Student Assembly drafts Bill of Rights

by Joe Regan | 2/16/16 7:16pm

On Feb. 10, Student Assembly announced via a campus-wide email that it has drafted a student Bill of Rights in reaction to student frustrations.

Assembly president Frank Cunningham ’16 said that after the committee shows the draft to the student body, it will undergo further revision before being presented to the administration. He added that Assembly hopes the administration will incorporate the bill into the student handbook, making it a “living document.”

Cunningham noted that a document like this does not exist at other colleges. He said that most colleges have a Bill of Rights for students but it is only intended to clarify the student handbook, not to be incorporated within it. He did mention that students at Georgetown University are working toward a similar document, but said that besides that “no one has ever tried to do something like this.”

Next Monday a town hall will be held in Collis Common Ground on the first draft of this Bill of Rights.

Jeff Fastow ’18, the co-chair of the Committee on Student Affairs, wrote in an email that a key consideration in drafting the Bill of Rights was making sure it was amendable.

“We want this to be a constructive bridge between students and the administration, something to more formally codify both what we value most, and also what rights we are most adamant on retaining,” Fastow said.

Cunningham said that recent policy changes on campus have caused “unneeded tension” across campus.

“We wanted to figure out a way to open up a dialogue between the administration and the student body,” Cunningham said, adding that the current student handbook has many “gray areas” in terms of student rights. A document produced by the 1985 and 1986 Assemblies provided the foundation for the Bill of Rights draft, he said.

Cunningham said that the Bill of Rights seeks to address three main issues regarding campus life: academics, Safety and Security and Judicial Affairs.

Assembly Chief of Staff Nick Harrington ’17 said, they intend to produce tangible policy changes and stay away from large overarching policies that lack clarity.

“We see these macro-level policy changes happening at Dartmouth like MDF,” Harrington said. “From a student [government] perspective we don’t want student rights cast aside, we want clarity on what the experience of the everyday student will be at Dartmouth, we want clarity from the administration of what that expectation is.”

Co-chair of the Committee on Student Affairs Spencer Furey ’17 said that Assembly has been working on creating a bill of rights since the beginning of the year. The process has involved going through the student handbook and speaking with students.

Furey said that he is excited to get a wide variety of professor and student input at the upcoming town hall.

When asked how he felt about MDF and the Dartmouth administration, Eric Gokee ’19 said that he believed communication between the students and the administration could be improved.

Andrew Sheinberg, a prospective student on campus for Winter Carnival said that a bill of rights would increase his confidence on campus as a student.

Harrington said that a conversation with the administration can only happen after the student body has had one amongst itself.

After that happens, Cunningham said that Assembly intends to work in conjunction with the administration on the Bill of Rights to “make the best Dartmouth possible.”

“They always come to us and ask how they can better aid the student body,” he said. “I think that from the initial responses we have gotten, and the responses we hope to receive during the town hall, that will be enough proof to say, ‘This is what the student body wants and are you willing to work with me?’”

Assembly president Frank Cunningham ’16 said that after the committee shows the draft to the student body, it will undergo further revision before being presented to the administration. He added that Assembly hopes the administration will incorporate the bill into the student handbook, making it a “living document.”

Cunningham noted that a document like this does not exist at other colleges. He said that most colleges have a Bill of Rights for students but it is only intended to clarify the student handbook, not to be incorporated within it. He did mention that students at Georgetown University are working toward a similar document, but said that besides that “no one has ever tried to do something like this.”

Next Monday a town hall will be held in Collis Common Ground on the first draft of this Bill of Rights.

Jeff Fastow ’18, the co-chair of the Committee on Student Affairs, wrote in an email that a key consideration in drafting the Bill of Rights was making sure it was amendable.

“We want this to be a constructive bridge between students and the administration, something to more formally codify both what we value most, and also what rights we are most adamant on retaining,” Fastow said.

Cunningham said that recent policy changes on campus have caused “unneeded tension” across campus.

“We wanted to figure out a way to open up a dialogue between the administration and the student body,” Cunningham said, adding that the current student handbook has many “gray areas” in terms of student rights. A document produced by the 1985 and 1986 Assemblies provided the foundation for the Bill of Rights draft, he said.

Cunningham said that the Bill of Rights seeks to address three main issues regarding campus life: academics, Safety and Security and Judicial Affairs.

Assembly Chief of Staff Nick Harrington ’17 said, they intend to produce tangible policy changes and stay away from large overarching policies that lack clarity.

“We see these macro-level policy changes happening at Dartmouth like MDF,” Harrington said. “From a student [government] perspective we don’t want student rights cast aside, we want clarity on what the experience of the everyday student will be at Dartmouth, we want clarity from the administration of what that expectation is.”

Co-chair of the Committee on Student Affairs Spencer Furey ’17 said that Assembly has been working on creating a bill of rights since the beginning of the year. The process has involved going through the student handbook and speaking with students.

Furey said that he is excited to get a wide variety of professor and student input at the upcoming town hall.

When asked how he felt about MDF and the Dartmouth administration, Eric Gokee ’19 said that he believed communication between the students and the administration could be improved.

Andrew Sheinberg, a prospective student on campus for Winter Carnival said that a bill of rights would increase his confidence on campus as a student.

Harrington said that a conversation with the administration can only happen after the student body has had one amongst itself.

After that happens, Cunningham said that Assembly intends to work in conjunction with the administration on the Bill of Rights to “make the best Dartmouth possible.”

“They always come to us and ask how they can better aid the student body,” he said. “I think that from the initial responses we have gotten, and the responses we hope to receive during the town hall, that will be enough proof to say, ‘This is what the student body wants and are you willing to work with me?’”