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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘Know Your Rights’ magnet printing stopped

Published: October 31, 2008
Section: Front Page

The printing of the Know Your Rights information magnets was cancelled yesterday after language discrepancies between the magnets and the Rights and Responsibilities handbook were identified. The magnets concerning the student conduct process were soon to be released by Union President Jason Gray ’10, Office of Student Rights and Advocacy (OSRA) Director Laura Cohen ’09, and the newly selected members of OSRA. The text of the magnets has been changed to better align with Rights and Responsibilities, Gray said; however, the magnets have not been reordered.

Gray announced the formation of OSRA at the beginning of October in order to provide “peer-to-peer confidential rights-related advisory services.” The Know Your Rights magnets are an effort to both “provide information about rights and publicize the Office of Student Rights and Advocacy,” Gray explained. The project will be the first for the newly formed OSRA.

The original magnet featured seven rights, including the “right to an advisor throughout the Conduct process,” and “the right to see all evidence that will be used against you…prior to your hearing,” both of which were identified as inconsistent with Rights and Responsibilities.

Item 19.8 of Rights and Responsibilities concerning advisors says an “accused student and the accuser in a hearing may each bring an advisor of his or her choice from the University community to provide passive assistance during the hearing” whereas the magnet uses the phrase “throughout the conduct process.” This text will not be changed.

Item 19.11 of Rights and Responsibilities says that “the accused student and the accuser shall have the right to view and question all evidence presented to the [University Board of Student Conduct] during the hearing.” The original Know Your Rights magnet says students have the right to “see all evidence that will be used against [them]…prior to [their] hearing.”

The Student Bill of Rights, released last semester but not accepted by Lamarre and the university administration, states that students have “the right to view any evidence or information that will be used during a hearing before the hearing.”

The new magnet says that students have the “right to see all evidence that will be used against you at your hearing,” as opposed to before.

Lamarre remarked, “it’s not that [items I and IV of the first Know Your Rights magnet were] totally wrong, it’s that they’re misleading.”

“Jason and I” wrote the text of the magnet, OSRA director Cohen explained, “several of the rights are pulled directly from Rights and Responsibilities.”

Director of Student Development and Conduct Erika Lamarre “looked at the text and has agreed with the majority of [it],” Cohen said.

“I was not involved in the creation of the magnet,” Lamarre said. “A draft of the text was run by me last week and I gave it some critique.” Lamarre explained in an interview Thrusday afternoon that no changes were made following her meeting with Cohen.

Lamarre explained that the Union’s original magnet was “slightly” inconsistent with Rights and Responsibilities. “I think the [magnets] are more based on the Union’s Bill of Rights than it is on R and R.”

While Lamarre said “the concept is excellent…it’s possible that students could become confused about elements of the conduct process and hearings based on what they read on the magnet,” she continued. Lamarre pointed to item I of the original magnet guaranteeing the right to an advisor during the conduct process and item IV of the original magnet concerning evidence as problematic.

Gray decided to “tweak” item IV after meeting with Cohen and Dean of Student Life Rick Sawyer Wednesday, he explained. “We’re changing number four so that it aligns with [Rights and Responsibilities].”

“If a comment [Lamarre] brought up is valid, we’ll tweak it,” Gray added. “Our goal is to give correct and accurate information.”

While Gray has made changes to the magnet text, ultimately, “[I want] Rights and Responsibilities to reflect the Student Bill of Rights.”

A reconciliation of the Rights and Responsibilities and the Student Bill of Rights remains a project for the Union. However, at present, “as OSRA, we of course want to have a really great relationship with Erika’s office. Collaborating on certain things is really beneficial to both of our offices,” Cohen added.

Lamarre agreed. “I’m optimistic that it will be a partnership where we both learn a lot.” Members of OSRA and Lamarre will meet in the next week.

“In the past, attempts at providing advisors through the conduct process have been very adversarial with staff,” Gray said. “This year,” he continued, “we’ve done it in a way that isn’t…by filling a void of students helping students.”

Lamarre commented, “a few years ago, there was a difference in how students were experiencing policy and students felt they needed more advocacy.”

“I don’t think that’s the case with the current community,” she continued, “I think students and the personalities in my office have a more harmonious relationship.”

“At times, there’ll be conflict but as long as we have good communication, things will be fine,” Gray said.