The finalizing and ratification of a Student Bill of Rights remains on the Student Government Association’s agenda for spring 2012. Work on the document started early last semester under the direction of senior Josh Koch and junior Casey Sullivan, who solicited student input through weekly meetings open to whole campus.
Currently, official campus policy requires that all decisions relating to student conduct and student rights on campus be derived from the Scots Key which the College of Wooster publishes annually. Members of SGA felt strongly that the rights of students must clearly be defined with a document they title the Student Bill of Rights.
Koch brought attention to the fact that other private colleges and universities, like Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, currently have Student Bill of Rights and that the College of Wooster will soon follow suit. The Student Bill of Rights did not necessarily emerge from specific instances where Wooster students’ rights were violated but rather the bill attempts to preserve many of the implicit rights students currently possess.
Koch made the clear distinction that Wooster students currently have implied rights, according to the Scots Key, but they lack explicit rights. He went on to state that there currently exists an implied contract or understanding between students and the administration of the College but a lack of explicitly stated students rights causes problems when issues arise between students and the administration. “We essentially want [students] to get a copy of a Bill of Rights at orientation so that [students] know exactly what their rights are on campus.”
When asked how the Student Bill of Rights would directly impact the lives of students, Koch stated that it would be difficult to immediately gauge the effect and that the bill would primarily be used as a tool for the college administration in the future. However, Koch was able to offer a few concrete examples of how the administration’s policies and actions would be affected by the Student Bill of Rights.
One portion of the bill will attempt to afford students a greater deal of clarity when interacting with College Security & Protective Services (SPS). This portion, currently described as a Probably Cause clause, would require SPS to obtain authorization from the campus administration in order to conduct a search of a student’s room in the absence of probable cause.
A different clause relates to the Right to Remain Silent when dealing with SPS. According to Koch, current students have felt that they are being labeled as complicit in wrong-doing when they chose to remain silent.
The bill remains in draft stages with SGA but Koch remains hopeful that the bill will pass SGA in the coming semester. In order for the bill to enter into effect on campus, it will require ratification from SGA followed by ratification from Campus Council along with an endorsement from at least 50% of the Wooster student body. Once this has been achieved, the bill will be sent to the Office of the President for the president’s signature, which would enter the Student Bill of Rights into effect.
SGA plans to publicize the bill to the Wooster student body later on in the semester through posters and other advertisements around campus. Koch, along with the rest of SGA, strongly indicated that they wanted the approval and input from the student body in order to make the Student Bill of Rights stronger and more inclusive of student opinions.
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