Westminster SGA restructuring constitution

by Brian Long

The Student Government Association (SGA) of Westminster Choir College has drafted a new Constitution and a new set of by-laws, expected to be enacted by the end of this semester, that will completely restructure Westminster SGA’s current student government.

“Since its birth in 2004, the SGA of Westminster Choir College has operated without ratified governing documents,” said Alex Benestelli, junior senator and chairman of the Constitution/By-Laws Committee. “The process we are now engaged in builds on our short history and expands considerably on the 2004 draft documents.”

These new documents will not be “structured as a typical ‘Constitution & By-Laws,’” Benestelli said. “We will be considering a ‘Code of Laws’ that includes a constitution and separate titles for executive, legislative and judicial affairs.”

The new code of laws will give the Westminster SGA a system of checks and balances similar to those of the U.S. government. The SGA will be adding a judicial branch, in the form of a Student Judicial Court, in order to provide balance to the already existing executive and legislative branches.

According to Benestelli, this addition is necessary because the Westminster campus “is really without a judicial body that can balance the executive and legislative power in the SGA.”

In addition to the new judicial branch, the Finance Committee of the Student Senate will now be in charge of the appropriation of the Student Activities Fee (SAF).

“Requests for appropriations would be submitted to the student body treasurer, referred to the Finance Committee as a bill, reported to the full Student Senate and, if adopted, signed into law [or vetoed] by the Student Body President,” Benestelli said. “This is being done to give the student body maximum representation in the appropriation of their SAF.”

While all of these changes may seem overwhelming to some, Benestelli said they are necessary.

“In its brief history, Westminster’s SGA hasn’t worked,” he said. “Currently, the structure that SGA operates within is subject to a very broad interpretation. It is our hope that these new documents will clarify the responsibilities and roles people have in student government at Westminster.”

Currently, only the new constitution has been ratified. The SGA hopes to have all of its proposed changes passed for the 2009-2010 academic year.

“The Westminster SGA has been rooted in Rider University’s tradition of allowing students to govern themselves since the Board of Trustees first established Student Government in 1969,” Benestelli said. “Now Dean [of Students Anthony] Campbell, SGA President Brian Pawelko and others from Rider’s Lawrenceville campus are coming together in support of this important process to make the Westminster SGA more effective.”

Benestelli hopes that the new documents will be ratified this semester and become effective for the start of the next academic year.

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