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78th SLC proposes a Students’ Bill of Rights

By Enobong Ukpong, April 12 2021—

The 78th Student Legislative Council (SLC) held their 35th meeting on March 30. This week’s focus was on the proposal to implement a Students’ Bill of Rights. 

Frank Finley, Students’ Union (SU) president, presented the Students’ Bill of Rights proposal. A Students’ Bill of Rights is a document that enshrines the specific rights and responsibilities of students within an institution, as well as helping staff understand where students’ rights lie, in an accessible way.

Finley mentioned that other institutions have a Students’ Bill of Rights, such as the University of Alberta and Red Deer College. 

Finley said that their proposed Students’ Bill of Rights is concise, noting that in his consultation with student leaders in other institutions, that students preferred documents under five pages.

Finley also announced that this was the first time a student-written policy was moving through the university, stating that he wrote a messy first draft of the policy and since then has been seen and edited by a number of different people in order to get it to its current stage.

The Students’ Bill of Rights contains three sections. The first section covers fundamental rights that are enshrined in legislature outside of the institution, such as laws and statutes. The second covers academic rights, relating to academic standing, grades and appeals. The third covers individual rights, pertaining to what students, professors and other members of the university can and cannot do.

Finley said that from this point on, this document will be in the hands of the University of Calgary legal council, stating that the most likely path will be presenting it to the Board of Governors by June.

Finley emphasized that this was a “living document,” stating that this would not be the last time that elected SLC officials would have the opportunity to share input. 

“If there’s any pressing issue that comes up that needs to be enshrined in a different way, those edits can be made. In fact, that would simply be the good policy-keeping of this sort of document,” said Finley. 

Caitlin Hornbeck, Faculty of Arts representative, asked why a Students’ Bill of Rights had not been implemented before. Finley says that he was not sure, suggesting that maybe people simply weren’t aware of it. He stated that he himself only found out about the concept last year and was surprised to find that this is commonplace among institutions. 

“I’d argue that we are lagging behind by not having it,” Finley said. 

Semhar Abraha, vice president academic, explained that the need for a Students’ Bill of Rights arose as allegations of student misconduct increased as the university went into online learning, where it was impossible to tell whether misconduct took place or not. 

“When we did more discussions around that, we found out that if we could have a Students’ Bill of Rights, the university would have a fine line where the students and the university worked together,” Abraha said.

Agendas, minutes and upcoming meetings for SLC can be found online.

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