SGA Constitution Undergoes Major Overhaul
Stuart Grosvenor & Tyler Parmelee
Edited by Mary Hopkins
As announced on May 1st, the Student Government Association will be implementing a newly ratified constitution effective the day of graduation (May 24th). The changes followed a controversy back in October in which a member of the SGA was removed in what many regarded as an opaque process. The impeachment raised a series of questions and shone a light on the inadequacy of the SAIS Constitution, which provided virtually no clear guidance on such proceedings.
The origin of the now-defunct version of the Constitution is unclear. Members of the outgoing SGA claim not to know who wrote it, when it was created, or when (if ever) it last received any revisions. The document is not hosted publicly on any Johns Hopkins-affiliated website and was difficult for many students to track down during the fall semester.
The purpose of the update is to streamline the structure of the SGA and clarify its short and long-term goals. The new constitution, only half the length of its predecessor, includes new requirements for semesterly town halls, limits to the Treasurer’s reimbursement authorities, and a significant reduction in the duties of the Programming Chair. Notably, beyond some much-needed rewording, the new document does not introduce any language that improves the transparency of its impeachment process, opting to keep officer removal a largely internal process. This decision raised concerns among some Observer staff about the SGA’s ability to unilaterally remove officers who were elected by the student body without seeking consultation or communication with the wider community.
The outgoing SGA President, Fatimata Ndiaye ‘23, emphasized the importance of the new document and urged students to make their voices heard by voting. “The constitution will be crucial in the work of next year’s SGA, and we need your vote to get it passed,” Ndiaye said in a message sent to much of the student body. According to Ndiaye, significant time and effort were put into the modifications: “We started this process last fall 2022 with a day-long retreat where the entire SGA met on a Sunday to brainstorm, debate, read other constitutions, and ideate our role as an organization.” Additionally, Ndiaye stated the SGA consulted at length with various club leadership, inviting members to add, alter or remove features as they saw fit.
Despite this effort, there was disagreement among students on the value of the SGA’s changes and of even having a constitution in the first place. In the school’s 700+ member group chat, one student lauded the constitution as an “important legal document specifying rights of students,” while another stated frankly that a “blank page” would have been “just as valuable.”
As per the current constitution, any amendments made must be approved by a minimum 66% majority with at least 25% of the DC student population participating in the voting process. According to the SGA’s May 1st announcement, the required 25% of the student population participated in the voting process with 83.33% of students voting “YES” in favor of adopting the new constitution and 16.67% voting “NO.”.
Kosi Ogbuli ‘24, the incoming SGA President, said he feels the new constitution is simultaneously a “first step” for and a “continuation” of student advocacy through SGA. “As we move into a new building, shared with different programs, this will be the framework that, along with the entire student body, SGA can create by-laws to meet the ideals represented in this new constitution.” With any luck, Ogbuli will be proven correct, and the amended constitution will allow for greater transparency, accountability, and inclusivity in SGA, empowering future generations of SAIS students to make meaningful changes in the school community.