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Students voice objections to Chapters 17, 18

April 9, 2009

UW-River Falls students and members of Student Senate traveled to Milwaukee on March 5 to voice objections to a listening committee established by the UW System Board of Regents about the proposed revisions of Chapters 17 and 18 of the UW System Administrative Code.

As the proposed revisions stand, students may be punished by the University for infractions that occur anywhere off campus. The listening committee, which included members of the Board of Regents, was sent to Milwaukee to take written statements and listen to oral statements both for and against the proposed revisions of the code.

The committee’s only purpose was to listen and record what individuals said about the revisions.

At the meeting, the committee heard statements from students and other members of the public about issues they have with the proposed revisions to the codes.

Those wishing to speak registered beforehand, and were called up to speak individually by the committee. Each individual was given two to three minutes to present their case, either for or against.

There are four main objections to the new revisions that students from around the state have brought up, according to a press release sent out by the United Council of UW Students Inc. First, is the addition of vague language, which would make it harder for students and administrators to interpret the meaning of the codes. Second, is the addition of the universities’ ability to punish students for outside conduct when laws are already in place to handle the misconduct. Third, is the removal of the right to a hearing and appeal for a student’s misconduct. Last, is the removal of the right to representation at a hearing.

The main issue students from UWRF had with the proposed revisions is that they are not fair to students, junior Adam Roberts, who attended the meeting, said.

“The proposals, in short, simply butcher student rights,” Roberts said.

Student Organizations Coordinator at UWRF Jon Levendoski said he did not think the revisions to Chapters 17 and 18 are meant to get in the way of students’ rights. Rather, he said that the revisions are important in helping UW administrators with connecting the dots of criminal activity outside of campus.

“It’s not designed to be nosy,” Levendoski said. “It’s a reaction to school shootings. It’s designed to stop many different things from happening.”

Because these codes are only looked at about every 10 years, Student Senate member Matt Dale said he is most concerned with what could happen down the road, and the possibility for abuse.

“I think that giving a huge amount of power to a small number of people without specific limitations is bad because we don’t know who will have that power in the future,” Dale said

Community members neighboring UW-Milwaukee’s campus are largely responsible for pushing the code revision due to reoccurring issues with students. Many of the initial complaints to the university were focused on noise violations.

Some of the residents near campus “were experiencing disrespectful conduct from students such as public urination and minor destruction of property by breaking trees or fences when they were drunk,” Roberts said.

Punishments issued by the universities would be in addition to any punishment received from the civil justice system.

Senior Katie Kantrud said she feels the revisions are unnecessary because there are already laws that punish individuals for social misconduct.

“If you’re doing something illegal you are going to already get punished by the law,” Kantrud said. “There are bigger responsibilities the university should be focusing on while the law is already taking care of that.”

Roberts said he also believes that the misconduct of students off campus is not the university’s responsibility.

“It is my personal opinion that the residents of Milwaukee should be talking to their City Council and lobbying for an increase in police patrolling of their neighborhoods if they want these problems to abate,” Roberts said.

The Board of Regents can choose to make changes to the revisions based on the statements taken at the listening session.  If there are no changes made to the proposed revisions, the Board will meet again May 7 and 8 in Milwaukee to hold a final vote on the matter. Should the revisions pass the final vote, they will become effective beginning fall semester 2009.

Dale said he feels that it does not look good for those who are opposed to the revisions.

“I think the outlook is bleak,” Dale said. “It will probably pass exactly how it is.”

Because each University can choose to mold the revisions to its specific campus, UWRF has created a committee in preparation to draft a policy paper outlining an implementation strategy about how the new revisions will affect UWRF specifically. The committee will hold a listening session in the Falcon’s Nest in the University Center at 5 p.m. April 15 to hear students, faculty and members of the community voice their opinions about the revisions.