Academic Affairs Committee Retracts Support of Amendment · 14 February 2006


By Brittany McCandless--Carnegie Mellon Tartan--02/13/06

Following a narrow approval in Senate two weeks ago, Student Body President Tom Sabram vetoed a resolution last Monday that supported the amendment of the Students' Rights Policy.

"I felt there had not been enough support from Senators and students to claim we wanted this, which could have cost us some credibility with the administration," Sabram stated.

After Sabram vetoed the resolution, the Senate committee pushing the resolution withdrew their support for the amendment.

"Academic Affairs will no longer be pursuing this in any way, regardless of whether or not the veto is overturned" said Michael Bueti at last Thursday's Senate meeting. Bueti is a junior in physics and chair of the Academic Affairs Committee.

Among the opposition surrounding the amendment is its link to conservative activist David Horowitz's Student Bill of Rights. The first proponent of the proposal, former Academic Affairs chair and fifth-year senior Long Pham, incorporated Horowitz's language into his original version of the amendment.

"Long never made the committee or myself aware of his full intent when he proposed the amendment," Bueti stated, noting that Pham did notify the committee that the amendment's language had been drawn from Horowitz's bill.

"I took this at face value, and only recently discovered that Long's proposal was taken nearly word for word from Horowitz's document, and that he had ever been contacted by Students for Academic Freedom," Bueti stated.

Students for Academic Freedom (SAF) is a coalition of student organizations that promotes the Academic Bill of Rights. Sara Dogan, national campus director for SAF, contacted Pham in December after reading of Pham's proposal in the October 17 issue of The Tartan.

"I do not have a relationship with [SAF] and frequently made it clear that I was never a fan of its leadership," Pham stated. "When SAF reached out to me in December via an e-mail, I did not take it seriously and discarded it like trash."

"There was a great deal of information regarding this proposal that Long kept from the committee," Bueti stated, "and had I known it at the time, I most likely would not have continued the process during my time as chair of Academic Affairs."

When Senate approved the proposal two weeks ago, five Senators were absent and eight abstained. Of the 24 Senators present, nine voted in approval and seven voted against the proposal.

"Support for this amendment by the campus community has been lukewarm at best, while opposition has been fairly strong," Bueti stated.

According to Bueti, the amendment was intended to clarify existing student rights and would add a third right in the University Policy included in student handbook The Word.

The proposal read, "The third right of students is to have their work evaluated based on stated course and program criteria and appropriate knowledge of the subjects and disciplines they study, as outlined by the relevant faculty."

"I never agreed with the potential amendment," Sabram stated. "I don't understand why students think it is necessary, considering all of this is already in The Word."

When the proposal went before Faculty Senate on January 24, faculty members had a lukewarm reaction to the amendment.

"Yes, it may be a laudable goal to achieve," said mathematical sciences department head John Mackey at the January Faculty Senate meeting. "It's just that the implementation of it comes at a time when maybe we're feeling a little bit under attack from various forces."

Following a Student Senate resolution, the student body president has 120 hours to veto the decision, as Sabram did last Monday. Senate can overturn Sabram's veto with a two-thirds vote.

"Due to the close nature of the vote, we did not take [the Senate resolution] as a mandate," Bueti stated, "and were planning on putting the bill on indefinite hold prior to the veto."