SRC operating under invalid constitution

Ané van Zyl

The Student Representative Council (SRC) of Stellenbosch University (SU) is operating under an invalid Student Constitution.

The last approved version of the Constitution, called the 2011 (2.2), was approved by the student council, accepted by SU students in a referendum, and approved by the University Council in 2011.

However, the SRC is operating under an amended version dated 2014 (2.4).

The SRC policy officer, Jeandré Boshoff, confirmed that the 2014 version is “active”.

“This was used by the previous SRC’s and was used in court cases by student court,” Boshoff said.

Die Matie received documentation regarding the Student Constitution, in which the former Registrar, Johann Aspeling, confirmed that the Constitution must be approved by the University Council and, according to the SU’s board documents, the 2014 version was not presented to the University Council.

When asked if the 2014 version was approved, Boshoff said “they are working on it”, also stating that its use in student court proves its validity.

“We are doing research to make sure, but we are not expecting it to be wrong. If something is wrong, it’s only changes made since 2011. But I doubt that this is the case,” he said.

Changes have been made to amend clauses which, according to the 2011 Constitution, cannot be valid without a referendum.

Important differences between the 2011 and 2014 Constitutions:

Election convener

The process of appointing the position of election convener has been amended to require consultation with the office of the director of the Center of Student Structures and Communities, or his or her nominated alternative. The 2011 version allows only the executive of the SRC the power to appoint the convener.

The 2011 Constitution requires the election convener to organise at least four presentation meetings (caucuses) during election period. The 2014 amendment requires the convener to organise seven presentation meetings.

SRC applications

In the 2011 version, SRC applicants are required to provide 10 signatures to second their nomination.  However, in the 2014 version, the amount of votes was increased to 200.

Term of SRC

In the 2011 Constitution, the term of the SRC is specified to start on 1 November and end in October. The term of the students elected to Council is determined by the meetings of the University Council. The 2014 Constitution makes no mention of the University Council, but specifies that the term of the SRC shall be determined by the academic calendar.

Furthermore, both the 2011 and 2014 Constitutions required a mandatory referendum to be issued in the year 2016. The referendum would have provided students the opportunity to vote on whether the Constitution should be amended. This referendum did not take place.

A request was sent to the university’s Promotion of Access to Information (PAIA) officer on 31 March for access to the last valid Student Constitution. If approved, Die Matie should receive this by 30 April.

According to the PAIA manual: “The failure of the information officer to give a decision on request for access to the requester, within a period of 30 days, will be regarded as a refusal of request”.

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