Proposed ASG revisions would change name, reduce number of senators

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As students choose the next leaders of the Associated Student Government in Tuesday and Wednesday’s elections, they will also be voting on a referendum that has the potential to rebrand and restructure the organization.

The ASG constitution has been amended following a two-year process of benchmarking the organization against the student governments of comparable institutions and receiving feedback from an outside consultant. If passed through the student referendum on the 2014 election ballot, the proposed constitution would alter the name of ASG to “Student Government.” The new constitution would reduce the size of the senate from 60 to 45 seats, among other changes.

“If students want a better functioning, more utilized student government that they can lean on, they should pass the constitution,” said Vanessa Cortez, current student body president. “It’s going to be extremely important moving forward with this organization and making us a better resource for students.”

Cortez said ASG has not been a true resource for students over the years, which spurred the hiring of the outside consultant, W.H. “Butch” Oxendine, Jr., executive director of the American Student Government Association (ASGA).

According to the ASGA report, Oxendine found that “ASG currently does not have a clear mission or purpose” and is “struggling to determine its relevance on campus.” Oxendine recommended structural changes to the ASG constitution such as reducing the number of elected positions. “Structural changes need to be made before the ASG can proceed on other changes and initiatives,” according to the report.

The most visible of the proposed changes would be the omission of the word “Associated” from the organization’s name.

“A lot of people give us the acronym ASG, but no one knows what that really means,” Cortez said. “We feel that by making it ‘Student Government.’ people won’t give us an acronym, and people will know what ‘Student Government’ is.”

Cody DeSalvo, chair of ASG’s Review and Steering Taskforce, said name change is part of a campaign to rebrand the organization and reconnect with students. Many of the amendments in the proposed constitution are procedural and internal, but still important.

DeSalvo said he hopes decreasing the amount of senate seats will increase the prestige of the positions and make elections more competitive, which would, in turn, expand voter turnout.

According to the ASGA report, 28 of the 60 senate positions were uncontested in last year’s election. The outline of the major constitutional revisions provided on the ASG ballot says Texas State’s student government senate has more members than those of the three largest universities in the state.

“I think you’ll get the best quality in a senator by reducing the amount,” Cortez said.

“People are going to really want it and work hard to get it because there’s fewer seats. I think a lot more work can be done with less people.”

Other possible changes include the creation of commissions made up of senators, graduate representatives and members of the judicial branch to allow for more collaboration, as well as the creation of an officer cabinet. Cortez said this would eliminate boundaries between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of ASG.

“We really want to expand so that senators can do more,” Cortez said. “Maybe their thing isn’t so much writing legislation. By expanding the cabinet, they can do more programmatic things and make our events bigger and better.”
The proposed constitution has 14 total revisions that are described in detail through a link provided on the electronic ballot.

Tiffany Young, candidate for ASG president, is the author of the constitutional overhaul. She said the process was long and tedious, but the new constitution will potentially fix what is wrong with the organization as it stands.

Young said ASG is key in voicing the concerns of students. Voting in favor of the proposed constitution is important to continue improving the relationship between ASG and the student body, she said.

DeSalvo said he thinks the student body will support and pass the revised constitution. Members of the student government have done their research and are trying to do more for students, whether that be through providing services, being a check on the administration or focusing on organizations.

“It pains me to say this, but I would tell students that I know student government isn’t doing enough, you would prefer us to do more,” DeSalvo said.  “There are other members who know that, and we’re seeking to change that now.”