Twelve of the Michigan Student Assembly’s 18 proposals to amend the University’s student Code of Conduct, the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities, were accepted yesterday by the University body that enforces the code. The code regulates student behavior on campus.

During the meeting with MSA, the Office of Student Conflict Resolution rejected two amendments and accepted four in principle. OSCR serves as the first stage of approval for the changes.

Among the proposals rejected by OSCR and perhaps among the most controversial was one that dealt with students’ right to be represented by a lawyer in an expulsion hearing with the University.

Currently, an attorney can advise but not represent a student during hearings on code violations.

“The University is very opposed to having a lawyer represent students in a hearing. I don’t expect this amendment to pass, but I think it’s very important and would be very excited if it did pass,” said LSA junior Priya Mahajan, co-chair of MSA’s Student Rights Commission.

OSCR Director Keith Elkin has stated his strong opposition to having a lawyer present in code violation hearings in the past. He said, “It changes it from an educational process to one that is like a criminal court process. The other major problem is there’s going to be a fundamental inequity in that, on the one hand, students with the most money are going to be able to hire better lawyers.”

The proposals accepted by OSCR will be passed on to the Student Relations Advisory Committee, made up of University faculty, who will vote Friday on those proposals they will recommend to University President Mary Sue Coleman, who can then make changes to the code.

One of the proposals that OSCR supported in principle, but not officially, was proposal 4R, which would require that a student be told that statements made to OSCR are admissible as evidence during hearings or can be disclosed to a court if the student is subpoenaed.

“These warnings are critical because without them students may make statements that incriminate themselves in the OSCR process or that could result in criminal penalties. This is too important an area to be left to OSCR’s discretion, and these protections, of course, are not administrative in nature,” Josh Gewolb, chair of the MSA’s code advisory board wrote in a letter to SRAC faculty chair Prof. Carl Akerlof.

But according to Elkin, “Informing students of their right to remain silent via the Statement sets up or further reinforces the stereotypical notion that OSCR serves as University police force.”

While OSCR did not support inclusion of proposal 4R in the code, it agreed to begin informing students that statements made to OSCR can be disclosed to a court if they are subpoenaed. MSA members were not completely reassured by this.

Despite the communication that has taken place between MSA and University offices, Akerlof said he is concerned about the breadth of MSA’s proposals.

“There’s quite a few changes that are being proposed. I am concerned that (the MSA’s code advisory board) only meets once a month and that there are limited opportunities to debate these issues. I’m concerned this is a heavy burden for a relatively slight committee,” Akerlof said.

MSA proposes amendments to the code every two years and tries to persuade the Office of Student Conflict Resolution to recommend these to SRAC. The proposed changes are then reviewed by SRAC, which recommends some of these proposals to Coleman. Coleman will ultimately decide if the amendments will be adopted.

The original proposals were made on Nov. 1 and were modified on Dec. 2 and again yesterday. The amendments proposed by MSA cover a variety of areas, including disciplinary action by OSCR, which enforces the student code of conduct.

Despite the two amendments OSCR did not support and the four that it supported only in principle, MSA members said they are pleased with the results of their meeting with OSCR.

“Substantively, MSA has gotten almost everything it wanted — important new procedural rights and much greater transparency,” Gewolb wrote in an e-mail.

Mahajan said she was much more optimistic about some of the other proposed amendments.

“Since we have been working so closely with SRAC and OSCR, we feel like things are running smoothly,” she said. “Two years ago we didn’t have the support of OSCR we thought we did, and a lot of the amendments didn’t pass. Last time there wasn’t enough student support. If we have more student support this time, we hope they’re going to pass the amendments,” she added.

SRAC will hear OSCR’s recommendations and student concerns at the meeting on Friday.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.