Student Senate passes proposal to protect student freedom

The Student Senate passed a proposal two weeks ago to protect student academic freedom in the classroom. 

Student Association Vice President Adam Hansen said that the proposal was passed in tandem with a proposal passed by the College Senate to protect the intellectual property rights of professors in the classroom. 

“This proposal is aimed at protecting students in classroom discussions to [ensure they can] speak their minds freely,” Hansen said. “It is also aimed [at allowing] students to feel able to speak openly as long as it’s not pervasive, excessive or degrading, that are protected under Title IX.”

According to Hansen, the proposal will penalize faculty who impede students’ free speech. The proposal will protect students so that faculty members cannot lower grades or punish students for having views that conflict with the views of that faculty member.

“The students’ grades, or their enrollment status, are protected,” Hansen said. “This way, if a student disagrees with a faculty member in a discussion-based classroom setting, they’re not going to be penalized for disagreeing openly. This ensures that there’s open conversation [and] open dialogue to get the best conversation possible.”

Student Senate Academic Affairs Committee Chair Sandra Kralik said she believes it is unfair to allow professors academic freedoms in the classroom while ignoring the rights of students. 

“It would be unfair for a professor to say what they want and then, if a student says something of a similar nature, for the professor to not allow that in the classroom,” Kralik said.

Currently, the proposal is in its preliminary stages, but Hansen says that the Student Senate is working to implement the proposal into the Student Code of Conduct before the semester ends. 

“This is not written anywhere yet, we’re still in the very early stages of this,” Hansen said. “But we think that, hopefully, with this implemented with the President’s support and the Cabinet’s support that we can ensure that students feel comfortable, and if a faculty member does go against the proposal [and] goes against what’s in the student code of conduct, there would be some repercussions.” 

According to Hansen, the proposal will be reviewed by numerous parties. 

“From here, it’s considered the Student Senate approves it,” Hansen said. “Now it will go to the Student Association executive committee. [Afterwards] it will go towards the College Senate, the Student Affairs Committee and then it will be sent to [Bonfiglio], who’s our vice president of student and campus life, and then our lawyers as well to ensure that the language is in the proper format, terminology, so we’re not breaking any federal or state laws or anything.”

Kralik said that she believes students will benefit from the proposal because it will encourage students to voice their opinions in the classroom without fearing repercussions from faculty.

“[I’ll] feel more comfortable speaking in class and writing about things that I want to write about, instead of writing what the professor wants to hear,” Kralik said. “It will allow me to benefit and educate as I go on and I hope it does the same for all other students.”