All enrolled SBCC students will have the opportunity to vote and ratify "Amendment A" to become a part of the Associated Student Constitution.
What is Amendment A, and what does it propose to change? How does the amendment process even work? This is your voter's guide to these questions, and more.
AS Constitution 101
The Associated Student (AS) Constitution of SBCC was first drafted and ratified by the students in January 1962. Since then, the students have ratified eight amendments. The amendment being voted on this coming week seeks to become the ninth.
For an amendment to be made, it is first proposed by a ⅔ vote of the Associated Student Government (ASG). Amendment A was proposed by the ASG on February 3, 2017.
Amendments must then be ratified by a ⅔ vote of the student body to go into effect. In other words, over 66.7% of the students who participate must vote "Yes" for the amendment to be ratified.
So, what is Amendment A and what does it mean for the student body? The amendment is concerned with 4 key things: Direct Student Action, Stipends, Clubs, and Term Limits.
Direct Student Action
The number of students needed to launch a student referendum on ASG legislation or recall an ASG Officer is proposed to be reduced from 20% of the student body to just 5%. The number needed to propose legislation to the ASG is proposed to be 1%, instead of 5%.
Since the Constitution was established way back when our school had much fewer students, it makes sense why these percentages were set so high. But the headcount at SBCC in Fall 2017 was 17,608 students. The ASG feels that the original requirements have been choking out any grassroots democratic action for many years, and that significant percentage reductions are long overdue. The chart below represents the original percentage requirements and the proposed reductions, assuming 17,608 students.
Number of Students Required to Take Action
It's clear that the proposed reductions will make it much easier for SBCC students to directly participate in our student government. Instead of thousands of students needed to take an action, it'll be no more than a couple hundred.
Let's consider an example of direct student action: the Recycling Club wants to propose that $5,000 of ASG funds be budgeted for recycling awareness efforts on campus. Under the original Constitution, they would need 880 signatures to do so. But if Amendment A passes, they would only need 176. Additionally, if the club wanted to put the decision to a referendum vote of the students, they would only need a petition of 880 signatures instead of 3,522.
If a group of students wanted to recall an ASG Officer for whatever reason, they would need 880 students to sign a petition instead of 3,522.
For many years now, only volunteers have served on the ASG. These have been the more privileged students—the ones who have plenty of extra time each week to spend serving their school and community. Unfortunately, students with less privileged financial and socioeconomic backgrounds have been essentially excluded from our student government. Students who need to support themselves and possibly their loved ones could never volunteer their precious time that they must spend working.
Amendment A grants the ASG the ability to compensate its Officers for their time and service on the ASG. Each Officer, depending on their position, will have a maximum number of hours each week for which they may be compensated. The compensation Officers receive per hour would be equivalent to minimum wage—the same as a student job in the school cafeteria, in the library, or in Student Services. Here is the proposed language regarding stipends:
"Each semester, the ASG may decide to provide the Officers of this Association with compensatory stipends for their time working on the Association's business. Additional provisions regarding stipends shall be delineated in the Bylaws." (Art. 3, §7)
Should SBCC students decide to ratify Amendment A and the Stipends clause, they would be in good company. Many schools in California compensate their student government Officers with stipends, including several community colleges, many CSU campuses, and most schools in the UC system.
How will these stipends affect the ASG budget?
There are two funds that the ASG has: a General Fund and the Student Representation Fund. The General Fund may be spent on anything the ASG deems to be most beneficial to and in the best interests of SBCC students.
The Student Representation Fund (SRF) is money regulated by California state law that limits spending to very specific purposes, namely to support student representatives as they pursue and advocate for their students' interests. Each time a student register for classes, they have the option to pay a $1 Student Representation Fee that is deposited into this fund.
Due to the restriction of SRF funds, our student government has been unable to spend this money, and it's been building up for decades. By contrast, the General Fund has been in steady decline. The chart below tracks these funds over the past 16 years.
ASG Funds from 2000 to 2016 (in thousands of $)
The chart reveals that since the year 2000, more than $90,000 has piled up in the SRF fund, bringing the total to over $145,000 of student money that is sitting in a bank account, not being put to good use. Compare that to the General Fund which, since 2000, has decreased from over $50,000 to less than $18,000 in Fall 2016.
The ASG has worked hard this school year to convince our administration that allocating the SRF towards Officer stipends is a proper and legal use of these funds. The goal would be to expend stipends so that the SRF breaks even each semester. So, the impact on the ASG budget would essentially be negligible, since the money allocated towards stipends would be money that would not have been spent, anyway. Additionally, any potential deficit incurred would not be a concern for many years, due to the sheer amount of money piled up in the SRF.
The following chart illustrates the allocation of funds towards stipends in terms of what ASG Officers spend their time and efforts on.
Stipends Allocation (in $)
This chart shows that over 66% of stipends would be allocated to Officers who work on student need, academics, clubs, and events. 14% would go towards Officers who work to fundraise for the ASG, and the remaining 20% would support Officers who spend their time on administration, accountability, and governance.
In proposing Amendment A, the ASG took all of the above information into account. The ASG also hoped that providing stipends would spark renewed excitement on the ASG in addition to increased competition for ASG positions.
The ASG also proposed to add an entire new Article to the Constitution. Currently, the Constitution makes absolutely no mention of Clubs, leaving them to be provisioned in the ASG Bylaws, a document that the ASG tends to change on a weekly basis.
By contrast, Article V of the amended Constitution is entirely devoted to SBCC clubs and organizations. In proposing this new Article, the ASG recognized the many crucial student groups that "enrich the academic, athletic, artistic, cultural, social, political, and philosophical fabric of the college."
By voting to include clubs in the Constitution, SBCC students can ensure that the incredible array of clubs and organizations at our school retain a permanent, secure, and more important place in our student body and student government.
Amendment A also elevates the Inter-Club Council, a body of representatives from all SBCC clubs and organizations, to be a branch of the ASG, officially chartering it in the new Article V and granting it the power to propose legislation to the ASG.
Finally, Amendment A would limit the terms of ASG Officers to a total of 4 years. The original language prohibited Officers from serving "more than 3 consecutive years," which would technically allow for Officers to serve an unlimited number of years so long as they took a hiatus for a Semester.
The new language will ensure that the Officer positions will continuously be available so that all SBCC students will have an opportunity to serve, and that the ASG will enjoy a constant stream of fresh ideas and innovation.
By now, I hope that you're as convinced as I am that Amendment A will be incredibly beneficial to our student body for many years to come. I encourage you to vote "Yes" on Amendment A!
The date of the vote is not currently scheduled. All enrolled SBCC students will receive an email the week prior to the vote with more information, in addition to an email the morning it begins with instructions on how vote through their Pipeline account.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dylan Raiman is the Associated Student President of SBCC. He is a second-year Philosophy and Political Science major working to transfer to the UC system in Fall 2017. You can reach Dylan at firstname.lastname@example.org.