The statement of student rights and responsibilities has been approved by the Board of Trustees of the University.
A. The statement in no way intends to abrogate the legal powers invested in the Board of Trustees under American corporate law and the laws of the State of South Carolina.
B. The statement is recognized as a statement of principles only and that the interpretation of these statements, principles, and procedures is a continuing joint process.
C. The statement is clearly understood as not giving complete autonomy to any sector of the academic community but promotes a community approach to those problems which are of proper concern to the University as a whole.
Academic institutions exist for the transmission of knowledge, the pursuit of truth, the development of students and the general well-being of society. Free inquiry and free expression are indispensable to the attainment of these goals. As members of the academic community, students should be encouraged to develop the capacity for critical judgment and to engage in a sustained and independent search for truth. Institutional procedures for achieving these purposes may vary from campus to campus, but the minimal standards of academic freedom of students outlined below are essential to any community of scholars.
Freedom to teach and freedom to learn are inseparable facets of academic freedom. The freedom to learn depends upon appropriate opportunities and conditions in the classroom, on the campus and in the larger community. Students should exercise their freedom with responsibility.
The responsibility to secure and to respect general conditions conducive to the freedom to learn is shared by all members of the academic community. The University has a duty to develop policies and procedures, which provide and safeguard this freedom. Such policies and procedures should be developed within the framework of general standards with the broadest possible participation of the members of the academic community. The purpose of this statement is to enumerate the essential provisions for student freedom to learn.
Section I: Freedom of Access to Higher Education The admission policies of the University are a matter of institutional choice provided that the University makes clear the characteristics and expectations of the students that it considers relevant to success in the institutional program. Under no circumstances should a student be barred from admission on the basis of race, creed, or national origin. Thus, within the limits of its facilities, the University should be open to all students who are qualified according to its admission standards.
Section II: In the Classroom The professor in the classroom and in conference should encourage free discussion, inquiry, and expression. Student performances should be evaluated solely on an academic basis, not on opinions or conduct in matters unrelated to academic standards.
(a) Protection of freedom of expression – Students should be free to take reasoned exceptions to the data or views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion, but they are responsible for learning the content of any course of study for which they are enrolled.
(b) Protection against improper disclosure – Information about student views, beliefs, and political associations which professors acquire in the course of their work as instructors, advisors, and counselors should be considered confidential. Protection against improper disclosure is a serious professional obligation. Judgments of ability and character may be provided under appropriate circumstances, normally with the knowledge and consent of the student.
Section III: Student Records The University should have a carefully considered policy as to the information that should be part of a student’s permanent record and as to the conditions of its disclosure. To minimize the risk of improper disclosure, academic and disciplinary records should be separate, and the conditions of access to each should be set forth in an explicit policy statement. Final transcripts or academic records should contain only information about academic status. Information from disciplinary files should not be available to unauthorized persons on campus, or to any person off campus without the express consent of the student involved except under legal compulsion or for security clearance. No permanent records should be kept which reflect the political activities or beliefs of students. Administrative staff and faculty members should respect as confidential such information that they acquire in the course of their work. Counseling files should not be available to any person without the consent of the student except under legal compulsion. Authorized counselors should not, without the consent of the student, disclose any information obtained while counseling any student unless failure to disclose the information may result in physical or emotional harm to the student or others.
Section IV: Student Affairs In student affairs certain standards must be maintained if the academic freedom of students is to be preserved.
(a) Student organizations – Students bring to the campus a variety of interests previously acquired and develop many new interests as members of the academic community. They should be free to organize and join associations to promote their common interests. (1) Affiliation with an extramural organization should not of itself disqualify recognition of a student organization. (2) Each organization should be free to choose its own campus advisor. Members of the faculty serve the college community when they accept the responsibility to advise and consult with student organizations; they should not have the authority to control the policy of such organizations. (3) Student organizations may be required to submit a statement of purpose, criteria for membership, rules of procedures, and a current list of officers. They should not be required to submit a membership list as a condition of institutional recognition other than an initial list of members on formation of an organization. (4) Campus organizations, including those affiliated with an extramural organization, should be open to all students without respect to race, creed, or national origin. (5) The membership, policies and actions of a student organization usually will be determined by vote of only those persons who hold bonafide status in the University community.
(b) Freedom of inquiry and expression – (1) Students and student organizations should be free to examine and to discuss all questions of interest to them and to express opinions publicly and privately. They should be free to support causes by lawful and orderly means which do not disrupt the regular and essential operation of the institution and which do not interfere with the rights of others. At the same time, it should be made clear to the academic and larger community that in their public expressions or demonstrations, students or organizations speak only for themselves. (2) Students should be allowed to invite and to hear any person of their own choosing subject to those routine procedures provided for off-campus speakers. These procedures should be designed only to insure that there is orderly scheduling of facilities and adequate preparation for the event, that the occasion is conducted in a manner appropriate to an academic community, and that the safety of individuals, the University, and the community are not endangered. While the University is properly concerned with the prevention of unlawful conduct, the institutional control of campus facilities should not be used as a device of censorship of ideas. It should be made clear to the academic and large community that sponsorship of guest speakers does not necessarily imply approval or endorsement of the views expressed, either by the sponsoring group or the institution.
(c) Student participation in institutional government – As constituents of the academic community, students should be free, individually and collectively, to express their views on issues of general interest to the student body. The student body should have clearly defined means to participate in the formulation and application of institutional policy affecting academic and student affairs. The role of the student government and both its general and specific responsibilities should be made explicit, and the student government within the areas of its jurisdiction should be reviewed only through orderly and prescribed procedures. The University should provide sufficient governing freedom and sufficient financial autonomy for the student government to maintain its integrity of purpose as elected representatives of the student body.
(d) Student publications – Student publications and the student press are a valuable aid in establishing and maintaining an atmosphere of free and responsible discussion and of intellectual exploration on the campus. They are means of bringing student concerns to the attention of the faculty and the institutional authorities and of formulating student opinions on various issues on the campus and in the world at large. In the delegation of editorial responsibility to students the University must provide sufficient editorial freedom and sufficient financial autonomy for the student publications to maintain their integrity of purpose as vehicles for free inquiry and free expression in an academic community.
Institutional authorities, in consultation with students and faculty, have a responsibility to provide written clarification of the role of the student publications, the standards to be used in their evaluation, and the limitations on external control of their operation. At the same time, the editorial freedom of student editors and managers entails corollary responsibilities to be governed by the canons of responsible journalism, such as the avoidance of libel, indecency, undocumented allegations, attacks on personal integrity, and the techniques of harassment and innuendo. As safeguards for the editorial freedom of student publications, the following provisions are necessary: (1) The student press should be free of censorship and advance approval of copy, and its editors and managers should be free to develop their own editorial policies and news coverage. (2) Editors and managers of student publications should be protected from arbitrary suspension and removal because of student, faculty, administrative, or public disapproval of editorial policy or content. Only for proper and stated causes should editors and managers be subject to removal and then by orderly and prescribed procedures. The agency responsible for appointment of editors and managers should be the agency responsible for their removal. (3) All University published and financed student publications should explicitly state on the editorial page that the opinions there expressed are not necessarily those of the University or the student body.
Section V: Off-Campus Freedom of Students
(a) University students are both citizens and members of the academic community. As citizens, students should enjoy the same freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, and right of petition that other citizens enjoy, and, as members of the academic community, they are subject to the obligations that accrue to them by virtue of this membership. Faculty members and administrative officials should insure that institutional powers are not employed to inhibit such intellectual and personal development of students as is often promoted by their exercise of the rights of citizenship both on and off campus.
(b) Activities of students may upon occasion result in violation of law. Students who violate the law may incur penalties prescribed by civil authorities, but institutional authority should never be used merely to duplicate the function of general laws. Only when the institution’s interests as an academic community are distinct and clearly involved should the special authority of the institution be asserted. The student who incidentally violates institutional regulations in the course of offcampus activity, such as those relating to class attendance, should be subject to no great penalty than would normally be imposed. Institutional action should be independent of community pressure.
Section VI: Procedural Standards in Disciplinary Proceedings Educational institutions have a duty and the corollary disciplinary powers to protect their educational purpose through the setting of standards of scholarship and conduct for the students who attend them and through the regulation of the use of institutional facilities. In developing responsible student conduct, disciplinary proceedings play a role substantially secondary to counseling, guidance and admonition. In the exceptional circumstances when these preferred means fail to resolve problems of student conduct, proper procedural safeguards should be observed to protect the student from unfair imposition of serious penalties.
The following are set forth as proper safeguards in such proceedings:
(a) Standards of conduct expected of students – The institution has an obligation to clarify those standards of behavior that it considers essential to its educational mission and its community life. These general behavioral expectations and the resultant specific regulations should represent a reasonable regulation of student conduct, but the student should be as free as possible from imposed limitations that have no direct relevance to their education. Offenses should be as clearly defined as possible and interpreted in a manner consistent with the aforementioned principles of relevancy and reasonableness. Disciplinary proceedings should be instituted only for violations of standards of conduct formulated with significant student participation and published in advance through such means as a student handbook or a generally available body of institutional regulations. (1) Except under circumstances where delay may create a risk of harm to property or students, premises occupied by students and the personal possessions of students should not be searched unless appropriate authorization has been obtained. For premises such as residence halls controlled by the institution, an appropriate and responsible official should be designated to whom application should be made before a search other than a routine inspection is to be conducted. During routine inspections only items in plain sight can be seized and used as evidence. Any application to search should specify the reasons for the search and the object or information sought. The official should keep an accurate record including the time, date and reason for the search. The student should be present, if possible, during the search. For premises not controlled by the institution, the ordinary requirements for lawful search should be followed. (2) Students detected or arrested for allegedly committing serious violations of institutional regulations, or infractions of ordinary law, should be informed of their rights. While interrogation may be conducted, no form of harassment should be used by institutional representatives to coerce admission of guilt or information about conduct of other suspected persons. (3) Pending action on the charges, the status of a student should not be altered, or the right to be present on the campus and to attend classes suspended except where the administration determines such action is necessary for the student’s physical or emotional safety and well-being, or for the safety of students, faculty, or University property.
(b) The formality of the procedure to which a student is entitled in disciplinary cases should be proportionate to the gravity of the offense and the sanctions that may be imposed. Matters involving minor infractions of the University regulations where suspension is not contemplated may be handled by the administration in an informal manner. Where misconduct may result in suspension, the student should have the right to a hearing before the Academic Affairs Committee.
(c) The Academic Affairs Committee – (1) The committee should include faculty members and student members. No member of the committee who is otherwise interested in the case should sit in judgment during the proceedings. (2) The student should be informed, in writing, of the reasons for the proposed disciplinary action with sufficient particularity and in sufficient time, to ensure opportunity to prepare for the hearing. (3) The student appearing before the committee should have the right to be assisted in defense by an advisor of choice. (4) The burden of proof should rest upon the officials bringing the charge. (5) The student should be given the opportunity to testify and to present evidence and witnesses. The student should have an opportunity to hear and question adverse witnesses. In no case should the committee consider statements against the student unless the student has been advised of their content and of the names of those who made them, and unless the student has been given an opportunity to refute unfavorable inferences that might otherwise be drawn. (6) All matters upon which the decision may be based must be introduced into evidence at the proceeding before the committee. The decision should be based solely upon such matters. Improperly acquired evidence should not be admitted. (7) There should be, where possible, a verbatim record, such as a tape recording, of the hearing. (8) In the event that the student is disciplined other than by the regularly constituted Academic Affairs Committee, the student shall have the right to a complete hearing before the committee. The decision of the committee shall be final, subject to the student’s right of appeal to the president of the University and to the Board of Trustees of the University.