The University Record, September 8, 1992

Students to set standards for own conduct on campus

Editor’s Note: An article in the Sept. 14 Record will explore students’ questionnaire responses.

By Jane R. Elgass

Staff in the Office of Student Affairs have been busy since late August compiling student responses to a questionnaire on a Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

All students enrolled for the fall term received a copy of the statement and questionnaire at their homes in early August.

Once implemented, the statement will replace a 1989 Interim Policy on Discrimination and Discriminatory Conduct.

In addition to the questionnaire, Vice President for Student Affairs Maureen A. Hartford will seek comments at “town hearings” scheduled at 7 p.m. Sept. 21 in the Chrysler Center, North Campus, and 7 p.m. Sept. 23 in Auditorium 3, Modern Languages Building. Hartford also will meet with representatives of student organizations in focus groups the weeks of Sept. 14 and Sept. 21.

Following the June 22 Supreme Court ruling on hate speech in a St. Paul, Minn., case, the U-M’s general counsel, Elsa K. Cole, advised suspending the speech component of the 1989 interim policy, saying that it would not withstand a First Amendment challenge.

Hartford says that the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities grows out of a similar statement instituted by Stanford University in 1904. During the spring and summer, she worked closely on the U-M document with several law students and other interested students and campus leaders, as well as administrators and faculty leaders.

“The statement is different from the 1989 interim policy,” she explains, “in that it’s based on the student community’s values. It grows from the honor system, in which students challenge behavior that is beyond accepted norms. Examples of unacceptable behavior will have to come from the students. They will be setting the standards that will be expected from the student members of the University community.”

Hartford says plans call for implementation of the new statement in mid-October, using the 1992–93 academic year to test the statement and its procedures. It will then be evaluated and, if the evaluation is positive, given to the Regents for approval sometime in fall 1993.

A number of campus groups also are being surveyed on their opinions of the new statement, including the deans and directors of the academic units; the University’s faculty governance body; staff at the Center for the Education of Women; Michigan Student Assembly; the Offices of Minority Affairs and Minority Student Services; the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center; fraternity and sorority groups; as well as individual faculty members, especially those who have close contact with undergraduate students.

The preamble of the proposed statement states:

“The University of Michigan is dedicated to creating a scholarly community that promotes intellectual inquiry, encourages vigorous discourse, and respects individual freedom and dignity. Civility, diversity of opinion and freedom of expression are all valued as the necessary foundation for a healthy learning community. All students, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, creed, national origin, ancestry, age, or marital status are welcome members of this community and are expected to participate in sustaining its values.

“These basic principles were expressed by the faculty in the statement of the Fundamental Tenets of Membership in the University Community, adopted by the Senate Assembly June 18, 1990. This document states: ‘All who join the University community gain important rights and privileges and accept equally important responsibilities.’

“It also identifies basic principles underlying these rights and responsibilities, including free expression, free inquiry, intellectual honesty and respect for the rights of others. These same principles support students’ rights and responsibilities at the University.”

The statement goes on to explain that “students accept the rights and responsibilities of membership in The University of Michigan’s academic and social community when they matriculate. As members, each student is expected to respect the rights of others and to work to create an open, intellectually stimulating environment where diversity of ideas and people are valued.

“Students at The University of Michigan have the same rights and protections under the constitutions of the United States and the state of Michigan as other citizens. These include freedom of expression, press, religion, and assembly. Freedom of expression, including reasoned dissent and voicing unpopular views, is a valued tradition at the University, where students have a long tradition of activism. As members of this community, students have the right to express their own views, but must also take responsibility for according the same right to others.”

Among the situations or behavior that may be in violation of the standards set forth in the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities are physical assault; stalking; threats of injury or harm; sexual harassment; discrimination against an individual or group in any activity, opportunity, or organization on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, creed, national origin, ancestry, age or marital status; harassment that unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work, educational performance or living environme