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Dec 15, 2018
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Amendment One: The Free State of Auburn

Amendment One next Tuesday is about Auburn. You may even want to call it Auburn's Declaration of Independence.

There are 14 amendments on the ballot next week. You may ask why so many? Our founders had an extreme distrust of government, it seems. They wrote our state constitution so that most laws and the details of governance are enshrined in the constitution and must be voted on by the people to change. The folks in Montgomery can get in enough trouble by themselves, but real mischief requires the complicity of the voters. That's where the amendments come in.

The very first amendment on the ballot is about Auburn University and reads:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to establish procedures to ensure that no more than three of the members of the Auburn University Board of Trustees shall have terms that expire in the same calendar year and to add two additional at-large members to the board to enhance diversity on the board.

As we explained, because of the constitution, the people must vote on even mundane matters like rejiggering the trustee's terms and adding two members to "enhance the diversity" of the board and ensure that too many vacancies do not occur at the same time. This seems mundane and routine, even boring, but the details are more interesting.

You see, what you see on the ballot, that you wisely study and thoughtfully consider, is not the amendment. The ballot descriptions of amendments are written by the same people who write the amendments, and contain the information they think the voter needs to know.

Students of history may recall that fixing the board so that the terms were staggered was one of the things that was voted on in 2001, and would be partially correct. Much of the actual work was done at that time and rather than fix the problem now, much of what this amendment does is finish the job and clean up the transitional language and no longer relevant grandfathering found in the old article. In 2001, three at-large members were added. Amendment One increases from three to five the number of trustees who may reside outside of Alabama to further separate Auburn from state politics.

A little history lesson is in order here. Since its founding as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama, Auburn has been a political football, pawn, payoff and sometimes doormat for the serving governor. Unlike Auburn's counterpart in Tuscaloosa whose board of trustees fills their own vacancies, Auburn's trustees were appointed solely by the Governor. This came to a head in the late 1990s when Auburn faced the loss of accreditation because of Board politics. AU Administration officials took that opportunity to reduce the Governor's role in board appointments.

With this amendment all references to the Governor's appointment power is removed and the divorce is final. We recommend an enthusiastic YES on Amendment One.

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