In a robust discussion of the issues facing campus — including trash violations on Football Saturdays, revising the Student Code of Conduct and the safety of Minor in Possession citations — student leaders and the top faculty governing board promised to work together to find solutions.
Michigan Student Assembly President Abhishek Mahanti and Vice President Mike Rorro visited the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs weekly meeting to raise their concerns and illicit faculty help.
“Just us being here we realize that we’ve got friends,” Mahanti said. “That’s a really reassuring thing.”
The two sides offered to help each other accomplish their goals that included revising the Student Code of Conduct to make it more practical, using Ann Arbor and University Police more effectively to protect students from crimes and avoiding possible fallout from a new smoke-free initiative taking effect in 2011.
MAKING STUDENT DRINKING POLICY MORE PRACTICAL
Once every three years, MSA and SACUA collaborate to revise the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities, or the Student Code of Conduct — which is meant to govern student behavior on campus.
This year, MSA is working on adding a “Good Samaritan Policy” to the statement. The addition would solve some of the problems students encounter when a party goes awry, like refusing to call for help for friends who pass out from drinking for fear of repercussions for themselves.
“If a student is intoxicated and underage and calls for aid for another student, he won’t receive a minor in possession simply because he called in,” Rorro said of the proposed changes.
Currently, underage students who have been drinking and call for help while in a residence hall receive a minor in possession — a citation for minors who have had any alcohol in their body. Rorro said this deters students from helping others in need of medical attention.
“If you do (call) and the cops do come, then they will give you a minor in possession as well,” Rorro said. “So in fact, instead of immediately calling to save this person’s life, you would hesitate.”
The goal of the new policy would be to eliminate the fear of getting an MIP and being punished for helping a friend, Rorro said.
MSA will send its revisions for the Student Code of Conduct to SACUA by the end of the month. The board will then make changes to the document before sending it to University President Mary Sue Coleman for approval.
TRASH CITATIONS DISTRACT FROM OTHER CRIMES
According to Mahanti, there has been an increase in the number of fines students have received for littered lawns during football games, at least in those reported to MSA.
“We’ve heard lots of complaints from students that say literally 20 minutes after the big shift has gone from the houses to the stadium, the city officials come through and give fines,” Mahanti said.
Mahanti said students have been receiving fines that range from $500 to $700 — reporting that fines increase with each violation and messy renters who have received tickets in prior years cause the hike in fines, even if the current tenants didn’t live there before.
While MSA is working with the Ann Arbor City Council on the issue, SACUA members agreed that police services could be used more efficiently to improve campus safety.
Mahanti said students are concerned about the recent break-ins at fraternities, sororities and other houses near campus where laptops, iPods and football tickets have been stolen. In yesterday’s paper, the Daily reported on a string of crimes that occurred this past weekend, some of which occurred during the football game.
In an attempt to reduce break-ins and robberies, MSA is looking to set up neighborhood watch committees.
Rorro said the committees would require students to keep an eye out for suspicious activity in their neighborhoods, as opposed to relying on the police.
“We know it’s much easier for fellow students to recognize their neighbors and fellow students than it is for the police to recognize a person who is breaking into a house,” Rorro said.
Statistics Prof. Ed Rothman, who is a SACUA member, empathized with the students who were victims of the recent crimes.
Rothman said that he too was a victim of a similar scenario during Hash Bash one year, when someone stole his computer from his office while police were preoccupied patrolling the Diag.
“This allocation of resources between giving out tickets and enforcing policy, potentially profiling students and others is an issue because that’s a resource that could be used to protect (students),” Rothman said. “It would be nice to see there be a better balance between those two.”
AIRING COMPLAINTS WITH SMOKE-FREE INITIATIVE
At the meeting, the two groups touched on the smoke-free initiative that will be enacted on campus July 1, 2011. The policy — meant to reduce secondhand smoke and related health costs — will ban students and faculty from smoking on University property.
Both MSA and SACUA members expressed frustration with the University’s decision that was made last April without their input.
“We got told about it the day before it was announced,” said Michael Thouless, SACUA chair and professor of Materials Science and Engineering. “We weren’t consulted.”
Gina Poe, SACUA member and associate professor of Anesthesiology and Molecular and Integrative Physiology, said the University pitched the policy as something that will benefit both faculty and students.
“When we were presented with it, we were basically told it’s a fantastic thing the campus is doing,” she said. “It’s great for health and welfare for everyone.”
Regardless of whether or not the initiative will positively affect the University community, Robert Frost, SACUA member and associate professor of Information Studies, said the decision will impact faculty and students.
“It really does put everybody on the campus community on notice as to what proper behavior is,” Frost said.
Rorro said he’s worried that the initiative is “just for show,” because he doesn’t understand how officials will enforce the policy.
“The fact is, if someone is smoking on the Diag is someone really going to go up to them and ask them to please stop smoking?” Rorro said.
Rorro added that he’s worried students will not be motivated to take action against the policy because the majority of students will have graduated by the year the policy becomes enforced.
After the meeting, Mahanti said that he was confident that the faculty would stay true to their word and help solve these very important issues for students.
“Faculty with their research and with their efforts in teaching have a pretty big presence on this campus,” Mahanti said. “Having them on the students’ side with various issues will help because these are the people who work closely with administrators, who set a lot of policy at the University.”