New StuGo constitution creates big changes

Alisha Soni | The Chronicle

Mason High School’s (MHS) Student Government (StuGo) has rewritten the rules of leadership with their ratification of a new constitution.

StuGo is one of the largest clubs in MHS and is in charge of planning and organizing school events, including Homecoming, Pep Rally and Kids Count. The function and structure of the organization are governed by its written constitution, but after a growing awareness of the need for changes, StuGo successfully ratified a new constitution at their Constitutional Convention on March 15, 2023.  Major changes included the removal of titles in elected class officers, new attendance requirements and the requirement for student body leaders not to hold other major school leadership positions.

In the past, it was customary for the constitution to be revised annually to better suit the club’s needs. However, due to issues with timing and the pandemic, the process of getting these changes to the constitution approved by the General Assembly, the general members of StuGo, has not happened in the past several years.

Senior Urja Mehta, student body president of StuGo, has held a position on the executive board for the last four years. Mehta said that although they were able to implement these changes this year, she had witnessed and been a part of the past conversations regarding altering the constitution.

“It wasn’t us who proposed [some of] them, but we’re the medium to deliver the change,” Mehta said.

StuGo’s student body and executive board held frequent meetings to open the floor to any ideas about changes that could be made to the constitution. In the previous version of the constitution, candidates running for class officer did not run for a specific position. The positions are assigned by the number of votes; the highest number is elected president, the second highest is the vice president, then secretary and then treasurer. Mehta said that the new constitution eliminates this system of assigning specific titles.

“We wanted to see a better representation within Student Government of the entire class or the entire school itself,” Mehta said. “A lot of Student Government is a popularity contest, but we’ve been trying to eliminate that as much as we can. The big thing I’ve learned, at least from my four years, is it doesn’t matter what position or title you have, but it matters what you do with that position or title.”

The student body and club advisors will now conduct interviews with newly elected class officers and sort them onto a board headed by a student body member: the management board, the PR/social media board, the finances/grants board and the attendance board. Senior Devarth Patel, student body secretary, said that these interviews focus on figuring out a person’s interests rather than using an arbitrary number of votes to assign a class officer their role in the organization.

“Based on the interview, based on what your strengths are, we can kind of gauge where you want to be so we can put you on the board you want to be,” Patel said. “We’re getting rid of positions to prevent popularity contests.”

Another major change to the constitution is that class officers cannot be president or president-equivalent of certain major MHS clubs, including all language national honor societies, National Honor Society (NHS) and Students Involving Befriending Students (SIBS). Student body members should not have any president, captain or board member leadership positions in any clubs that may interfere with their responsibilities to StuGo. Lead StuGo advisor Jeff Schlaeger said that these changes are to prevent students from overcommitting themselves as leaders, while also helping to diversify the student leadership at MHS.

“Why are we going to hire someone that [is] president [of the] three [big clubs] when there are so many great kids who want to lead?” Schlaeger said. “We need to give others an opportunity. You don’t know how much time [leading] takes up until you’re doing it, and I think to be the president of multiple organizations is a lot.”

StuGo also introduced new changes for their general members. MHS students may now join StuGo through a formal application process at the end of the first semester as midseason members. Midseason applications were created because students would frequently miss the deadline to apply for StuGo, but would still want to participate.

Additionally, members of the Student Body cannot be a chair of a committee, which are a specific group of people who plan and organize an event, such as the homecoming parade or Kids Count. This role is one of the main roles of class officers. In the past, student body officers would often end up carrying the workload of the committees while having to fulfill their student body duties.

With the new draft of the constitution created, the entire StuGo club had the opportunity to preview and propose amendments before their March combined business meeting and Constitutional Convention, where all of the StuGo members met to discuss the changes and vote to pass the new constitution. Freshman Sahana Srikanth, freshman class secretary, said that the executive board has been focusing on getting general members more involved in the club.  Before and at the convention, StuGo members could write down any suggestions or thoughts about the changes, and this feedback was considered by the StuGo board.

“Telling people that we want their input on the constitution shows that there’s a balance between what execs do and what general members do,” Srikanth said. “We really want to incorporate every single voice in Student Government to promote for the better in the future.”

Freshman Eliana Charpentier is a general member of StuGo. She suggested modifying the proposed constitution to include an attendance requirement, which is something the board then changed based on Charpentier’s feedback. Members will now face a mandatory year of probation from the club if they fall below 25% attendance to monthly meetings. Although this change caused some debate, it was ultimately put in place to ensure that official StuGo members are taking part in their duties. 

“I was really glad because I feel like [in] student government, only a limited amount of people would add an amendment,” Charpentier said. “But I’m glad that [the board] did hear them out and think them through and discuss it.”

When the general members of StuGo voted on the proposed constitution, it had a high vote of approval. Patel said that even with feedback and consideration, it will face scrutiny from the general public, but these changes will create positive adjustments for the future. 

“[Rewriting these rules] was a lot of pressure because you’re changing precedent and creating new precedent,” Patel said. “A lot of these issues can be remedied if we make changes to the constitution, so that’s what we did.”

With all of the new changes and alterations made to the constitution, the previously 16-page document increased to 19 pages. Mehta said that all of these changes will better suit what the club needs. 

“What we’re trying to do is make sure that [changes to the constitution] happen every year,” Mehta said. “I’m hoping they keep doing it and keep doing it and eventually by 2030, 2035 Student Government is at the peak for what the people need that specific year with the new constitution. I’m excited to see what the legacy I leave behind in the future holds for Student Government and Mason.”

Infographic by Alisha Verma