Since September, Duke Student Government has been working to codify an official bill of rights in the DSG constitution. The bill received the required two-thirds vote in the Senate and was moved for a referendum vote by the student body. This Thursday, Feb. 7, students will have the opportunity to vote on this bill of rights.
During Senate debate on the bill, a Senator raised the concern that upon passage the bill of rights would become irrelevant to the student body. This is a justified concern given the nature of rules and regulations. Given that the bill of rights directly impacts student interactions with DSG, they must be adequately disseminated so that students can know what they are due.
These rights are a check on student government, ensuring fairness and transparency. They are a vast improvement on the status quo, an 18-year-old joint statement of rights that currently resides in an unenforceable legal limbo. The passage of the bill of rights makes student rights an explicit part of our day-to-day interactions. Any student that feels that their rights have been neglected may bring suit to the DSG Judiciary.
The rights are enumerated below—should anyone have a question of clarification or concern, or a suggestion, please send me an email. I hope you all will vote “yes” for the bill of rights this Thursday.
The bill of rights:
Every undergraduate student, enrolled in Duke University and subject to the student activities fee, is a student within the meaning of this bill, a member of the student body and a constituent of Duke Student Government. In their interactions with DSG, all students are entitled to the rights enumerated in this bill.
All students have the right to freedom of ideology and religion. Duke Student Government shall not create any establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, or require any religious test or qualification for office.
All students have the right to free expression. Duke Student Government shall not abridge the freedom of speech, the press, petition or peacetime assembly or protest. But this article shall not define speech by the money spent to exercise the right. This article affirms the right of the Duke Student Government Senate to place limits on the amount of money spent in student elections.
All students have the right to protection and privacy against arbitrary search, seizure, investigation, prosecution and punishment. No student or group shall be deprived of rights or property without due process of law, nor shall any student be compelled to testify against himself or herself in any proceeding, nor shall any evidence unlawfully obtained be admitted in support of judicial punishment.
All students have the right to equal protection under the law. No student shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability or socioeconomic status; but this enumeration shall not be construed to condone other violations of equal protection.
All students have the right to vote in all referenda and public elections held by Duke Student Government and by their respective classes and houses. No student shall be deprived of the right to vote, nor shall any poll tax or other payment be a condition to voting, nor shall any proof of eligibility or identity be required unless it is readily available to all students.
All students have the right freely to associate and, upon meeting the criteria established in by-law, to form groups recognized or chartered by DSG. Every such group is a legal entity and entitled to freedom from invidious discrimination, to due process and to fair dealing under the law. But this article shall not be construed to grant to groups all the rights secured to individuals, to privilege any student from accountability for misconduct, or to permit the otherwise prohibited expenditure of funds.
The rights and protections enumerated in this bill shall not be abridged by any recognized or chartered groups, residential houses, class governments or affiliates of Duke Student Government. Duke Student Government shall secure the rights of students against violations by these entities and shall also uphold the rights of students against infringement by any other person or body. But DSG shall not be liable for any acts or omissions of any federal, state, local, University or other entity not subject to its jurisdiction.
Any student or group whose rights under this bill, or under other provisions of the constitution and by-laws, have been violated has the right to seek a statutory or equitable remedy from the Judiciary. And every student or group suffering punitive action from DSG, beyond removal from office and enforcement of civil obligations, has the right to an impartial trial by the Judiciary before such punishment may be imposed. No conviction shall be sustained except on clear and convincing evidence that the defendant committed an offense, which, before its commission, had been defined in by-law.
The enumeration of certain rights in this bill, or elsewhere in the constitution and by-laws, shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the student body.
Patrick Oathout, DSG executive vice president, is a Trinity junior. His column runs every other Tuesday. You can follow Patrick on Twitter @patrickoathout.