The Student Government administration faced heavy opposition on Monday night as students raised their voices about a proposal to restructure the Student Government Association.
After SGA Vice President and Brighton junior Colleen McNeely reintroduced the proposal for a new unicameral system during the SGA meeting, hands began to rise throughout the auditorium.
A unicameral system would disband the house and relocate all of the governmental power to the senate, where a student-elected committee of senator representatives would handle governmental affairs. This proposal has been introduced to combat a house that has been accused of being oversized and underproductive.
Port Huron senior Bryan Shelby voiced his concerns about the unicameral proposal and said his entire fraternity, Alphi Phi Omega, will not vote for the bill, because they feel registered student organizations will lose their ability to be heard during meetings.
“I think that in terms of representatives, it will be unfortunate if we had to cut out a large number of representatives and shrink the number down,” Shelby said.
McNeely said if the unicameral change is made to SGA, there will be more passionate people involved in SGA and meetings will be more productive.
“I don’t believe there is a problem with the representatives that are already here. I believe there is more of a problem with lack of engagement of SGA with the rest of the student body,” Shelby said. “If we made them more aware, you would find more passionate people joining RSOs or being involved in the student government.”
In response to earlier concerns voiced about the lack of representation in a unicameral system, SGA President and Shelby Township senior Vincent Cavataio and McNeely have adapted the proposition to change the number of senators representing the student body in the proposed system from 15 senators to 23, matching the current amount of senators in the bicameral system.
Yet, this change in the proposal did little to quell RSO opposition.
“We have the largest amount of representation we have ever had in the student government,” said Romeo senior Kevin Richmond, a representative of Students for Service and Learning. “We would be losing so much by throwing away so much. You can’t expect 23 people to accurately represent a student body of over 20,000 students.”
Many in the RSO community said they felt angered and even betrayed by the new proposal.
“I’m going to go back to my RSO and tell them that they are taking us out of the system.” said Matthew Collier, a senior from Commerce, representing Students For Free Enterprise. “To combat apathy, the administration is trying to put more students in the dark; that is not a solution.”
Despite student backlash, Cavataio insisted the unicameral system is the best solution to a stagnant house.
“What does the house do that the senate does not do? Why are (we) spending so much money for a house that accomplishes little?” Cavataio said. “If we get a group of 23 competitive senators, we can start making some changes on campus.”
On Tuesday, Cavataio suggested the number of senators in the proposal was still subject to change.
“The current proposal is at 23, but after vetting last night, that number seems to be a concern which I will address for revision,” he said in a text message. “It’s important for students to note that nothing is concrete until we refine the plans through their concerns.”
Although the majority of students who spoke out were against the proposal Monday night, others voiced their support.
“I think a lot of people in the house are concerned that it will reduce student representation, but at the same time, students who are not involved in RSOs right now have no representation,” Lansing senior Kyle Grost said.
If the unicameral bill is passed, RSOs will no longer be at the center of the SGA house meetings as representatives. Instead, the senators elected by the student body could potentially allow for demographics of students who have not had a voice in the SGA to gain a voice.
“By opening this up, we can get the entire student population to vote for senators who represent their beliefs, as opposed to the current system with just RSOs,” Grost said.
After Monday night’s meeting, McNeely said she is still confident the unicameral proposition will go through.
“With proper [public relations] and discussion, I am confident that the unicameral system will pass,” she said.
The unicameral proposal will be on the ballot in the general elections, where it would pass with a majority vote. The senate seats will also be up for election.
The general elections will be held from March 12-16. Voting will be held online at vote.cmich.edu.