The Idaho State Board of Education has approved a motion with a 6-1 vote that gives the University of Idaho president the authority to approve amendments to the Statement of Student Rights without a prior affirmative vote of the students.
The motion was made in an effort to clarify state board policy and make the processes established for university-wide policy changes consistent. The student statement of rights was the only area of the student code of conduct that required a 35 percent vote of the students with two-thirds approval. All other changes to the code could be made solely with approval from the president.
“We value student input and that would not be discounted,” Burnett said at the meeting. “We are simply looking for clarification of a board policy that already exists.”
ASUI President Max Cowan said he is saddened by the board’s decision, which he said does not provide students with enough input in changes that affect them.
“Input without impact is not enough,” Cowan said during discussion on the meeting.
Interim President Don Burnett said the removal of a student vote will not change the desire for student input. Burnett also spoke at the meeting and said he believes the change is simply a clarification of board policy.
“I valued the opportunity to provide input in the discussion but I ultimately was saddened by their decision because it makes it a lot more difficult for students to meaningfully impact the statement of student rights,” Cowan said.
The motion was brought before the board after UI administrators deemed it near impossible to approve changes to the statement of student rights under the former voting conditions, which also required a vote of the university faculty at a meeting with a quorum of one-eighth of the total faculty members in addition to the student vote.
The university has been in the process of updating the student code of conduct for several months. The change that instigated the desire to modify the voting requirements was one that impacted the jurisdiction of the university pursuant to the student code of conduct. The jurisdiction clause was not able to be updated earlier this month as expected because the previous voting requirements were not met.
Cowan said students are in favor of the change to jurisdiction and even with a vote of the students, he expected the change in jurisdiction to be made. Cowan said his concern is for future changes that students may not agree with.
“How can we guarantee students that those rights are protected if those rights are subject to change based on the opinion of the president,” Cowan said.
The ASUI senate passed a resolution earlier this year asking the board to consider a change in the student vote from two-thirds approval of the student body to two-thirds approval of the ASUI senate. The resolution did not impact the board’s decision.
The motion changed the voting requirements immediately, and as a result Burnett is expected to make a decision on the changes to the student code of conduct in the near future.
Kaitlyn Krasselt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org