A steering committee (Steerco) was appointed to facilitate the writing of the new constitution. They presented their draft to the student body on 7 May in a public meeting and made it available on clickUP.
The biggest change made to the constitution is how the SRC is voted into office. In the past students voted on two ballots. One for faculty constituencies, the other for society constituencies. These votes determined who would be part of Student Parliament, and Student Parliament voted individuals into the SRC. In the draft of the new constitution, this is no longer the case. “The most dramatic change is that students will now contest as individuals […] Students will now vote directly for the individuals they want to see on the SRC,” Jordan Griffiths, TSC president told Perdeby.
Student Parliament was a structure that held the SRC accountable. Now that Student Parliament has been dissolved, a Student Leadership Forum (SLF) will be formed. The Student Leadership Forum will be made up of elected leaders from various structures of student formations. This structure will meet quarterly to receive the SRC’s action plans and evaluate the SRC’s performance against those plans. The SLF will hold the SRC to account and may recommend amendments to the SRC’s action plans. Members of the SLF may also question the SRC’s performance and may take these queries to student affairs.
Griffiths told Perdeby that the SLF will be different from Student Parliament because it will not vote in the SRC and it will only meet quarterly and not monthly as Student Parliament did. He said that, “The SRC will report back to the SLF on its activities as it did with the Student Parliament.” He added that, “The Student Parliament had the ability to call a vote of no confidence in an SRC member to remove them, but the SLF does not.”
Griffiths told Perdeby that, “Personally, I feel the new constitution is better because it has addressed the ineffective Student Parliament of last year by removing it and creating a structure which isn’t as fixed as the Student Parliament. The new constitution also addresses the role of Rag, Stuku and [Student] Sport as service providers and ensures that they will properly operate under the umbrella of the SRC.”
Beni Letebele, the facilitator for the Student Leadership Constitution, told Perdeby that the new constitution tries to broaden student participation. “It focuses more on student leadership and, therefore, creates more opportunity for students, in whatever leadership role they are in, to be part of the pinnacle of student governance,” he said.
Griffiths said that, “The highly politicised atmosphere during elections has put students off as they don’t like seeing national politics being played out on campus, but the opposite is true in that students are often drawn to vote if they see major political players taking part.”
Campaigning is another part of the constitution that has been changed. “The rules regarding campaigning in the current constitution are still being debated but they must seek to allow candidates the freedom to run public campaigns which get students to feel a part of the election and encourage them to vote,” Griffiths said. He added that the key to student participation is an atmosphere in which active campaigning is encouraged.
Dr Madiba said that, “During the campaigning period, there will be every attempt made by DSA [Department of Student Affairs] to support candidates on an equal basis and arrange the forums for debate and engagement.” She said that there may be restrictions placed on the type or quantity of media that candidates may use, to make for an equitable process. “These restrictions will be announced and amended by DSA at the start of the election period,” Dr Madiba said.
Letebele said that the new constitution gives students more opportunities to decide who leads them and to influence the SRC. “It’s not just [about] being involved in voting, it’s about being involved in shaping the SRC and constitution,” Letebele said.
Students are encouraged to read the new constitution and to get involved in the writing of it. Steerco is currently busy with its review process and requests for amendments can be sent to them in a written submission via clickUP.