OPINION: The new student government constitution is a step in the right direction

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Claire Keener | The Arbiter

A note from The Arbiter’s editorial team: The following opinion is a guest submission and does not represent the views of our organization. The Arbiter does not endorse any preference on the new proposed constitution or on the upcoming ASBSU election.

By Ethan LaHaug, Adam Jones, and Fenix Dietz

On April 3-4, Boise State students will receive a ballot in their email that, among other things, includes one simple question: Do you approve or oppose the new Student Government Constitution? 

Well, maybe not so simple. Most students probably will have no idea how to respond. What is student government? We have a constitution? How is the new one different from the old one? If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. 

The Associated Students of Boise State University, or ASBSU, is our student government. ASBSU was founded to advocate for the interests and needs of the student body, and it does so through the students who serve as elected and appointed officers. You can learn more about its structure and mission here

Students often don’t know what ASBSU is or what it does, so engagement with student government has been low in recent years. In the 2022 student elections, just 10% of eligible voters cast a ballot – which was considered a record, up from the previous year’s total of 7%. 

But in the upcoming election, we want students to be informed about their student government and to make their voices heard. As the authors of the new constitution we will be voting on, here are seven of the biggest changes and why we hope students will vote “YES!”

1. Changed from a complicated five-branch system to an easy-to-understand three-branch system

The new constitution, first and foremost, moves to a three-branch system, similar to how Idaho and the United States Government operate. It contains an Executive Branch, a Legislative Branch, and the Judicial Branch — think of this one like the Supreme Court, only it is made up of Boise State students. The old fourth branch, the Funding Board, has been moved under the Executive Branch. This is simply a cosmetic change so that the Funding Board and Executive Council can work more closely together. By combining the two branches, it will be easier for student organizations to get cash and do big things. 

2. Removed the Inclusive Excellence Student Council (IESC) as a branch of student government

You may be thinking to yourself, “Hey, what about that fifth branch?” The Inclusive Excellence Student Council, or IESC, has been removed as a branch of government. They will still exist as a student organization — as they did before being added to the constitution in 2018 — but will no longer have the same powers as before. This was one of the more controversial changes, so we want to explain it in depth.

There are two reasons why we believe that this change is necessary. First, the IESC was added haphazardly as an addition to student government in 2018. The architects of this branch, while they had good intentions, did not succeed in creating a balanced or easy-to-understand system. The powers of the branch are overbroad and confusing, and its election procedures and membership are not fair to the student body. In order to run to lead this branch, a student must be approved by the members of the IESC. This has led, in practice, to the council hand-picking a single candidate for two of the last three election cycles, leaving students with no real choices when voting for IESC officer positions. 

Second, we believe that it is important to protect free speech and value all perspectives on campus in the finest tradition of universities across the country. The IESC takes a very restricted approach to achieving diversity and inclusion. Rather than sticking to one method, we believe there are better, more workable, and less divisive ways to achieve the goals of creating and maintaining an inclusive BSU. 

It is important to address the concerns raised by opponents of this change. It has been claimed that this change will make it harder to include diverse perspectives in student government and that removing the IESC neglects the needs of students. This is not true. While we are removing this branch, we are not decentering our focus on fostering a strong and inclusive community at Boise State. It is well established in academic research that having more diverse perspectives improves outcomes, and diversity and inclusion will continue to be priorities of ASBSU. 

Please know that we are not hampering efforts at inclusion – rather, we are changing how we go about it. Instead of a disjointed, separate branch, we can now approach inclusion from more angles. For example, we’ve empowered new leadership positions in the senate and assembly, and have also given all representatives the ability to create committees. That way, they can form groups to address a wide range of issues and get broad support from the rest of ASBSU. The vice president of inclusive excellence can also work more closely with the Executive Council to achieve diversity, equity, and inclusion for ASBSU as a whole. We believe this is a healthier way to build community than to sequester, or fence off, all of our inclusion efforts into a mostly separate branch of student government. 

3. Made the Academic Senate more representative

Under the old constitution, there are 18 senators, two for each of the nine colleges at Boise State. Currently, they are simply appointed to their position by a member of ASBSU. If you vote YES, ASBSU will now hold elections for these positions so that more students have a voice in the process.

We’ve also added two seats to the senate for undeclared students who don’t fit into any of the nine colleges, bringing the total up to 20. This will make sure that even if you’re still finding your passion, you have a senator who can advocate for your needs. 

4. Made the General Assembly more representative

Some of the best improvements have been in the General Assembly, which represents concentrated student populations such as first-year students, students with disabilities, or commuter students. We added six seats for “Under-served student populations,” and we increased the term of assembly members from one semester to one year – this will ensure that a more diverse array of students have a chance to apply and serve in student government.

We also added an important safeguard to prevent abuse of power by the president and vice president. Because the president is the one who appoints all assembly members, this gives them a lot of power over the legislative process. For example, the number of assembly members was so low last year that ASBSU was able to pass bills that took stances on polarizing political issues with minimal consultation or input from the student body. In an unprecedented move, the ASBSU assembly was forced to rescind one particular bill that condemned the state government for their stance on voter identification after they discovered that no policy addressing voter ID had actually been passed. 

Student government should be focused on helping Boise State students through initiatives like the Campus Food Pantry and Student Emergency Fund, not wasting time antagonizing the state government. We set in stone the number of assembly members — 30 in total — and distributed the power to appoint them among several different executive officials so that this can never happen again.

5. Increased connections between student government and Greek life 

When President Adam Jones was campaigning last year, one of his promises was to build bridges between student government and Boise State University’s Greek life. By adding the associate vice president of Greek affairs, we are delivering on that promise. Jones also promised to work on building a “Greek row,” but we’ve found that task to be much more difficult than anticipated. Having a dedicated position for Greek life will help us to address those issues that affect our fraternities and sororities, ensure their concerns are heard, and work to grow Greek involvement on campus in the years to come. 

To be clear – this position has no authority over students in Greek life. Rather, think of them as a liaison between our Greek communities and student government so we can better address those needs.

Additionally, we’ve made sure to give the Multicultural Greek Council (MGC) a seat in the ASBSU Assembly to include more diverse perspectives. Previously, the MGC had not been regularly included in student government. 

6. Added the Review Board and replaced the ethics officer with the associate vice president of ethics affairs

As stated at the beginning, the Review Board is our Judicial Branch. It will handle complaints regarding code of conduct violations and code/constitutional violations – for example, if a piece of legislation is passed that discriminates against a particular group, they can strike it down. 

We also reworked the ethics officer. Under the old system, the ethics officer could act as judge, jury, and executioner on any potential complaints against a member of ASBSU. This is obviously unfair, so we took away the power to decide on complaints and gave it to the Review Board. Currently, the outgoing president appoints the ethics officer for the upcoming year rather than the newly elected president, which has allowed them to sabotage their opponents. This is clearly unjust and does not serve the student body. The ethics officer position has been renamed the associate vice president of ethics affairs and will now be elected rather than appointed. The new associate vice president of ethics affairs will still have plenty to do though, including presenting and arguing complaints, reviewing code, attending ASBSU meetings, and proposing code changes. These changes make the position more effective and will help prevent any abuses of authority. 

7. Fixed typos, errors, and disjointed language

Yep, you read that right. The current constitution contains numerous grammatical errors and typos. Parts of the constitution have the wrong words or reference sections that don’t exist. We fixed these mistakes so that our system will be more professional and less confusing. 

While there are many more small things here and there, this covers all of the biggest changes. Of course, no document or proposal will be perfect, and there is an amendment process if we need to make changes in the future. But we believe that the new constitution is a solid step in the right direction towards a more effective student government, and consequently a better-served student body, because it will address prior abuses, increase representativeness, and make the whole thing easier to understand. On April 3-4, we will be voting “YES!” and we hope you’ll join us.

About the authors:

Ethan LaHaug is a junior studying at Boise State. In 2022, he joined ASBSU as a first-year representative, and he now serves as one of two Honors College senators in the Academic Senate. 

Adam Jones a junior studying at Boise State. He is currently the student body president at Boise State. He previously served as an on-campus housing representative for ASBSU in 2021-22.

Fenix Dietz is a junior studying at Boise State. During the 2022 fall semester, he was appointed to be the student at-large delegate to the Constitutional Convention.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Diego Tapia

    Next time Ethan, Adam, and Fenix, please name-drop me. Nearly every Associate Vice-President position goes unopposed yearly. Associate Vice-President of Academic Affairs has gone unopposed these past two years and will be won by the same person if we want to get real about it. Also, the IESC doesn’t just pick one person to purposely leave people with no choice, it’s because only one person decides to run and the majority of marginalized communities on campus agree that they seem best fit to be in that position. Bad practices would be lying to students to garner more votes and instead of putting in the time and effort in informing students about this constitutional convention, choosing to put it on the general elections ballot to easily reach the number of 500 votes.

    1. Ethan LaHaug


      The constitution was not put on the ballot for political reasons. As a member of the convention yourself you should know this. We advocated for a special election featuring just the constitution, but the Administration did not approve the proposal in time for that to happen.

  2. Diego Tapia

    Also, way to completely not mention the fact that you are setting in stone all of the student populations in the General Assembly with this proposed constitution. This means that the General Assembly, which is set to represent student populations, would not be able to efficiently and effectively represent the fluctuating student interests and needs from year to year. The only way one could change seats depending on student interests/needs would be to by going through another long and difficult convention that would simply make the process more difficult than it needs to be. This is not increasing student representation, this is restricting and limiting it. Also, you gonna talk about how you’re cutting seats from certain student populations such as commuter students, and over-representing first-year students as well. Don’t get me wrong, as a first-year myself I love the representation but come on now 7 seats????

    1. Ethan LaHaug


      Please direct your attention to section 4 of the opinion piece, it says, and I quote, “We set in stone the number of assembly members — 30 in total.” The general assembly can change year to year quite easily, as we’ve removed the requirement that changes to the assembly must go to a special or general election. And you have the number of first-year reps wrong – it is 6, not 7. The reason there are so many first-year representatives has been carefully considered. It is because they have almost no other way to join student government given that most applications go out in the spring. Almost all students in ASBSU are going to end up being at least second-years and above. That is why those positions exist.

  3. Diego Tapia

    “Please know that we are not hampering efforts at inclusion”. So then do you want to explain why you’ve also stated that Diversity and Inclusion are racist, exclusive, and purely ideological in this same process? The reason why the IESC is a “disjointed, separate branch” this year is that two of the authors have worked tirelessly to exclude members from the IESC this entire year. The senator in this article introduced a resolution accusing the IESC of being a “partisan branch” that “engages in blatant ideological litmus testing, preventing students from running for various positions within student government if they are not sufficiently left-leaning in their political ideology.” As a current IESC Representative for the General Assembly, I became involved in ASBSU in October of 2022 and I have never felt so excluded, belittled, and bullied in my life. I find it funny that we are all of a sudden switching up our tunes now that the cameras are on us.

    1. Ethan LaHaug


      As stated previously in this process, there is a difference between Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), which is an ideology that has led to partisan divides, and simply pursuing the goals of diversity and inclusion without the baggage of DEI. This is because there are many ways to build a community and involve more voices, and not all of them require us to imply that Boise State is a racist institution or take the illiberal approach of the IESC. You will find in this article (and in our conversations around the proposal, if you’d joined them) that this rhetoric has been consistent.

  4. Diego Tapia

    For any more information as to why you should VOTE NO to this proposed constitution, please do not hesitate to reach out! diegotapia@u.boisestate.edu or @tapiiiaa on Instagram. It’s crazy to see how the student government has not been representing student interests this entire year, an overwhelming majority of involved students have publicly voiced their opposition to this proposal, and as you can see ASBSU has done nothing to represent those voices. Instead, ASBSU has chosen to belittle, ignore, or just straight-up silence students this entire year! Just because something has “Some good changes”, does not mean it will suffice in the long term. Especially when dissolving branches that have had the most student participation and have been putting in the work that other members are too lazy to even think about!

  5. Lacy O'Dell

    Hello everyone! My name is Lacy O’Dell and I am the current Ethics Officer of ASBSU! To offer a more broad and equitable perspective, I suggest looking at our website: https://www.boisestate.edu/asbsu/ Here you can find everything you need to know about each branch, the constitutional convention, who serves in what position, and our governing documents. You can also reach out to me via email at: lacyodell@u.boisestate.edu. Elections for president, vice president, the associate vice president positions, as well as the proposed constitution take place via email ballot on Monday 4/3 as well as on Tuesday 4/4. Election results will be posted via mass email on Wednesday 4/5. Do your research on all of the candidates running for these elected positions as well as what the new proposed constitution entails. I would also encourage you to read over the current constitution on our website and compare it to the proposed one. It is a lot of information to digest, so please do not hesitate to reach out to me via email with any questions, comments, or concerns. Tell your friends to go out and vote in our annual ASBSU elections!

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