Letter to the Editor from Scott Douglas Fisher

This week, you will be asked to approve or reject more than 75 changes to the Student Government Association constitution by casting a single vote. As a former three-term SGA President, I am highly disappointed by the amendments proposed by the current administration and urge you to vote no.

While the large majority of these changes are harmless, included in these amendments are several new rules that may fundamentally corrupt your student government and lead to severe abuses of power.

You’ve probably heard about the most publicized change, that the Berkeley’s Beacon’s constitutionally allocated funding will be completely revoked and subject to annual review by the SGA. During my time as SGA President I often heard members complain about unfavorable coverage from the Beacon and threaten to cut their funding as a result. If the SGA has the power to increase or decrease the newspaper’s budget, the threat of corruption is obvious. Unfavorable coverage of the SGA may lead to funds being decreased as punishment. Also, an unethical Beacon editor may always cover the SGA positively in hopes for a better budget. While SGA members claim this amendment provides “equality” by treating all organizations the same, no other organization’s purpose largely consists of supporting or critiquing the SGA. This amendment would put The Berkeley Beacon in a vulnerable position unlike that experienced by any other student group. Simply, the ability of the press to report fairly and accurately will be severely limited by this amendment.

Further, the powers of the president and chief justice are alarmingly increased through this amendment. The president would now have the power to refuse to appoint a chief justice and fill the role him or herself. This would allow the president to both guide the actions of the student government and determine the constitutionality of those actions, a clear conflict of interest. Similarly, the chief justice would now serve in both the judicial and executive branches, meaning they would now have the power to both plan SGA initiatives and be the sole determiner of their constitutionality.

Apply these amendments to the political world. Imagine if the White House had the power to increase or decrease funding for the Boston Globe. Imagine if the chief justice of the Supreme Court had to determine the constitutionality of a piece of legislation they helped draft. The implications of these changes are obvious. Despite the best intentions of your current student government, these amendments invite corruption and unethical behavior, the exact things that constitutions should aim to prevent.