The Whittier College Student Bill of Rights has been in the making for some time now, and is nearing its finalization thanks to the Whittier College Social Justice Coalition, senior ASWC president Amer Rashid, and Associate Dean of Students Josh Hartman. Sophomore Social Justice Chair Eryn Wells started drafting the bill several months ago, but the process has taken longer than originally anticipated.
Since The Quaker Campus last discussed the Bill, it has undergone serious revisions in the attempt to clarify and condense the document. However, the original intent of the Bill remains intact: students will have a legally binding, transparent outline of their rights as a member of the Whittier College community.
The Bill will not be finalized until April, but it is almost complete. “The step I am at now is getting feedback and signatures from everyone, and working towards getting the stamp of approval from all the necessary parties,” said Wells.
The necessary parties include the Associate Dean of Students office, faculty members from the Political Science department, and numerous students, including the Social Justice Coalition’s constituents who initially requested the bill.
In the revision process, Wells fine-tuned phrasing throughout the bill, as she says the bill was initially much longer. “We were unsure of how to phrase everything,” said Wells. “We just knew the basic ideals that were important to the students.”
Student feedback has been positive, according to Rashid. “For the most part, we heard from students that we had touched on all the things important to them,” said Rashid. “Nothing was added there, but it was important to have another set of eyes on it, and to hear that we were going in the right direction.”
“Most of the feedback we received from faculty was in regards to language,” said Rashid “We had Professor Kauffman go over bills of rights from other countries to see if our phrasing is legitimate and effective.”
One of the alterations the bill underwent was the clarification that students have responsibilities in addition to rights. “For example, in the Student Bill of Rights, students have the right to freedom of expression. However, the Bill also stipulates that opinions cannot be harmful towards other students and cannot incite violence,” said Rashid.
According to Rashid, faculty and administration responses were positive and open to student requests. “When we were trying to figure out how to incorporate the fixed tuition clause, I spoke to [Jim, Vice President of Finance and Administration] Dunkelman, and he worked with us closely just trying to figure out how to make this stuff plausible,” said Rashid.
The fixed tuition clause ensures that once a student enters the College, their tuition rate will not be affected by potential raises in tuition. “This is so important, because it allows students to be more fiscally responsible in planning for the future by knowing what their tuition rate will be consistently.” Fixed tuition will not be enacted until fall of 2017, as the College has already done financial planning for 2017-2018. However, the rest of the Bill of Rights will be active as soon as it is cleared by the Deans office, voted in by the ASWC Senate, and then added to the student Code of Conduct.
Adding the Bill of Rights to the student Code of Conduct is the key to making the Bill legally binding. At that point, it is observed by the ASWC Senate, the College, and ultimately law enforcement.
To be added to the Code of Conduct, the bill has to be approved by the Dean’s office, which is part of why the process has taken so long.
Unlike the rest of the Code of Conduct, though, the Bill of Rights cannot be changed by the Dean’s office. “Because the Bill was created and ultimately will be passed by the ASWC Senate, the amendment process must go through us.” This is done in the hopes that the Bill will remain intact despite possible shifts in administration, or administration’s stances towards any of the enumerated rights.
The student Bill of Rights will be debuted to all students on Monday, Apr.17 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in front of the CI.