Student Bill of Rights Passes SGA, Awaits Admin Approval

By the time the 2016 fall semester rolls around, students may have their own bill of rights.

Student Government Association (SGA) passed a proposed bill of rights on Jan. 19 that, if approved by the office of the Dean of Students, will be published in the NEIU Student Handbook.

SGA Senator Roger Byrd, a graduate student, led the effort to draft the student bill of rights. In the fall 2015 semester, SGA established a commission to explore and define what rights students were guaranteed at the university.

“We discovered there weren’t any outlined rights,” Byrd said. “Yes, you could look at the information in the handbook, and see there were implied rights, but it’s based on interpretation.”

The student handbook, curated by the office of the Dean of Students, includes information regarding NEIU policies, resources available to students and other basic information. The handbook currently includes a comprehensive student code of conduct that bulletpoints behaviours and activities prohibited and punishable by the university, but lacks any guideline designating what rights students do have.

With the passage of the bill, SGA hopes to get the student bill of rights published alongside the student code of conduct.

“We need it to be outlined, so that students are aware of what those privileges and protections are,” Byrd said.

According to Byrd, the bill was modeled after the student bill of rights for Southern Illinois University students.

In its current draft, the bill outlines various rights intended by the SGA to protect students. Some of these include the right to procedural due process to students accused of violating the student code of conduct, the inalienable right to both mental wellness and physical disability assistance services and the right to lobby for additional rights through the SGA.

Other parts of the bill further outline protections from discrimination against race, gender, sexual orientation and religion.

SGA President Nicholas Martinez, who also co-wrote the bill, emphasized the need for students not just know implied rights, but to be able to point out explicit ones.

“We wanted a bill,” Martinez said. “We can look at this paper and say ‘These are my rights.’”

The SGA is currently waiting to hear back from NEIU administrators on feedback. Currently both the Vice President of Student Affairs Daniel Lopez and Provost Richard Helldobler are set to give further feedback.

Matt Specht, the dean of students, is currently reviewing the bill and said that in its current form might need to go through a few changes.

“I think it needs some tweaks, there needs to be some negations,” Specht said. “Some revisions with me and the (SGA) to create a comprehensive document.”

Specht read an earlier version of the bill last semester and said he thinks portions of the bill could be implemented “right off the bat.” According to Specht, parts of the bill relating to academic matters will need to pass through the division of Academic Affairs, while those under his purview would need to have specific wording reviewed.

“One of the (wordings) reads, ‘we will prevent discrimination everywhere on campus,’ and I can’t guarantee that,” Specht said. “If someone walks down the halls and yells at somebody, I can’t keep that from happening.

“I think we’re going to create a climate and judgement-free environment. There are just certain absolutes we just need to work out.”

The student handbook can be found at: under “Dean of Students.”