Students work to create ‘Student Bill of Rights and Responsibilities’

By Farris Willingham, Editor-in-Chief

The Bill of Rights, a national document guaranteeing individual freedoms and liberties for Americans, was replicated for students at the university-level.

Students are advocating for the adoption of a year-long project known as the “Student Bill of Rights and Responsibilities,” which would formalize rights for students.

The board of trustees will consider the final copy for approval at their April 26 meeting.

Emma Velez, political science/philosophy junior, said it’s pertinent for students to have their rights outlined so they have a document to defend them if their rights are violated.

“If a staff member, faculty member or administrator has a complaint, they have the department of human resources to go and file an objective grievance and to have that investigated,” she said. “The staff and faculty have their own handbook, and they have bereavement leave and all these rights that as students are not outlined for us.”

Sarah Cook, marketing junior, led the Student Government Association committee that established the document.

“We looked at other university Student Bill of Rights because we didn’t really know where to start,” she said. “We just knew it would be something that we really thought would be cool at this university.”

The committee’s members gathered 15 examples of Student Bill of Rights and consolidated the components they thought were most relevant to the university, Cook said. The final copy will contain about 10 rights.

Some of the listed freedoms include the right to use social media as permitted by the student code of conduct, the right to a syllabus and the right to bereavement leave, she said.

Officials will email the document to involve the campus community in a vetting process, Cook said.

“We want to give everyone the opportunity to look through it,” she said. “We don’t want it driven by the things that are currently happening on this campus.

“We want it to be very long-term and something that can be useable for years to come.”

If passed by the university trustees, Cook said she hopes the bill will be incorporated into the student code of conduct.

The bill, which was on SGA’s agenda for about two years, is a student-driven initiative that had many students offering input about what the document should entail, said Jeff Poulin, entertainment business senior.

“It’s a project I began working on in the fall,” he said.

Poulin worked with other students to develop ideas. SGA officials heard about it and then formed the committee that Cook heads to research and create the Student Bill of Right and Responsibilities.

“Anytime that there is an appeal, there’s nothing to back up students,” he said. “It’s too much of an important thing to attach anyone’s name to.

“It’s part of a larger movement of advocacy on behalf of students so that they can obtain the best education that is guaranteed by this university.”

Students at other universities, such as Clemson University at Clemson, S.C., initiated a similar document to protect their students’ rights.

“The responsibility to secure and to respect general conditions conducive to the freedom to learn is shared by all members of the academic community,” reads Clemson University’s Student Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

One of those conditions should be the right to academic dissent for students, Poulin said.

“Students shouldn’t be graded down because they don’t portray what the teacher believes if their work is legitimate research,” he said.

Click here for a draft of the Student Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

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