Parliament will hold its first meeting next Monday after its members trained for nearly a month with Temple Student Government during winter break.
While members of Parliament appoint a Speaker of the Parliament and representatives to six committees, a new constitution that was drafted earlier this year will come into effect that outlines the powers that Parliament and TSG do or do not have.
Thomas Roof, the Parliament representative for commuter students, said Parliament will “be on equal standing” with TSG and act as “the legislative branch to [TSG’s] Executive Branch.”
“Right now we’re kind of TSG’s baby,” Roof said. “It’s hard to tell because they wrote the new constitution and we only started training, but we’ll continue it when the semester resumes.”
Although Parliament will discuss relevant issues to the communities its members represent, the constitution only allows Parliament to act as a go-between for students and TSG with no real power to make decisions.
The constitution outlines that Parliament will be able to “pass resolutions that express the opinions of the student body,” but has no power to implement anything. Instead, that power lies with TSG, which can also take action with initiatives that it develops internally, without consulting Parliament.
“[Members of] TSG, in the end, [are] the ones that really make the decisions,” said Jacob Kurtz, the Parliament representative for the Tyler School of Art. “They’re the ones who decide what student government is going to do. Parliament is really just a voice for students who aren’t sure how to interact with TSG.”
“If Parliament wanted to look at, say, the [General Education] Program, they’d go the academic affairs committee and … they would say, ‘Here’s the issue and here’s what we think TSG should do,’” said Student Body President Aron Cowen. “Then it goes to the whole of Parliament and then to the Executive Branch.”
Parliament will be able to pass two kinds of resolutions for TSG to consider: nonbinding and binding. A nonbinding resolution requires a simple majority of the Parliament members attending a meeting, but TSG is not obligated to take any action or further look into the issue.
But when Parliament passes a binding resolution, it requires TSG to “provide regular status updates to the Parliament,” implying that TSG must at least consider the resolution but not necessarily take further action, according to the constitution.
TSG’s former constitution, drafted prior to the formation of Parliament, detailed the power TSG’s General Assembly. According to the old constitution, TSG had the power to “pass resolutions that express the opinions of the General Assembly on behalf of the student body.”
The previous constitution also held TSG responsible for implementing initiatives and programs for the student body and allocating funds for clubs around campus, which it is still responsible for, according to the new constitution.
Parliament and TSG will be on equal footing if either body wants to amend the current constitution. Proposals must be submitted in writing to a body made up of the Speaker of the Parliament, the Parliament committee leaders and eight representatives of TSG, including the student body president and two vice presidents. The majority of the body has to approve the proposal before it is voted on by the entire Parliament and Executive Branch. Amendments will be passed only if 75 percent of Parliament and TSG members vote to approve it.
Members of Parliament will hold public meetings every other week, directly after TSG’s General Assembly meetings. Committee meetings for Parliament will be held the weeks when the whole representative body is not meeting, but are not open to the public.
“I don’t necessarily see us having issues with the Executive Branch of student government,” Roof said. “When we started, there were some people in Parliament who expressed wanting to have the control of the TSG budget. Because we’re new, I don’t think they wanted to give us that power yet. I think it’s too early to tell but, when you’re working with humans, there’s always going to be internal politics. But we can always amend the constitution.”
Amanda Lien can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @amandajlien.