Monday, a panel comprised of an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, a professor and other distinguished guests explained why Eastern Michigan University students should know their rights in a discussion entitled, “Know Your Rights: Student Liberties- Your Rights as a Student and a Citizen.”
The group of four panelists addressed an audience in the Student Center on the importance of understanding and sharing the rights they hold as a part of the campus community as well as the nation. Following their talks, a lively and extended question and answer session engaged the students in attendance.
“In order to have all rights protected, we must know what they are,” Dan Korobkin, EMU’s staff attorney for the ACLU, said.
The ACLU is the oldest and largest defender of the rights laid out in the Constitutional amendments. Covering issues from unlawful search and seizure to MIP and breathalyzer laws, Korobkin discussed the most effective ways to deal with police officers.
Due to the intimidation cops rely on, most people, uninformed of their rights, will comply in situations their rights protect them from Korobkin pointed out. It is important to know citizens have the right to say no to a breathalyzer test, if not in a car. When driving is involved, rules are different and alternate sobriety tests can be administered no matter the circumstances.
Emphasized continually was the sentiment of a necessity for awareness, for out of awareness comes a greater grasp on privileges and abilities of students, on and off campus.
Jesus Hernandez who serves as Director of Eastern’s Student Conduct and Community Standards Office followed with a change of focus.
Hernandez’s job on campus is to “support the learning environment and education of the student.” His jurisdiction centers on the “Policies Affecting You” booklets available around campus, in which thirteen specific rights for students are laid out.
From academic dishonesty to criminal charges, Hernandez works with students in every step of the process. The goal of the office is to ensure those who disciplinary action must be taken against “become good and functional students of EMU,” Hernandez said.
The third speaker, Nick Roumel, is currently the employment and labor attorney for local firm Nacht Law. Roumel has an extensive history in working with the University of Michigan Student Legal Services. This experience guided his interpretation of rights as he discussed the logistics and ramifications of what goes on a student’s record.
In his advice, he also emphasized the importance of reading Eastern’s policy publications to better understand when and how they can be broken, and more importantly, how students can conduct themselves with integrity.
He said plagiarism cases are on the rise due to technological advancements in word-for-word checking, as well as an often unclear definition of what exactly constitutes academic dishonesty.
For example, an uncited personal conversation might be considered plagiarism.
National legislation called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is now the authority rule on exactly how and what offenses are kept on a student’s record. How long they stay depends upon the magnitude of the offense, but as a general rule, misdemeanors are erased after four years or upon graduation.
However, when applying for graduate school or licensing, the panel pointed out the need to know what specifics they require, because often, disclosure of criminal history might be asked for even if it was legally expunged.
Roumel ended his portion of the discussion with a mention of the importance of consulting a free legal advice group such as the ACLU.
Finally, Dr. Barry Pyle of EMU’s political science department took the floor with an expansive take on knowing rights.
He said he felt “very positive things about where the country is at, at this time.”
While speaking, he affirmed the importance of an individual or group’s ability to define rights for themselves.
“One big misconception, is that rights are easily definable, fixed, and don’t require interpretation,” Pyle said.
Giving historical and local examples of legal cases, Dr. Pyle continued to emphasize the concept of rights being only as important as citizens hold them to be.