On Tuesday, April 1, the St. Mary’s Student Government Association (SGA) requested the Student’s Bill of Rights and Responsibilities to be circulated throughout the campus community. This effort was coordinated through Class of 2016 President and Senate Leader Andrew Wilhelm, who is the sponsor of this legislation. This Bill of Rights is intended to give students the ability to easily and cohesively access their rights and responsibilities as students on campus.
President Wilhelm argued that the dispersal of students rights, responsibilities, and expectations being dispersed among various college documents has led to the confusion for many students. “Last year a friend of mine, who was an RA, and I were talking and he told me a story of how someone he found drinking tried to get him to take a sip of the beer he was drinking. Apparently the person he found was under the impression that it was school policy that if the RA takes a sip of your drink you can’t be written up. This was funny, but it got me thinking about how many students might have this kind of misinformation,” stated Wilhelm.
This led to need for a comprehensive, single document which would provide students with easy access to their rights and responsibilities on campus. Wilhelm elaborated, “This event led me to trying to read about all of the rights I have as a student, and I realized these rights were scattered over several different documents. I was in the SGA Senate at the time so I thought, ‘Hey we should do something about this.’“
Wilhelm believes the goal of this bill is “to help provide a ‘cheat sheet’ for the rights and responsibilities students can expect to have on campus. Also to encourage people to read the policies published in the student handbook as well as to cut down on the misinformation that might be out there.”
Conduct Board Chair and Student Trustee Michael Killius believes that this bill may improve relations on campus. “In my experience, a lot of unnecessary friction between students and PS [Public Safety] or Res Life [the Office of Residence Life] comes from encounters that just get out of hand or are unnecessarily adversarial. I hope this bill soothes out the process of navigating an incident at the time it’s happening because everyone knows what to expect from each other,” explained Killius.
This bill began its life a little over a year ago, as it was first proposed as a resolution to the 2012-2013 Student Government. It called for the Policy Review Committee to compose a document that would pick the most important rights and responsibilities from several published college documents. The work had begun but was cut short when the school year ended.
The bill is composed of various on campus documents such as To The Point, the Clery Act, The Office of Residence Life Student Manual, The Department of Public Safety, and the Student Conduct Board Manual. Besides outlining the rights and responsibilities of a student, it also gives the expectations of the Office of Public Safety, Student Conduct Board Members, Resident Assistants, and Residence Hall Coordinators. Wilhelm also states, when asked about assistance given, “I worked with Michael Killius, the Public Safety Advisory Committee, Dean Goldwater, and both the current and former director of public safety, all of whom were very interested in making the project a reality. Input was also given by the Student Conduct office and the Dean Advisory Council.”
Interim President Ian Newbould and Dean of Students Roberto Ifill gave support to this bill; “Both Dean Ifill and President Newbold formally recognized that the bill was not creating new policy, but rather compiling what already existed and both endorsed the project as a good way to spread information,” explained Wilhelm.
For its future success, Killius commented on the bill saying, “I think the real work of any policy is to help the community be healthy and happy, so if this Bill of Rights keeps us all on the same page […], then it will be a tremendous success.”
To be able to get your own copy of the Student Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, the Student Government Association has allocated $250 for the printing and distribution to the student body. It will be available next year during check in through the Office of Residence Life and orientation thorough the Student Affairs Office.