FAU administrators meddle in Student Government constitutional amendments

Dylan Bouscher

Associate Dean of Students Terry Mena on his phone during a student court hearing where the court decided to validate the CRC process. Photo by Dylan Bouscher.

FAU students are paying $10.8 million to Student Government (SG) this year — but the person with final say on how that money is spent isn’t a student.

He’s the university’s vice president of student affairs (VPSA), Charles Brown, and he must approve spending by any SG organization. That includes any bills passed by the campus Houses of Representatives and Senate, but not SG’s constitution.

The one thing the VPSA can’t approve or review, according to university regulation 4.006, is SG’s Constitution.

Yet back in 2010, Brown tried to make changes to the constitutional amendments, according to former SG President Ayden Maher and former Boca House Speaker Boris Bastidas. And — once again — this year, Associate Dean of Students Terry Mena, who represents Brown in SG, tried to make last minute changes to the amendments, according to Student Body President Robert Huffman.

Students vote in the fall elections Sept. 11 and 12, and as of press time, they’ve never seen the final amendments.

That’s against the rules.

And that’s just the start.

Constitution schmonstitution

Over the summer, a group of 20 students and administrators (including Mena) updated SG’s constitution with amendments they voted on and approved.  The group was known as the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).

The most important amendments included changing the way SG presidential elections are held and raising the minimum GPA requirement to 2.7 from 2.5 for SG leaders like campus governors, house speakers and the president and vice president.

“I believe Dr. Brown was uncomfortable with the instant runoff,” Huffman said.

Huffman’s referring to the new SG presidential election system, which replaces the current system of majority vote with a ballot where students rank the candidates from the one they want to win the most, to the one they want to win the least.

“It’s an option that can work,” Mena said. “There’s several procedural processes that still have to be answered.”

The instant runoff was an amendment proposed at the very last CRC meeting, with half the commission committee skeptical at first, but they still approved it by the end of the meeting. Mena, who represented Brown at the meeting, did not say anything about the instant runoff.

“The senior VP and members have expressed the challenges around the current runoff,” Mena said. “So yes, but it’s not just the opinion of [Brown], it’s the opinion of many students.”

This would eliminate the ongoing problem of runoff elections whenever there are more than two candidates running for president, since candidates rarely gain a majority in a three-way race, which happened in the 2011 and 2010 presidential elections.

Brown has the power to review all SG documents before they’re approved — except the constitution.

“When I heard Dr. Brown had recommended changes, he was breaking policy,” Coicou said.

But when the CRC met, Brown sent Mena there to represent him and Mena didn’t make any changes to the amendments. Mena would not confirm whether or not he asked Huffman to call another CRC meeting to remove the instant runoff.

CRC chair Patricio Coicou and Huffman both said Mena pushed them to call another CRC meeting to make last minute changes to the amendments, which he could have made during the original CRC meeting.

Mena’s insistence is a violation of regulation 4.006, which states the VPSA may not review constitutional amendments before they’re sent to the board of trustees.

Now Brown is out for the next six weeks on personal leave. And Corey King, the interim VPSA and dean of students would not confirm why Brown was out, or why Mena was trying to make last minute changes on Brown’s behalf. Huffman said Brown was out for a knee surgery.

“I’ve heard he’s recovering now and doing physical rehabilitation,” Huffman said.

Mena refused to confirm Brown’s knee surgery as the reason why the VPSA is out.

King has been on the job for “just a couple of days,” but said Mena updates him on SG daily. Mena said he updates King weekly. Despite this, King denied knowing anything about the CRC. King said he was “not familiar with the whole process,” despite sending Mena to the CRC.

King also gave no comment on whether or not he agreed with the current amendments, or whether the VPSA has to review the amendments. Mena did say, however, King and Brown agree with the current amendments.

So once the CRC approves the amendments, and the student body votes to approve them as well, the amendments are supposed to go straight to the BOT for approval.

And since the BOT did not send anyone to the CRC meetings, there were no representatives on their behalf. King did, however, send Mena on behalf of Student Affairs to suggest changes. Mena did not propose any amendments during the meeting.

So Huffman decided not to call another CRC meeting and submit the original amendments approved for the student body to vote on them instead.

“Just because Mena can make notes doesn’t mean they’re going to be considered by the committee,” Huffman said.

But Huffman is less skeptical of administration than past SG leaders.

“I’m not worried about that,” Huffman said. “I’m more focused on getting things done than the drama behind it.”

Murky transparency

The finalized amendments are supposed to be available five business days before the vote so students can cast informed votes — which they weren’t.

The only amendments on SG’s website are tucked away in a “Constitution Revision” tab, but they’re not the final amendments voted and approved by the CRC, they’re an earlier version of the proposed amendments that were not voted on.

“To be honest we should have sent the amendments to everyone,” Huffman said.

Since the CRC met this summer and approved their amendments, students will be able to vote on them in the upcoming fall elections, taking place Sept. 11 and 12 online at www.myfau.fau.edu and certain voting stations on the Boca, Jupiter and Davie campuses.

Now the only time students will be able to view the final amendments is while they’re voting to approve them or not.
“Was it tough?” Huffman asked of his decision to submit the original amendments. “Not really, the students voted on it a certain way and I stand behind my students.”


How It Works

Before Student Government’s constitution can be amended, a few steps must be taken by SG’s leaders. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the amendment process

– The SG president convenes the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), a group of 20+ students and administrators who suggest constitutional amendments.
– The CRC proposes amendments and votes to approve them.
– The CRC Chair submits the final amendments to the Elections Board chair for the student body to vote on them in the next election.
– The student body votes to approve the amendments.
– If approved by the student body, the amendments are on the agenda of the next board of trustees meeting for the trustees’ to ratify with a majority vote.
– The ratified amendments are added to the constitution.

How Administrators Violated University Policy

– When Student Government wanted to amend its constitution, a group of students and administrators known as the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) met to approve amendments.

– Once the CRC approves the amendments, the student body votes on them.

– Once the student body approves the amendments, it goes to the board of trustees for approval.

– Nowhere in between the CRC’s approval and the student body vote can the vice president of student affairs come in and suggest changes, according to University regulation 4.006.

“Student Government may adopt internal procedures, including but not limited to a
constitution, statutes, and other legislative acts,” the policy reads. “All Student Government Internal Procedures are subject to the approval of the University Board of Trustees or its designee prior to implementation.”

But the policy goes on to exclude the constitution from Brown’s review or approval. “All other Student Government Internal Procedures are subject to approval by the Senior Vice President for Student Affairs on behalf of the University President and University Board of Trustees,” the policy reads.

CRC Chair Patricio Coicou and Student Body President Robert Huffman both said Associate Dean of Students Terry Mena pushed Huffman to call another CRC meeting to make last minute changes.

This is a violation of regulation 4.006.

Student Government leaders also violated constitutional policy.

Article VII, Section 4. reads: “All approved proposed amendments shall be disseminated through all FAU media agencies and made accessible to the Student Body no less than five (5) business days before the Student Body vote.”