Poor understanding leads to poor actions

Do you know what is in the U.S. Constitution?

Do you know all of your rights? Do you know what the government can and cannot do to you?

Well, chances are…you don’t know.

In 2006, the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum released a study showing that more Americans know the five members of the Simpsons’ family (Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie) than the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (speech, press, religion, assembly and petition for redress of grievances).

But don’t feel bad if you don’t know the finer points of government. Your Student Association senators don’t really know their own constitution either.

Sunday’s SA Senate was consumed with debate over whether the dismissal of Ryan Smith from the president pro tempore position was constitutional or not.

Those arguing for his removal point to Section 1, Part L of the SA bylaws, which states that the president pro tempore “shall preside over Senate meetings under the direction of the Speaker.”

So yes, we understand where the impression of “the president pro tempore serves at the pleasure of the speaker of the senate” comes from. One analogy would be how the chief of staff interacts with the U.S. president; Rahm Emanuel answered only to Barack Obama, not Congress.

But then there’s Article 7, Section 1 of the SA Constitution, which states that there’s a specific procedure for removing “any officer; senator; SA representative…or any other member of SA.” Seven senators need to petition to remove the person in question, and at later date, a two-thirds majority is needed to oust him or her.

But the SA did not do this on Sunday. Speaker of the Senate Jeremy Peters said he removed Smith on Friday, and he appointed a new president pro tempore. The question of the evening seemed to be: Was it constitutional?

We’re not constitutional experts, but this is getting out of hand. We closed last semester with the SA being accused of violating the U.S. Constitution in its verbal battle with the Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and now, it’s being accused of violating its own constitution.

We understand that parts of constitutions can have differing interpretations, but you would think that something like “officer removal” would be clear, right?

And it doesn’t help either that the body is in charge of student money. Remember, the SA is entirely funded by the student fees every NIU student pays. All the paid positions are funded with student money; all of the directors and executives are paid.

If the SA is going to be in charge of our money, it needs to know its own rules. And if the members are unsure, then ask somebody. They have an adviser, and there’s plenty of law professors on campus who could probably decipher their constitution.

Act responsibly, please.