A new proposal counteracting the SGA Constitution Review Committee’s initial plan to merge the Student Government Councils at the Modesto Maidique and Biscayne Bay campuses was presented during the committee’s fourth meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 5.
The proposal, drafted by committee member and BBC Vice President Meredith Marseille, along with other senate members, deals directly with Article III: Legislative Branch of the Constitution and is meant to provide more BBC representation than the initial merger proposal.
“I think…from the BBC standpoint, what we’re hearing from our senators and our constituents is that they feel merging the two senates would lose BBC representation,” said Marseille. “The proposal that I sent out was…something that would reflect a more equal representation for both of the senates. If you look at Section VII in the proposal, it does mention…university-wide senate meetings and those would be composed of both SGA-MMC senate and SGA-BBC senate, and all senators shall be vested voting powers.”
Under the new proposal, senators from both campuses would meet during the last Monday of every month during fall, spring and summer semesters, alternating between both campuses, to discuss university-wide issues, according to Marseille. Then, each senate would meet back at their own campus-specific senate meetings to discuss campus-specific issues.
This new proposal comes after BBC students voiced their concerns in previous meetings on how beneficial the merger would truly be for the BBC campus. Some BBC students even created an online petition to show their disagreement with the merge and, as the petition reads, to “send a message to the Vice President of Student Affairs at FIU.” The petition, titled “FIU VP of student affairs: Save FIU BBC campus from wrongful SGA Merger,” has collected over 350 signatures, as of the time of this article’s publication.
The new proposal would also reduce the number of total MMC senators, something committee member and SGC-MMC President Krista Schmidt disagreed with. Decreasing the number of MMC senators despite MMC’s larger population would create unequal representation, according to Schmidt.
However, while Marseille said the MMC numbers are “flexible,” she believes decreasing the number of senate seats is reasonable, as each school, she said, should have no more than two or three senators – even for the larger schools such as Arts, Science and Education, and CARTA – “to do the duties of meeting with the dean and promoting that information from the dean to the college.”
Committee member and BBC President Leonardo Cosio partially agreed with Marseille’s proposal.
“I would prefer that we leave the numbers exactly as they are right now,” Cosio said. “Ultimately at that university-wide senate meeting, what our side and specifically some of our constituents are saying is that they don’t want a ⅔ majority automatically in the case that some of the university-wide senate seats would be elected for MMC students…we feel that if the numbers are currently the same, that 38 that [MMC] currently [has] would not achieve that ⅔ majority and we’re comfortable with that…I don’t think that’s unreasonable. I think it’s doable.”
Nimeha Milien, a senior hospitality management major, who spoke to the committee during the allotted 30-minute question and answer period, prefers Marseille’s proposal over the original one.
“Having the unified executive branch and keeping the senate separate would help out, personally, to [ease] the transition,” said Milien. “Maybe one year we could make it unified, but it’s always test and runs. We can’t go from being completely two different groups to combining into one just like that when for 25 years, we have seen that the demographics and the numbers have shown that it has never been the same and never been a unified front, and I would like for us to have a unified front but, it takes time. Baby steps.”
Schmidt, along with SGC-MMC Vice President Jose Sirven and SGC-MMC Chief Justice Cooper Eisinger, however, presented a united front, contending that BBC issues are MMC’s issues and vice versa.
“I’m unequivocally opposed to two senates, off the bat,” said Eisinger, mentioning how long it would take to appoint positions not just in the cabinet but also the judicial branch. “To me, it makes no sense having one executive, one judicial branch and then two senates. That makes no sense.”
Sirven sided with Eisinger.
“I think that everybody here knows the decision that they think it’s best for the university, and I think that prolonging that is a detriment to our students and a detriment to the process,” Sirven said.
The trio insisted on one student government body for all students, promising that it would be the most equitable distribution of power to represent FIU students, regardless of their default campus.
The meeting came at the heels of Larry Lunsford, vice president of Student Affairs, consenting to an extension of the approval process. As Student Media previously reported, the committee’s original deadline was Friday, Dec. 8, but Cosio had plans to request an extension. The committee’s deadline has now been extended to Wednesday, Jan. 10, the first week of the spring 2018 semester. However, this extension was met with dissent among the committee during the meeting, with some members noting that doing so would further exacerbate an existing issue: the ability for the student government to enact law.
The entire committee, including the phone presence of Joshua Mandall, senator for the School of International and Public Affairs and the chairman of the Rules, Legislation and Judiciary Committee, were present at the meeting and about 20 BBC students were in attendance. During the meeting, the student government representatives also muscled their way through Articles III and IV of the FIU Student Government Association Constitution, updating it to provide a checks and balance system to the new position of one university-wide president and a proposed unified government.
The meetings are expected to continue but there are no final decisions yet as to what the new Student Government Association will be like.