April 3, 2011

S.A. Representative Andrew Brokman ’11 Calls for Student Bill of Rights

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Student Assembly Representative At-Large Andrew Brokman ’11 called for a “constitutional convention” Thursday to create a student bill of rights.

Brokman said the proposed convention, which the S.A. may approve in a vote on April 7, will seek to draft an “easy-to-use policy document that will help educate all students as to their rights as members of the Cornell community.”

“In theory, you’ll be able to use this bill of rights, and all the documents it connects to, if you’re ever in judicial proceedings on campus,” he said.

Because Cornell’s current judicial system operates on the University’s code of conduct, the jurisdiction of the proposed bill of rights remains unclear. Brokman said it has not been determined whether the bill will seek to enumerate new student rights or simply clarify existing ones — a distinction that will affect how it is implemented.

“If this bill of rights breaks new ground in certain areas — and this will be going to enforce it will come out, and I’m sure that will be a long process with the policy advisory group,” Brokman said, adding that the constitutional convention will work with the University Assembly, the Graduate and Professional Student Assemblies and the central administration.

“The bottom line is that if the president endorses the policy, it’s in place,” he said.

Many of Brokman’s peers in the S.A. greeted the idea with enthusiasm and applause.

S.A. Rep. Natalie Raps ’12, vice president of public relations and the president-elect, said she sees the proposal as “an avenue to further students’ own liberties on campus.”

“While Representative Brokman is only in the drafting stages of his process, I am of course supportive of his goals and hopeful about the dialogue that these changes will create on campus,” Raps said.

S.A. LGBTQ Rep. Matt Danzer ’12 said it was “great that [Brokman is] trying to involve as many constituencies as possible.”

“I really hope that we can get something tangible out of this by the end of the semester,” Danzer said. “Students really need some sort of document that lays out their rights on a whole slew of issues — anything from academic integrity to free speech.”

Tentatively scheduled for April 21, the constitutional convention would gather, among others, students, academics and lawyers “who can help guide the discussion,” Brokman said. “From there, we’ll have breakout sessions to amend the bill of rights and we’ll debate those amendments on the floor as a whole.”

Although Brokman said he hopes a bill of rights will be drafted at the convention, he added that the debate itself will also be educational to students.

“At worst, this will be a great learning and interactive experience for community members. At best, we could end up with a coherent and enduring policy document which could help educate future generations of Cornellians,” Brokman said. “I feel as though people assume on college campuses that justice comes into being automatically and virtue is its own reward … But the sad truth is that individual human beings have to create justice.”

Original Author: Will Ryan