Approval sought for student bill of rights

Students may soon be protected by an ASMSU proposal that would create a student bill of rights that outlines the various privileges that students have as members of the MSU community. ASMSU senators have been working on the bill of rights since September, and they are now in the later stages of the process as the document is being reviewed by university officials, according to ASMSU Senate Vice President Billy Dove.

ASMSU began drafting a student bill of rights when they learned of revisions being made to the Student Code of Conduct early in the fall semester. Dove said that students are always told what they can not do and that they should have a document that outlines what they can do. Revisions to the Student Code of Conduct were officially passed in the March 4 University Council meeting. Dove and others from ASMSU hope the bill of rights will inform students of their rights as members of the MSU community as well as give an overview of the responsibilities of professors to their students. “The bill of rights is really a compilation of existing rules and laws,” Dove said.

In a referendum that was included in the recent ASMSU elections, students voted overwhelmingly in favor of the establishment of a bill of rights with 1,363 students voting for it and only 226 students voting against it. Although ASMSU has made progress with the bill of rights, some administrators, including Dean of Students Matt Caires, say there is still some work to do before the document can be brought before University Council to be voted on.

Leslie Taylor, legal counsel to MSU, made a number of revisions to the draft, including the removal of some articles that would have given students new rights. Some of those removals included a section that outlined the responsibilities of professors and grievance procedures, such as the requirement for professors to keep an updated syllabus and a clause giving students the right to graduate in a timely manner. Taylor suggested that these parts of the bill of rights be removed because students should not be able to tell faculty how to run their classes. “I don’t believe students have any authority to direct the actions of faculty … that’s up to the university,” she said.

Josh Soares, a senator for the College of Engineering and one of the sponsors of the student referendum passed earlier this month, disagrees with Taylor’s removal of some sections. He specifically pointed out the section that requires faculty to “include a detailed description within the class syllabus about expectations for timely and reasonable communication with students. The syllabus is an informal contract between the professor and students, [professors] set a schedule and a grading scale and should stick to it,” he said. Other sponsors of the referendum were Dove and ASMSU senators Dillon Haskel and Carsten Kirby.

Caires supports the idea of having a bill of rights, but he said he would not introduce it to University Council until some of the issues Taylor highlighted are addressed. Caires said that both MSU Legal Counsel and the Faculty Senate are mostly concerned that the

current version of the bill of rights might be too powerful. “Both groups are concerned that the student bill of rights created new rights,” he said. Caires pointed out that those groups do not oppose the introduction of a bill of rights, just certain parts of it. He said, “No one disagrees with the students writing a document that codifies existing rights.”

ASMSU hopes the bill of rights will soon be passed by University Council despite criticism from some university groups. They plan to bring the document up for a vote at the May University Council meeting. Dove said that the university should pay attention when students try to make change. “This is an example of students saying ‘Listen. You have to listen to us,’” Dove said.

To learn more, contact Dove at asmsusenatevp@msu.montana.edu. Students can also voice opinions through attending ASMSU Senate meetings. Senate meetings take place every Thursday at 6 p.m. at