On Jan. 29, Hobart’s student government proposed and passed a long list of changes to the Hobart Student Government Constitution. The changes passed with 75 percent of the vote by Hobart students.
The Herald met with Ryan Skinner, Hobart Student Government’s vice president at the time of the constitution revisions, to find out more about the changes. Ryan explained that the new constitution will have a gender-neutral language to represent all Hobart students because previously the constitution would only refer to Hobart students as “he.” HSG, in an email before the vote, noted that this was “pursuant with our commitment to include all Hobart students, irrespective of gender identity.”
Also, the constitution establishes a new advisory committee called the Council of Statesmen made up of former members of the Executive Board to help aid the current Executive Board and the younger members of HSG. The Council of Statesmen will include John Matthew Camera ’19, former president of HSG; Ryan Skinner ’19, former vice president and treasurer of HSG; Matthew Fox ’19, former vice president of HSG; and Albright Dwarka ’21, former secretary of HSG. This should aid the new board in making decisions and provide guidance as they navigate the Hobart and William Smith bureaucracy.
This new constitution is also looking to expanding the size of the current Hobart Senate by incorporating more underclassmen roles for club representatives, encouraging more first-years to get involved in the student government community. This links to their goal of more inclusivity and including younger students – especially as the Executive Board now includes three first-year students. (Full disclosure: The author of this article is now the secretary of HSG; at the time of writing and research, he was not a member of HSG.)
The constitution of HSG requires the president to be at Executive Board meetings while the vice president runs meetings of the quorum, which are the main Tuesday meetings for everyone. It is hoped this is a way to improve efficiency in student government from the previous semester. The quorum is also redefined as any number of Hobart students to join, which is different from the Senate, in that the members of the Senate are voted in to particular positions such as class presidents and club representatives.
The Senate, not the general meeting quorum, will now be voting on club status proposals. Votes of senators will be averaged when calculating club funding proposals and a new line-item veto may be used – if unanimous – for budget proposals put forward to the HSG Executive Board, which will potentially decrease the number of blanket denials issued for budget proposals. Senate votes will no longer be spoken out loud but will be a secret ballot and results will be in meeting minutes. The president of HSG, however, can break a split vote in the Senate.
The constitution also works to centralize all elections in early September, to be potentially timed with the William Smith Congress. That way, the only elections held in the spring will be for Student Trustee. The Budget Allocations Committee is also re-formed to have two members elected by Hobart students and the remaining two appointed by the treasurer of HSG. That will be a separate election, however, and allow the student body to choose representatives to approve club funding proposals at each meeting of the BAC.
Moving forward, the constitution will be amended at least every two years, and this new version notes that Student Activities can’t alter budgets and bylaws without HSG’s permission. Furthermore, Student Activities cannot send ballots to the student body that haven’t been reviewed by HSG and they will deliver budgets to clubs within one week of each meeting of the BAC. These are huge changes to student government’s relationship with Student Activities.
Skinner said how excited he was for this constitution to be proposed and the positive effects it can have for HSG. Students are, as always, encouraged to use their voice in student government and participate in elections and general quorum meetings. Any student can run for positions on the Executive Board of the government for his or her respective college. It is hoped the new HSG constitution will be the first step in creating, as Skinner noted, “a more inclusive student government.”