Student Bill of Rights: The Real Story

Every Tuesday morning I read through The Justice in order to stay current on campus affairs. One of the issues I’ve been following is the Student Bill of Rights, proposed by Jason Gray, Union President-Elect. Jason is a good friend of mine, and he’s revealed that the Student Rights and Responsibilities is long on responsibilities but severely lacking on rights. You can find a working draft of the bill here. In The Justice‘s weekly summary of the Student Union’s activities, they wrote,

Director of Union Affairs Jason Gray ’10 reported that Union members did not collect enough signatures to make the April 30 vote on the Student Bill of Rights an official referendum. He said the vote would instead count as an unofficial opinion poll.

I was very surprised by this news. Together with the title “Vote on Student Bill of Rights will be an unofficial opinion poll,” it sounded like the Student Bill of Rights had already failed!

While factually accurate, I believe that, as stated and without further explanation, this report is misleading. As I understand campus wide votes, a group of students will seek to pass a referendum in order to get official recognition by the Student Union to their specific issue. If the petition doesn’t receive enough signatures, it isn’t likely to receive serious consideration by the Student Union Senate and Executive Board. The thing about applying the “unofficial opinion poll” vs. referendum in the case of the Bill of Rights is that it came from the Student Union itself, so one can assume that the Union will take the vote seriously no matter how many signatures they collect.

Also, unlike other student referendums, the Student Bill of Rights needs to be approved by the administration in order to carry any legal authority. Approval by students or by the Senate means close to nothing. Jason Gray and other Union members have a lot of negotiating work ahead of them, but by no means has the Student Bill of Rights failed in any way.