Yard, the student assembly of the College that ended its century-long existence in 1968. While mention of The Yard has caused alarm among some and raised suspicions of subversive involvement by the Steward Society, everyone on campus should put aside preconceived grudges and focus on these reforms and their specific implications.

GUSA has become increasingly alienated from student life in recent years and has consequently become less able to serve the student body. Hampton deserves credit for recognizing the need for GUSA to regain legitimacy and reconnect with students. Yet the proposed constitution tries to overcompensate for student inaction and apathy with an idealistic and ultimately impractical goal of mass student participation that leaves open opportunities for abuses of power by self-interested groups.

The reformed constitution calls for a bureaucratic array of legislative bodies. Students may sense that their four class representatives have not worked hard at championing their interests, but the convoluted and unwieldy system of Student Unions and Councils proposed in the new constitution would hardly better serve the average Hoya. Even with pizza, Groove Theory and John Thompson III, it would still be nearly impossible to bring 1,600 students – one-fourth of the student body, as the new constitution would require for its Student Union – down to cDonough Gymnasium to cheer for GUSA. The number may be revised downward, but mass student participation still seems unlikely. Besides, what could a huge student government conference each semester accomplish? And why bother to form an association to represent students when everyone is already a member?

The Student Council, the body comprised of the various heads of student clubs, does not seem viable or beneficial. Club leaders devote enough time to managing their organizations; they probably do not want to spend more time squabbling through Council meetings. As demonstrated by the Lecture Fund’s recent break with GUSA, clubs are best-equipped to handle their interests apart from its bureaucratic channels.

The new constitution also lacks a guarantee that the current system of activities funding through SAC will not face modifications under the new constitution. Hampton has left this task to the Bylaws committee. The additional presence of the Student Assembly, the proposed executive wing of the new system, in the Council would be an alarming magnification of its power.

One of the strengths of the proposed student assembly involves the consolidation of different governing bodies under GUSA. The academic councils, Interhall and GUSA often have similar goals but suffer from a lack of coordination. But this student assembly would also include several new “cluster” representatives composed of similar clubs and groups, such as a media cluster or a performing arts cluster.

All media groups and all performing arts groups would not have their demands satisfied by one elected official; the spoils of victory may be too great to prevent infighting and cronyism.

Reformers like Hampton see a movement toward change in student government through a referendum on the new constitution. But despite Hampton’s best intentions, the best path toward much-needed GUSA reform lies outside of this constitution and in a clearer, less bureaucratic structure that can engender and sustain student support while remaining fair and practical.

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