The proposed changes to the constitution include amendments aimed to build better representation for the student body in light of some of the changes at UH Hilo such as the addition of a new college.
The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Student Association (UHHSA) is proposing amendments to their constitution. UHHSA is the student-run organization that acts as a bridge between the student body, administration, faculty, and other campus organizations, with the intent of serving as a voice for students.
“The UHHSA Constitution establishes an avenue for students to voice their concerns to the UH Hilo administration, as well as [UH] system administration, improves the campus experience for students, both in and out of the classroom, and provides student leadership positions [to represent] student voice,” says Michael Taylor, executive senator of UHHSA.
Functioning as a form of student government, UHHSA aims to represent the views of the entire student body and address the concerns and needs of students as well as help students get involved with organizations and events on campus. The Chartered Student Organization (CSO) works to provide a campus environment that holds the interests and needs of students and enriches student life, as well as provide opportunities for students to get involved with the campus community through leadership positions.
To garnish support for the proposed changes to their constitution, UHHSA set up informational tables last week at the Campus Center Plaza to garner student support.
At the tabling held last Tuesday and Thursday, members of UHHSA presented the proposed changes highlighting the differences from the current constitution, which was last updated in October of 2009. As an organization that represents the student body, making the amendments requires student approval, so students who passed by the UHHSA tabling at Campus Center Plaza with a valid ID were able to participate and help make the changes possible by signing a petition in approval of the amendments. Students were also able to look through the changes in the document before approving.
“Changes [to the constitution] require at least five percent of student approval, so seeking student signatures was the most personable and transparent way to let the students know about the amendments,” says Taylor.
UHHSA represents the student body through being student-run, each position being held by a current full-time UH Hilo student who was elected by students. The positions reflect each of the individual colleges of UH Hilo, with senators representing their respective colleges. Having a student representative from each college helps provide a voice for all UH Hilo students.
“UHHSA’s current constitution includes fourteen positions: four people who are elected sit on the executive board, [plus] ten people, also known as senators, who are elected into college or at-large positions,” says Taylor. One of the ten is elected by the elected senators to sit on the executive board as a liaison.
The proposed changes to the constitution, which include grammatical corrections to the original document, also include amendments that aim to build better representation for the student body in light of some of the changes around campus since the document was last updated, specifically the addition of a new college at UH Hilo.
One of the major reasons for the amendments to the constitution was the recent launch of the College of Natural and Health Sciences (CNHS), which opened in May 2018. With the addition of this new college, UHHSA is garnering student support to have an additional senator to represent CNHS.
“UHHSA’s current senate decided to amend the constitution because of multiple reasons,” Taylor explains. “The main reason is because of the recent split, this past year, of the College of Arts and Science into CAS and the College of Natural and Health Sciences. As we have a senator from each college, it was a right choice to amend the constitution to reflect that administrative decision. Having another senator will help better represent the student body as a whole.”
Other changes to the constitution include the insertion of a due process clause and multiple spelling and grammatical fixes to the archaic document which is almost a decade old, adds Taylor.
The amendments also move to have UHHSA focus solely on the concerns of current UH Hilo students.
“The clause in Honorary Membership that allow[s] former UH Hilo Students to voice their opinions and concerns to UHHSA goes against UHHSA’s mission to address student concerns, as in current UH Hilo students,” says Taylor.
Through keeping the student body directly involved in UHHSA’s decision-making through informational events and through the proposed amendments, UHHSA is securing student representation and participation in the future.
“Changing the constitution through this method is the most transparent way for UHHSA to go about this,” says Taylor. “The amendments made to the constitution, and similar documents such as our by-laws and senate rules, help the UHHSA Senate operate in a way that better represents the students who attend UH Hilo.”
He adds, “UHHSA is here to represent students, and we, as the current senate, want to make sure that goal is clear moving into the future.”
Story by Alyssa Mathews, a freshman at UH Hilo. She graduated from Waiakea High School and is a UH Hilo Chancellor’s Scholar.