The face of the Student Government Association is changing – and not just through elections. Come next fall, the very fabric of SGA may transform.
At an emergency Senate Meeting held Tuesday, SGA passed a bill resolving to formally plan the potential addition of a Judicial Branch.
Similar to that of the federal government, the branch will absorb the current jurisdictions of the Student Tribunal, Student Disciplinary Board and the Student Life Council. In addition, the branch will serve as the "constitutional authority" responsible for ensuring SGA members uphold and carry out their "respective duties" per the SGA Constitution and accompanying bylaws.
This branch, if created, will be overseen by the director of the Student Conduct and Community Standards, the advisor to the aforementioned tribunal, council and board.
The bill, collectively sponsored by Jacob Clark, Michael Hensley, Amanda Prevost, Greg Butcher and Troy Galyon, followed months of heavy research and planning by a larger circle of invested representatives, including Dante Arnwine, Jake Baker and Duncan Bryant.
While new to UT, the branch is in fact inspired by and modeled after existing units at other, comparable universities. In an interview prior to passage, Arnwine, a junior in political science, noted that UT is late to establish such an institution.
"We're really striving to modernize SGA," Arnwine said. "We feel that we're behind if you look at other SGA across the SEC branches."
After a year of continuous interaction with state legislators, Arnwine feels SGA eventually may play an integral role in the distribution of student fees.
"Since this university is probably going to move down that path sooner or later, the best thing to have this judicial branch in place," he said. "So when it does happen, there's people to hold people accountable."
Because the current Senate's term will soon end, senators in support of the branch felt a certain urgency to draft and pass the bill, laying the framework for possible implementation next year.
"From this point, we're going to bring more senators into the conversation," Hensley, freshman in political science, said. "Really sit down with those individuals who were really passionate and have lots of ideas."
As a result of discussion Monday night, the group has already received useful feedback on the bill. Generally well-received, Arnwine hopes SGA will use the branch to continue "climbing the ladder of legitimacy." With greater legitimacy, SGA may more effectively push for students in the administration and beyond.
"This is something that is going to change SGA," he said. "But it's going to change it for the better."