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Constitution

 

We, the graduate and professional students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, hereinafter referred to as University, ratify and establish this Constitution to provide for our mutual support and to better advocate for our common interests. 

ARTICLE 1: Name and Membership

The name of this organization shall be the Graduate Student Senate, hereinafter the GSS, of the University. The GSS shall be the official legislative body of all active graduate and professional students, hereinafter Students, of the University, and shall represent all such Students. 

ARTICLE 2: Non-Discrimination

The GSS condemns discrimination or harassment based on race, color, class, national origin, immigrant status, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, parental status, pregnancy, age, physical or mental disability, veteran status, and/or political views/ideology. Membership in the GSS shall be open to all students and shall not be restricted based on any of these categories. 

ARTICLE 3: The Graduate Student Senate
  1. This body shall consist of student representatives, hereinafter referred to as Senators, from each academic department of the University which offers graduate or advanced professional degrees or graduate certificates. For academic entities that offer graduate or advanced professional degrees or graduate certificates and that do not align with a specific academic department, a GSS seat may be established to represent those students at the discretion of the Dean of the Graduate School. Both academic departments and academic entities defined above shall be hereinafter referred to as academic units. 
  2. Each academic unit which has less than fifty students enrolled in it shall have a single Senate seat in the GSS. Academic units with greater than or equal to fifty enrolled students may have a second Senate seat in the GSS. Each Senate seat represents one vote in the GSS. 
  3. The process for choosing Senators for GSS seats shall be left to the discretion of each academic unit. Each such entity shall, however, select its Senator by the last day of classes in the spring semester of the academic year. 
  4. Senators may, at the discretion of their academic units, serve multiple terms in the GSS.
  5. There are to be a minimum of three Sessions of the GSS during each fall and spring academic semester. For a Session to count against this minimum, a quorum of Senators of the GSS must be present. The presence of half of the Senators in the GSS shall constitute a quorum, and quorums must be maintained for the duration of Sessions. 
  6. All votes on legislation and for confirmation of appointments shall take place only in the presence of an established quorum, including at Regular and Special Sessions of the GSS. 
  7. All Sessions of the GSS shall be open to all university personnel; debate and voting is restricted to GSS Senators. 
  8. Senators in the GSS shall serve on at least one internal committee. There shall be five permanent internal committees—the Executive Committee, the Judiciary Committee, the Finance Committee, the Legislative Steering Committee, and the Committee on Equity and Diversity. The GSS may create other committees on an ad hoc basis, or by amending the GSS Bylaws. Committee Chairs are not obliged to serve on another internal committee. The role and composition of the five permanent internal committees are discussed in Article IV. 
ARTICLE 4: Permanent Internal Committees
  1. THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
    1. The executive power of the GSS shall be vested in the Executive Committee. This Committee shall include a President, Vice President, Senate Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Communications Director, and Technology Officer and such additional officers as are allowed or mandated by the GSS Bylaws. The President shall serve as the Chair of the Executive Committee, and the Vice President shall serve as the Chair in the President’s absence. 
    2. The President and Vice President shall be independently elected by a popular vote of the graduate and professional student body. These elections shall take place in the spring semester of each year preceding the academic year in which the President and Vice President are to serve. Voting procedures for the election of the President and Vice President are outlined in the GSS Bylaws. 
    3. If the President is incapacitated, the Vice President shall assume the responsibilities associated with that office for the duration of the term. If the Vice President is incapacitated, the President shall appoint a Vice President pro tempore to assume the Vice President’s responsibilities for the duration of the term. This appointee shall be approved by a two-thirds vote of the GSS. 
    4. Other positions on the Executive Committee shall be filled by Senators from the GSS. All Chairs of internal committees within the GSS shall serve on the Executive Committee. 
    5. The President and Vice President shall serve terms of one year. Students may serve in either office for multiple terms but must seek re-election each time. 
    6. The President shall nominate from the floor Senators to fill positions on the Executive Committee, including but not limited to the Senate Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Communications Director, Technology Officer, and permanent Committee Chairs, no later than the second Regular Session of the GSS in a given academic year. The President’s nominations shall be confirmed by a two-thirds vote of the Senators in attendance. If a nominee is not confirmed, the President shall present a new nominee for the vacant position by the time of the next Session of the GSS. 
    7. The Executive Committee shall be responsible for the following activities: 
      1. administering programs on behalf of the GSS;
      2. keeping the GSS informed of actions, events, and issues pertaining to both the Senate and to Students at the University; 
      3. serving as the liaison between the GSS and the Graduate School; 
      4. setting the agenda for Sessions of the GSS; and 
      5. proposing an annual budget for the GSS and supervising the disbursement of funds.
    8. The Senate Chair, having been appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, shall be responsible for presiding over Sessions of the GSS and maintaining the Senate roster, including Senator recruitment.
    9. The Secretary, having been appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, shall be responsible for keeping minutes of all the Sessions of the GSS and Executive Committee meetings. These minutes shall be approved at subsequent Sessions/meetings of the appropriate body and shall be a matter of public record. 
    10. The Treasurer, having been appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, shall be responsible for making regular reports regarding GSS finances to the GSS and the Executive Committee. The Treasurer shall also chair the Finance Committee, about which see Article IV, Section 3 of the GSS Constitution. 
    11. The Communications Director, having been appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, shall be responsible for the representation of and proliferation of information regarding GSS to the graduate and professional student body and general public through social media, press releases, and publications of GSS, including a regular newsletter. 
    12. The Technology Officer, having been appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, shall be responsible for maintaining the Senate’s website and resolving technology-related issues, including assisting with the online administration of GSS elections. 
  2. THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
    1. The role of the Judiciary Committee shall be to determine the validity of measures passed by the GSS, in conjunction with the GSS Constitution and GSS Bylaws. The Judiciary Committee shall also be responsible for receiving appeals of removal and impeachment submitted by elected officers, appointees, and Senators, as outlined in Article V of the GSS Constitution.
    2. The President shall appoint four Senators each year to serve as members of the Judiciary Committee. These appointments must be made before the second Regular Session of the GSS in a given academic year, at which Session they shall be confirmed by a two-thirds vote of GSS Senators in attendance. These Senators shall be hereinafter referred to as Justices. Three of these Justices shall be the Primary Justices, and the fourth Justice shall serve as an Alternate Justice. The Judiciary Committee shall review all new, passed legislation and amendments to the GSS Constitution and/or GSS Bylaws to ensure that they do not conflict with the GSS Bylaws and/or GSS Constitution. If a majority of the members of the Judiciary Committee judge legislation or amendments to be in conflict with the GSS Bylaws and/or GSS Constitution, it shall cease to be valid immediately. 
    3. The GSS shall by a two-thirds vote confirm the President’s nominees for Justices. If the Senate does not confirm a nominee, the President must nominate for confirmation a new appointee at the next Session of the GSS. 
    4. Members of the Judiciary Committee may sponsor legislation but must not sit in judgment of their own work. If a member of the Judiciary Committee sponsors legislation which passes the Senate, the Alternate Justice shall replace the sponsor in any subsequent review processes. 
    5. The Judiciary Committee shall not sit in judgment over any other matters, including disciplinary hearings. The only exception to this is in the case of impeachment proceedings against either the President or Vice President, or in the case of removal appeals submitted by appointees or Senators. In such a case, the Judiciary Committee shall act in accordance with the requirements of Article V of the GSS Constitution. 
  3. THE LEGISLATIVE STEERING COMMITTEE
    1. The Legislative Steering Committee shall be responsible for aiding Senators and other internal committees in drafting proposals for legislation. 
    2. The President shall present a nomination for the Chair to be confirmed by a two-thirds vote of the GSS no later than the second Regular Session of the GSS in a given academic year. Otherwise, membership in the Legislative Steering Committee shall be open to any GSS Senators.
    3. The duties and responsibilities of the Legislative Steering Committee shall be further enumerated in Article II, Section 9A (iv) of the GSS Bylaws. 
  4. THE COMMITTEE ON EQUITY AND DIVERSITY
    1. The Committee on Equity and Diversity shall be responsible for identifying, evaluating, and advocating for issues pertinent to the graduate student experience in matters related to and that promote equity and diversity.
    2. The President shall present a nomination for the Chair to be confirmed by a two-thirds vote of the GSS no later than the second Regular Session of the GSS in a given academic year. Otherwise, membership in the Committee on Equity and Diversity shall be open to any GSS Senators.
    3. The duties and responsibilities of the Committee on Equity and Diversity shall be further enumerated in Article II, Section 9A(v) of the GSS Bylaws.
ARTICLE 5: Impeachment and Removal
  1. In cases of gross misconduct on the part of the President or Vice President, a member of the GSS may present legislation calling for the impeachment of the offending officer. If this legislation passes by a simple majority, the three Primary Justices of the Judiciary Committee shall investigate the alleged misconduct. If the Judiciary Committee finds that there are sufficient grounds for impeachment, they shall call for a formal hearing before the entire GSS. The Alternate Justice of the Judiciary Committee shall preside over this hearing, at which Senators shall have the right to question the accused officer regarding the alleged misconduct and the three Primary Justices of the Judiciary Committee about their findings.
  2. If a two-thirds majority of Senators in attendance finds that the accused officer’s actions constitute gross misconduct and therefore votes in favor of impeachment, the offending officer shall be immediately removed from office. 
  3. If the President is removed from office, the Vice President shall assume the vacant position for the duration of the term. The new President shall then appoint a Vice President pro tempore from the GSS to finish the term, subject to confirmation via a two-thirds vote at a Session of the GSS. The same procedure shall be used to replace an impeached Vice President. If a Senator is removed from office, it shall be the responsibility of the appropriate academic unit to select a new Senator within one month. 
  4. If an appointee or Senator makes an appeal to the Judiciary Committee regarding a removal, the Judiciary Committee shall review actions taken by the Executive Committee or GSS body to determine if the decision to remove was justified. If the Judiciary Committee finds that the Executive Committee or GSS body acted in accordance with its powers and responsibilities, the removal stands, and the appointee or Senator will be immediately removed from office. If the Judiciary Committee finds that the Executive Committee or GSS body acted in excess of its powers and responsibilities, the removal shall cease to be valid immediately, and the status of the appointee or Senator shall be restored.
ARTICLE 6: By-Laws to the Constitution
  1. The Graduate Student Senate shall pass GSS Bylaws to implement the provisions of the GSS Constitution. Bylaws may be established, amended, and repealed by a two-thirds vote of the GSS at a Session of the GSS in the academic year. The process of amending the GSS Bylaws is outlined in Article X of the GSS Bylaws. Any vote on the GSS Bylaws shall require advance notice of at least two weeks.
  2. Any provision in the GSS Bylaws found to conflict with the provisions of the GSS Constitution by the Judiciary Committee shall cease to be valid immediately and shall afterward be stricken from the GSS Bylaws. 
ARTICLE 7: Amendments and Ratification
  1. Ratification of the GSS Constitution shall require both a three-fourths vote of the Graduate Student Senate and a subsequent three-fourths vote of the graduate and professional student body at the University.
  2. The GSS Constitution may be amended with a three-fourths vote of the GSS and a subsequent three-fourths vote of the graduate and professional student body at the University.

 

Passed and updated – April 2022.