There will be no revised ASPSU constitution on the general elections ballot after the Judicial Board missed its Monday deadline to present it to the student senate for approval. This latest failure comes just four months after the board cancelled special elections that were to feature constitutional amendments written by the student senate intended to provide more oversight to the Student Fee Committee due to legal issues.
The board had been working for months to completely revise and clarify the constitution, but it was hampered by the loss of two members in the past month. Among the changes, major grammatical errors were fixed and several significant substantive changes were made, including redefining the requirements to serve in student government.
“It has always been one of my top goals to see the constitution get a complete facelift,” said student body President Erin Devaney. “One of the big reasons that ASPSU hasn’t been able to function well is having an unclear constitution.”
Devaney added that much of the current constitution includes extraneous language that seems to have been added in haphazardly, further confusing matters.
“We created a document that’s clear, its six pages shorter so it’s more direct,” said board member Molly Woon. “The Judicial Board spent a lot of time and energy to analyze the constitution and make sure it made sense.”
The Judicial Board was to present a finished version to the senate for approval last week, but only eight of 29 pages were finished by the Monday deadline. The board was granted an extension and the senate was supposed to meet last Friday to discuss the constitution, causing rancor as some in the senate claimed that was not enough time to properly finish revising the document. Similar concerns were raised during fall term as the senate rushed to approve amendments for the failed special elections.
“I was really frustrated about Ryan Klute’s suggestion that we should have the constitution done by the 14th when we have lost two justices in the last month,” Woon said. “The problem is the senate isn’t cooperating.”
The Judicial Board had several scheduled meeting cancelled this term due to failure to meet quorum. The senate refused to confirm Judicial Board senate liaison Patrick Biesell to the board, holding the process up further until finally confirming Biesell earlier this month.
The senate meeting on Friday was cancelled due to an erroneous time posted on the agenda, setting up a crucial meeting Monday, the last chance to approve the revised constitution for submission to the general elections ballot. However, Monday’s meeting was also cancelled after the senate failed to post the mandatory two agendas, making any votes held at a potential meeting invalid and raising concerns of partisan politics taking over.
“It seems like there are members of the senate that are trying to prevent this from happening,” Woon said. “The problem is the senate isn’t cooperating or even looking at the work we’ve done. I feel like we’re trying to politicize the document, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
This is not the first time that change to the constitution has been a polarizing issue in student government this year. A vocal minority fought the amendments and special elections last term as the senate was rendered deadlocked for weeks, culminating in the canceling of the elections by the Judicial Board on the recommendation of Portland State legal counsel Kelly Gabliks. Following the cancelled elections, the Judicial Board began the task of examining and revising the constitution line by line.
A current student senator who is also running for student body president on a diversity slate this year, Ryan Klute claims he welcomes discussion of the revised constitution but says that it is inappropriate to approve any changes without proper time for discussion.
“I’m not against discussing the constitution. I wish we could have talked about it today. The ASPSU is broken this year,” Klute said. “Student senators who want to push this through without due process aren’t representing students. This is just one example of things that have gone undone. It’s a sad situation.”
Those who have worked on the revised constitution are frustrated and angry and are exploring the possibility of a special election to get the revisions passed this year.
“I don’t think its over yet,” Devaney said. “I’ll work for a special elections, I’ll call a special elections. I don’t want to see another year where an administration has to work from that document because it’s mediocre.”
Devaney said she is aiming for early May to hold a special election.
“If that has to happen, that’s fine,” said Klute, who stressed his problem is that student government has not followed process. “I think students received a great disservice when the Judicial Board couldn’t get the constitution done on time.”