Student Leaders Draft Bill of Rights


Published: April 30, 2009

Student leaders at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) have drafted a bill of rights that they say was created out of frustration with student affairs. The bill outlines rights students have, as well as others they feel students should have.

A group of more than a dozen student leaders from groups including United Student Government (USG), the Residence Hall Association (RHA), Campus Activities Board (CAB), In Strength I Stand (ISIS), Students for Solidarity (SFS), Rainbow Alliance and others assembled themselves to discuss what they feel are issues within Fordham. The group ultimately drafted a 13-article student bill of rights.

“We feel that the administration and student affairs doesn’t really listen to us,” said Kelley Mowatt, FCLC ’09, president of RHA.

“The student voice is a source that should be sought out by the administrators and considered a reliable and respectable source because we can give them a wealth of information. I feel like they pretend that they’re listening to us and they’re not,” she said, explaining her hope that this bill of rights will help administrators hear the voices of students.

The bill of rights lists 13 rights that its drafters believe all FCLC students should have: free speech, freedom from discrimination, privacy, due process, the right not to be held accountable by Fordham for off-campus actions, adequate resources, open forums for discussion with Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, representation in administration, grade appeals, university policy appeal, financial inquiry freedom, sufficient financial aid and adequate health care.

This is paired with a list of “demands,” according to Mowatt, that are more immediate desires for the University, including greener facilities.

“This University, this campus, has fallen into the stranglehold of tradition,” said Ryan Murphy,FCLC ’11 and USG president-elect, who said that, though he chose to attend Fordham because of its strong Jesuit traditions, he worries that many administrative policies are in place because no one has ever sought to update them.

“We’re not The New School,” said Murphy. “We’re not locking ourselves up in the cafeteria. We’re doing this in a very peaceful manner, which I think speaks volumes about the character of the students that are at this university.”

Keith Eldredge, dean of students at FCLC, said that he is “very excited that there’s a group of students that are very concerned about their community and the University. [These student leaders] have demonstrated a tremendous amount of ownership, and it’s not surprising.”

He said he never felt personally attacked, but that he found it “disturbing that folks didn’t feel like they could just come in and talk to me about these things.” Eldredge also said that his role on campus is “to be responsive to and aware of student needs and be available and approachable… Students are the reason we’re here.”

Jenifer Campbell, director of Residential Life at FCLC, echoed Eldredge’s unease with the way students went about presenting their concerns to administration.

“I honestly feel there are venues available to students to voice and/or express their concerns within the framework of committees and forums that currently exist,” she said.

Many student leaders, however, expressed a certain degree of hesitation when it came to presenting an idea to administration that hadn’t been fully fleshed out.

“The sense that I got,” Eldredge said, “was that there was some hesitancy and apprehension about individual students having individual conversations with administrators.”

Mowatt said she was pleased with the way the appeals were presented, saying, “We feel like we’re more likely to get what we want and have a more receptive administration if we are respectful about it and mature and really articulate exactly what need.”

Dave de la Fuente, FCLC ’10, former president of USG and one of the student leaders involved in the bill of rights process, continual discussion “essential” to furthering the students’ goals.

Brandi D’Esposito, FCLC ’11, USG vice president-elect of student affairs, said that the next step is feedback…We want as much student support as possible. We also want students to know about this so they know how to get involved and stand up for their rights.”

“[The people in OSLCD] are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” Murphy said. “In no way do I think that they’re not doing their jobs. It’s the simple fact that their jobs limit them in the ability that they have.”

Mowatt said, “The bill of rights is also meant to address the apathy of the students and hopefully make them less apathetic about their University, or at least their campus.”