This past semester, the Declaration of Student Rights bill has been the leading project under construction by Mason’s Student Government. Also, with the recent progress from the bill’s main supervisor, Student Government’s Attorney General, Rachael Grimesey, the bill is set to be completed by the end of April. Grimesey has been in charge of the declaration’s overall progress since its recent creation last semester.
“Most of the work on the bill has been done just this past semester, and in many ways I had to start from scratch,” Grimesey said. “You’d be surprised by how many schools don’t actually have a formal declaration of student rights”.
According to Grimsey, the bill was originally created mainly out of concern from students for drug and alcohol rules. From there, it was expanded over this past semester to a broader document that also addresses disability rights and sexual assault policies.
“The document is not just seeking to create new policies, it’s also consolidating one’s that already exist,” Grimesey said. “It is an important way for students to understand their rights along with the resources available to them.”
In addition, she described it as “a way for students to constructively bring their concerns to the student government.”
“The bill is intended to be a contract of sorts between faculty administration and students. It creates a mutual understanding between the administration and students,” Grimesey said.
One example of a specific policy being placed on the bill includes the widely discussed “Good Samaritan” law, which serves as an amnesty policy for illegally intoxicated students that seek medical attention for a peer that is under the influence.
Grimesey also believes that one of the most essential aspects of the bill will be the insight it provides into the appeal process for students in Student Conduct hearings.
“If someone is expelled from the university, that affects their entire future, specifically their careers. We need to make sure it’s a fair process, because if it is not that reflects badly on the university,” Grimesey said.
In order for the Declaration of Student Rights to become active within the Mason community, it has to be passed by a number of groups on campus.
“The process consists of first having the document passed through the Senate, then taken to the administration and then, if deemed feasible by the administration, it is voted on by the student body. We hope to have it passed through the senate by Feb. 27,” Grimesey said.
While Grimesey hopes that the bill will be completed and passed by the end of the semester, she addressed the unpredictability that is often involved with the passing of any bill through the administration.
“We don’t want people to get too excited about its completion,” Grimesey said. “At this point our intended date of completion is still just speculative.”
However, while Grimesey works on developing the bill, her peers in the student government are generating much excitement over its possible outcome. Speaker of the Student Senate, Phil Abbruscato, expressed his excitement for the declaration.
“I feel that [the bill] will greatly benefit the students of George Mason University, as it well help clarify existing Student Conduct Policies, create a contract between administrators and students in order to ensure fairness in treatment of all students, and provide transparency for the University disciplinary process,” Abbruscato said.
Dilan Wickrema, chairman of the Governmental and Academic Affairs committee for the student senate, remarked that most of the senate seemed to be excited overall on the progress of the bill.
“We want to make sure everyone is on board, (the declaration) goes back to one of the senate’s main goals, which is to get more interaction between students and the administration,” Wickrema said.
However, Wickrema also wanted to express a realistic outlook on the bill.
“We still will have work to do on the document concerning its finalization and moderation, even if it does pass,” Wickrema said.