Referendum result confirms SEC overhaul

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The work towards structural reform of the Student Executive Council (SEC), which was first brought up in the spring of 2015, has now concluded. The referendum for the new SEC constitution ended on Wednesday, April 20. With 88 percent student approval, the SEC will implement its new constitution in Fall 2016.

On April 21, a press release was posted on the SEC website regarding the referendum result. The press release announces that 28 percent of the undergraduate student body voted on the referendum, which passed the 25 percent threshold needed to account for a valid referendum result.

The referendum, conducted from April 6 to April 20, was the final step that leads to a SEC structural overhaul. The poll asked students if they would support a new SEC constitution, while a basic introduction and some highlights of the new constitution were provided for the voters’ reference.

As the major responsibility of the SEC is to allocate the Student Activity Fee, the passing of this new constitution will affect funding for every student organization on campus and major campus events like Springfest, Senior Week, Homecoming and Thwing Study Over.

The new SEC constitution is looking to foster more collaboration among its board members and reduce the number of complications in the funding process. Currently sitting on the SEC board are the Class Officer Collective, the Interfraternity Congress, the Panhellenic Council, the Residence Hall Association, the University Media Board, the University Program Board, the Undergraduate Student Government and the Undergraduate Diversity Collaborative. According to the new constitution, a Student Presidents’ Roundtable (SPR) will be established, made up of a leader from each SEC board member organization. Compared to the current umbrella structure, where board members work under the SEC and vote on funding decisions, the SPR is expected to shift its focus “from financial allocations to continued collaboration and sustained dialogue between the boards,” read the press release.

“The level of collaboration between Task Force members, SEC representatives, and outside parties sets an encouraging precedent for the future of the SEC,” commented Andrew Hodowanec, the SEC chair. “That same spirit of cooperation must continue into the SPR to bring continued success and growth.”

Another major change is the introduction of fixed Based Allocations. Currently, the SEC members vote semesterly on funding for each of its board members. Although board members receive different amounts of funding, equal weight is given to each vote, and conflicts always occur when members try to support the most favorable funding plan for their organizations. The Fixed Based Allocations are designed to solve this problem by granting guaranteed funding for the board members. Up to 85.77 percent of the Student Activity Fee is diverted to the Fixed Based Allocations, while the rest 14.23 percent is put into the SEC Reserve Fund, available to all student organizations.

Since major changes haven’t been made to the SEC constitution for more than 10 years, the SEC members are very cautious in navigating the reform. Before conducting the referendum, four SEC meetings were held, as well as one open forum to introduce students to the SEC reform. The final constitution was passed in the most recent meeting with a vote of 13 to 0 in favor of the new constitution.

“The passage of these reforms is a testament to the excellent student leaders who have worked many months to make it happen,” said Hodowanec. “Many ideas, drafts and revisions were tossed around before finally reaching an agreement and bringing forth real change.”

However for many students who voted in the referendum, the purpose of the SEC reform and the new SEC structure is still unclear. Although the major changes in the new SEC constitution were listed in the referendum, some students who voted found it difficult to understand the changes and make an informed decision.

“I don’t think it [the new constitution] was well explained,” said Ian Steiner, a first-year student who voted on the SEC referendum. “I don’t think I understood very well what I was voting on.”