On Feb. 10, constitutional convention delegates of the Associated Students of Boise State University (ASBSU) passed a revised version of Honors College Sen. Ethan LaHaug’s constitution, 8-5.
The five “no” votes came from Inclusive Excellence Student Council (IESC) delegates, Funding Board delegates and student at large Fenix Dietz.
The new constitution is similar to LaHaug’s previous proposal, which delegates also passed last semester. If approved by university administration and a student vote, the new constitution would dissolve the IESC and Funding Board into a new three-branch system modeled after the United States government.
Additionally, the new constitution would add 29 elected positions and move the Funding Board to the executive branch.
Under the current constitution, the entire Senate and Assembly are appointed. Under LaHaug’s proposal, the Senate would instead be elected, as would the ethics officer.
University administration will have the final say on whether the constitution goes forward to a student vote, where it will need at least 500 votes and a majority to pass.
Day One: Debate
ASBSU delegates met on Friday, Feb. 3 for the first formal day of their constitutional convention. The formal meeting of delegates included reports from delegate constituents, proposals of a new constitution, debate over one proposal and 15 minutes of student testimony.
Only one constitution of the two posted on ASBSU’s website was discussed, Ethan LaHaug’s. The other constitution was drafted by Fenix Dietz, who was unable to make the convention for personal reasons.
This time around a new role was added. Transfer Student Rep. Gabe Rodriguez served as a sergeant at arms, during which his role was to keep delegates on topic and the audience from being disruptive.
The debate mirrored much of the discourse that took place last semester during the first constitutional convention.
During the debate, two IESC and Funding Board delegates opposed the new changes over concerns of a rushed constitutional process and their diminished roles in student government.
The remaining eight delegates were in favor of the new constitution, with LaHaug and ASBSU President Adam Jones being the most vocal proponents.
Proponents argued that the new constitution would make ASBSU more accessible for students, distribute power among all three branches and avoid Title IX violations by renaming positions such as the racial and ethnic minority representative.
After the debate, The Arbiter asked Jones if he saw how his appointment of a person in Turning Point USA (TPUSA) leadership, student at large delegate Darby O’Connor, could be seen as politically motivated.
“Nope, not in the least. I don’t think your participation in organizations is what defines you. I didn’t select her because of her participation in the club. I defined her for her interest in ASBSU,” Jones said. “The fact that she used to be president of Turning Point USA, which is no longer a club on campus, at all, is irrelevant in this circumstance.”
In her introduction at the debate, O’Connor said she was part of Turning Point USA despite them not currently meeting. During the day of the vote, O’Connor said she was the chapter president for TPUSA.
“I am associated with a faith-based student organization on campus as well as a conservative activism organization, Turning Point USA, where I am the chapter president,” O’Connor said at the voting meeting.
The student involvement center told The Arbiter that TPUSA is currently inactive due to paperwork not being filed on time, though O’Connor was still listed as their president.
Main points of discussion centered around the removal of the paid IESC officer positions and four assembly positions, as well as the introduction of six new underrepresented representatives.
Underrepresented representatives would be appointed by the vice president of inclusive excellence (VPIE).
LaHaug said the new constitution will remove positions such as the racial and ethnic minority representative over concerns of violating anti-discrimination laws and Title IX. Jones made similar arguments, saying that after speaking with university lawyers, he didn’t receive a clear response on whether or not the current positions violate Title IX.
VPIE Melanie Figueroa Zavala argued that since the positions aren’t paid, they couldn’t violate Title IX, and Jones responded that the positions don’t have to be paid.
“As someone who has firsthand experience in these communities, as well as worked in this position for these communities, I can tell you right now that there is a way to word this question in which it does not need to violate Title IX in order to have these positions still exist,” Figueroa Zavala said.
Two days prior to the debate, a joint Instagram post was made by the IESC and MLK Living Legacy club with the first slide titled “YOUR STUDENT LIFE AT BSU IS AT RISK…” with a picture of the German Reichstag building, which houses German parliament.
The building is popularly known for its historical significance of being set on fire in 1933, setting the stage for then-chancellor Adolf Hitler and his coalition to falsely blame the fire on communists and assert their dictatorial power.
“Do you realize how incredibly insensitive to the whole history of German and Jewish peoples this is? What inane parallels between yourselves and ASBSU are you trying to draw?” Rodriguez commented on the post.
The author of the post, who is not part of IESC and asked to remain anonymous, told The Arbiter that when making the post, they looked up “government building” and didn’t put much thought into the specific photos they used in the slides.
“When brought to light the fact that one of the photos was the German Reichstag, of course, I was worried,” the author of the post told The Arbiter over email. “But with the information that I know now I still stand by the post and the picture. There was a lot of backlash from people saying that I was comparing ASBSU to Nazi Germany. That is not the case.”
The anonymous poster went on to write that they saw the photo as a “stance for what ASBSU should strive to be,” saying that the building was built decades prior to World War II and that Germany showed a “strong sense of acknowledgment, growth, and care for the communities around them,” going on to say they stood by the usage of the picture.
The first day ended with 15 minutes of student testimonials, where nine students voiced opposition to the proposed constitution and one expressed approval.
Day 2: Vote
Delegates gathered on Feb. 10, presenting constituent reports and explaining why they would vote for or against the proposed constitutions.
According to LaHaug, students he interacted with spoke to campus-wide problems such as parking, food service, involvement and the university’s connection to local business.
He went on to say that none of the students he spoke with articulated a desire to focus on critical or intersectional theory, or to mandate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). He said a “small and vocal minority” of students who do care about DEI sent “mean spirited” messages to himself and others calling them racist and radical.
“I have asked the IESC for a proposal and met with their representatives multiple times, but we did not receive one from them. Instead we witnessed complaints to administration and obstructionist tactics,” LaHaug said. “Diversity and inclusion in and of themselves are laudable goals. But diversity, equity and inclusion is an ideology. It goes beyond a desire for a complete community, it finds its roots in Marxism and intersectional theory.”
The Arbiter asked LaHaug what his intention was for invoking Marxism during his explanation for his vote, to which he said he wasn’t calling the IESC socialist or communist, but pointing out that the ideology of DEI took Marx’s ideas on class and applied them to ideas of race and gender.
Diego Tapia gave an emotional speech talking about the IESC’s student outreach efforts over the semester. Tapia said from the 282 respondents to their survey, 189 believed representation was listed as a top issue. 23% of respondents said they knew little about the constitution process, and neary 42% said they didn’t know the convention was taking place.
“The big question we asked students [is] whether or not marginalized voices should be included in decision-making amongst ASBSU,” Tapia said. “A resounding 96.5% of students said that they should. Some even gave amazing testimony as to how ASBSU should strive to be more inclusive and accepting of all students no matter what, and that they believed by keeping the IESC as it is now, that this would be done.”