The University took steps last Friday to alter what is a well-intentioned — if overzealous — trespass policy. As it stands, the policy gives campus police too much authority and is in need of revision. Most of the changes that the University plans to implement to modify the trespass policy would be beneficial and should be considered to ensure the reasonable safety of the campus community.
After the University banned former Michigan assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell from campus, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan brought longstanding concerns with the policy to the fore by sending a letter to University President Mary Sue Coleman and University Department of Public Safety Executive Director Ken Magee. In response to the letter, Suellyn Scarnecchia, the vice president and general counsel of the University, proposed a plan to alter the trespass policy. The plan decreases the wide scope of the current rules and adjusts the regulations to a more appropriate level. According to a March 13 Michigan Daily article, when individuals refuse to adhere to the University rules, their violation provides grounds for a trespass warning to be issued. Rather than maintaining this sweeping clause, Scarnecchia wants to, and should, change the policy so that individuals can only be issued a warning when they break rules that “protect the health, safety and welfare of the University’s community members and property.”
Scarnecchia also wants the University to have more oversight when a trespass warning has been issued. For example, DPS officers would inform their supervisors of trespass warnings they have issued. It’s alarming that any DPS officer is capable of banning a person from campus, and it would be imprudent to implement a new policy without stripping this power from DPS officers.
There needs to be an improved appeals and review process, which the DPS Oversight Committee — composed of students, faculty and staff — could manage. Scarnecchia wants to expedite the appeal review process so that all appeals will be decided within 40 days of their filing. Appeals shouldn’t take this long to review, but this is a reasonable time limit for more complex matters.
There’s currently no time limit on trespass warnings, and 2,000 individuals have been banned from University’s campus over the past decade. The new policy would include the option to institute time limits on bans if applicable to the circumstances. This is an important change: Automatic lifelong bans are far too drastic for minor infractions. Even if there’s no time limit on a ban, there should at least be a set date when a review should take place, as all orders should be reviewed from after the incident to make sure they are still warranted.
In addition to tightening the parameters for trespass violations, Scarnecchia wants to change the policy so that bans apply to all three University campuses. While this may be necessary in some cases, a mandatory ban on all campuses is excessive. It’s important that the new policy allows this option, but it shouldn’t be the standard.
Most of Scarnecchia’s proposals include changes the University’s trespass policy needs to undergo. The parameters should be practical and reflective of the individual’s offense. It’s important that the University continues to acknowledge the flaws in its policy and makes the appropriate revisions.