Referendum's Success Comes as a Surprise · 26 April 2006

Referendum's success comes as a surprise

By Brett Amelkin
Princetonian Senior Writer

In the wake of yesterday's passage of the Student Bill of Rights, both liberals and conservatives students on campus have been left scratching their heads, asking themselves a simple question: How did this happen?

Few observers - including those who proposed the bill - expected the undergraduate body to approve the measure in this weekend's referendum after opposition groups launched a campaign to sink it. Indeed, the bill passed with a slim majority, with 51.8 percent of students voting in favor.

"We thought [the vocal opposition] was going to be the kiss of death for it," said College Republicans president Alexander Maugeri '07, who is also an associate editor for The Daily Princetonian.

The bill, known commonly as the SBOR, was crafted by the College Republicans, and is loosely based on conservative author David Horowitz's academic and student bills of rights, to promote "academic freedom and intellectual diversity within the University community." The SBOR outlines principles for removing ideology from student grading, classroom discussions, professor hiring and the selection of campus speakers.

The effort, while marketed as a nonpartisan endeavor, immediately took on a partisan flavor when the College Republicans lined up in support of the bill and the College Democrats in opposition of it.

College Democrats president Julia Brower '08 sent an email to her membership - numbering about 1,000 - encouraging students to vote no on the referendum. "I wanted to send you an email now that voting has begun reminding you that the College Democrats do not support the College Republicans' 'Student Bill of Rights' and we are urging our membership to vote 'no,' " the email read.

Maugeri also emailed his membership, which numbers a smaller 300, but sought other means to win student support. The group postered campus, dropped 2,000 flyers under students' doors and asked for signatures at tables set up in Frist Campus Center and dining halls. The flyers showed the text of the bill on one side, with the reverse side addressing anticipated student concerns.