Forum discusses students

Weeks after the drafting of a proposed amendment to the Students' Rights Policy, debate over the amendment still lingers. Last Friday, the Academic Affairs Committee held a forum on the proposed amendment in the Danforth Lounge of the University Center.

The atmosphere among the 12 students in attendance was friendly, and members of the Academic Affairs Committee were not at all disheartened by the low turnout. When asked why the forum had not been more widely publicized, Michael Bueti, vice-chair of the Academic Affairs Committee, said that as an organization, the Academic Affairs Committee does not heavily publicize its events and "it should be every student's responsibility to be aware of the Students' Rights Policy."

The proposed amendment is largely based on wording from conservative activist David Horowitz's Student Bill of Rights, and reads: "The third right of students is to be evaluated based on reasoned answers following stated course criteria and appropriate knowledge of the subjects and disciplines they study, not on the basis of their personal beliefs." According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Horowitz, who created an organization called Students for Academic Freedom (SAF), travels the country's universities and colleges aiming to bring a balance of political views to the classroom.

Long Pham, chair of the Academic Affairs Committee, said the goal of the forum was to make the amendment process "as open and transparent as possible" and to get "better ideas about where we should be taking [the policy]." He did not believe the lack of publicity would undermine the forum's goals, adding, "We want to find out if students are happy."

The forum turned into something very similar to what Pham, a senior business administration and history major, envisioned. Discussion included topics ranging from the importance of precise language to the confusion surrounding the amendment's purpose.

Andrea Hamilton, Student Senate's Communications Committee chair, responded to the growing concern over the amendment's intention by saying, "The way I see it, it would make the existing policy clearer and more concise." Those sitting next to Hamilton, a junior in humanities and arts, as well as philosophy, murmured in agreement.

Student senators present, however, were open to the constructive criticism given to them by their peers. Concerns brought up focused on the amendment's wording, rather than its intent. By the forum's end, students held a general consensus that the amendment was a positive idea, but the language of the amendment's last clause needed a more careful revision.

As it stands now, University policy outlines a detailed appeals process that provides students with many avenues to appeal a grade they deem as unfair. Bueti, a junior majoring in physics, said, "The intention of the amendment is to make students aware that these policies exist" by centralizing them.

As early as next month on December 6, Pham and the other members of the Academic Affairs Committee plan on taking the amendment to the Faculty Senate—the next step in the process of making it academic policy. Both Bueti and Pham believe Carnegie Mellon University faculty will welcome the potential addition to University Policy.

"We're past the first hurdle," Bueti said.

No faculty participated in Friday's forum.