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.
Written by Diego Tapia; additional contributions by Jasmine Reyes and Melanie Figuroa Zavala
Since September, the Associated Students of Boise State University (ASBSU) have tried to push forth a proposed constitution that completely eradicates the existence of two of our most valuable branches.
The first branch in jeopardy is the Inclusive Excellence Student Council (IESC). The IESC was established in 2017 to continue the legacy work from students of Boise State to acknowledge that frontline communities have been historically underrepresented in academic institutions.
The IESC continuously works to meet marginalized communities’ needs through structural and community initiatives to truly create long-term transformative change which supports all students of Boise State.
The reasoning behind the removal of this branch has been repeatedly clear by the proponents of this constitutional change. This is because they believe that any positions that are made to promote the interests and needs of marginalized communities are political. In the first convention meeting, Ethan LaHaug, the writer of this proposed constitution, stated that “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive is not a universally accepted viewpoint, those things are ideological. They are partisan.” (Timestamp: 1:12:36)
All the work which the IESC has done has benefitted and is available to all Boise State students, no matter their identities. Instead of creating a safe space for dialogue and listening to students’ continued support of the IESC in all constitutional convention town halls and debates, ASBSU has chosen to put national politics at the center of student government.
Students who have been involved in the process have frequently stated that diversity and inclusion are not an ideology they want to enforce or push on anyone; instead, these are means of ensuring ASBSU can be a space for constructive debate and can be a safe space for all students regardless of everyone’s unique background.
The second branch in jeopardy is the Student Funding Board (SFB). In this proposed constitution, the SFB would lose its status as a branch and would instead be placed under the Executive Branch.
Though at first glance this wouldn’t seem as big of an issue, this means the student funding for clubs and organizations would be put under the direct control of the Executive Council as well. Another problem that is created by this change is the potentially restrictive and exclusive code that would be implemented (code are the laws and regulations we follow).
One of the authors of this constitution, who happens to be the president of ASBSU, stated that the only reason he gave funding to a particular club was because he was advised to do so under training. During the second ASBSU Constitutional Convention meeting held on Oct. 22, Vice-president Ryan Bernard claimed that he and the president of ASBSU believed the funding of a ‘Magic the Gathering Club’ was “a bad idea” and implied they shouldn’t have been funded. (Time 19:10)
With the Executive Council being in direct control of code changes and there being little regulation for the president, it is difficult to believe that there will not be an abuse of power to pursue a venue of more restrictive and exclusive funding for clubs and organizations in the future.
This proposed constitution creates a Judicial Branch, which is ineffective for Boise State Student Government. In the past year, there have been a total of zero ethics complaints at ASBSU. This suggests that we would be creating positions that, in recent years, haven’t been used for much of anything. This also means that this constitution would remove four paid positions, which advocate on behalf of student interest, and implement five paid positions that only serve to solve inner-government issues.
Though it’s constantly being stated that this proposed constitution would increase student representation, it doesn’t.
Currently, ASBSU’s General Assembly is filled with positions that are set to represent certain student populations. As of now, the total number of seats in this branch fluctuates on a year-to-year basis depending on student interests and needs.
For example, unlike in previous years, ASBSU added two in-state assembly representative positions this year to advocate on behalf of student needs to increase our in-state population at Boise State.
But this proposed constitution would make the positions within the General Assembly set in stone. Only the populations stated in the constitution would get representation, and even then the proposed constitution cuts back on certain populations’ number of seats by limiting them to only one seat in the General Assembly; also failing to be truly representative of our fluctuating student populations, needs and interests of the current year.
Though I have stated many faults with this proposed constitution, I can not go without saying that there are some good changes in it as well. These changes include making senate positions elected, increasing the number of seats in the General Assembly for underserved populations, creating a position in the Executive Council that is set to advocate for Greek life interests within ASBSU and more.
But this does not excuse the harmful effects this will have on not only ASBSU’s relationship with students but the structural changes that will only take us back to a time when students were vehemently upset with ASBSU.
Do not assume that this means that I am against these changes or that I don’t want them to be implemented. I, if elected to be a part of the Executive Council of ASBSU next year, will constantly advocate on behalf of these changes if they were to get denied this semester. I believe that these are vital to increasing not only ASBSU’s relationship with students but student participation and involvement in ASBSU.
I want to leave you with this final thought when thinking about where you lie on this issue. Have you heard about ASBSU or this proposed constitution before this article? Throughout this entire process, ASBSU has not been transparent or accessible to our students. Minutes were not taken during the first two convention meetings, recordings of these meetings weren’t posted until weeks after they took place and knowledge about meetings and debates concerning the convention was only given out two days in advance, if not the day of.
Students who had been involved in this process were constantly raising their concerns over this lack of communication on behalf of ASBSU. Unfortunately, these concerns were constantly argued, belittled, or completely ignored.
Throughout every meeting, an overwhelming amount of support for the IESC and Funding Board was received from the involved students. Students constantly opposed the proposed constitution and expressed their resentment for feeling pushed aside in conversations with the IESC as they attended Town Halls.
This process may have taken six months, but there have only been six meetings concerning the convention. Two allowed students to raise their concerns or questions for only an hour, three only allowed fifteen minutes of student input, and one blocked student input for a thirty-minute meeting.
Though ASBSU had the time, they needed to use it wisely to truly gather student input. The most people ASBSU can say they interacted with for this convention is 282 students, which was a result of IESC efforts in trying to inform students of the dangerous implications of this proposed constitution and get their input on the real issues they were facing as students – not some constitution they had not even asked for.
I believe it speaks volumes that the rest of ASBSU has taken minimal efforts to educate students on this process at all. All I hope is that all students understand what they are truly voting for, not just misinformation that ASBSU officials give to students to make up for their lack of efforts to have students engaged throughout the process.
As a first-year student, the IESC was the first place I could genuinely label as a safe space here on campus. The removal of the IESC calls for the eradication of my only place of feeling as if I belong on this campus. Sadly this isn’t uniquely my experience but the experiences of many students on campus. I urge you to vote “NO” for this proposed constitution and be mindful of the damages that this will not only cause. Don’t just think of this as a marginalized student reaching out for help, instead, see me as a fellow Boise State student needing support and asking to be heard.
About the author:
Diego Tapia is a first-year at Boise State University and works as an IESC representative for the General Assembly at ASBSU.
About the contributors:
Jasmine Reyes is a fourth-year at Boise State University currently and serves as an IESC council member in ASBSU.
Melanie Figuroa Zavala is a third-year at Boise State University and currently serves as vice president of inclusive excellence.