April 27, 2005
|Volume 22, Issue 27|
By Jason Satek - SGA/General Assignment Reporter
Four years into its existence, big changes are afoot for the Capital Scholars program of the UIS, not the least of which is a name change.
In preparation for the incoming freshman class of 2006, the Cap Scholars program is seeking to protect its original academic standing by distinguishing itself from an ever-expanding campus body.
Approved by the Campus Senate and blessed by the Student Government Association, current members will now be a part of the Capital Scholars Honors Program, provided they maintain the required standards.
Beginning this semester, those students who have held a grade point average consistent with their particular scholarship minimum -- 3.0 to 3.5 -- and other conditions will have the option of completing a closure requirement. A public presentation at a symposium, graded basically Pass/Fail, will enable the students to graduate UIS with an “Honors” mention on their diploma.
According to estimates, 90 percent of the current senior class have opted for this added honor. If unsuccessful in their presentation, the would-be “Honors” students will have an option to re-attempt the presentation once, while those who have not sought the chance will graduate strictly as Capital Scholars, provided they have fulfilled the program requirements.
While this change will address the Class of 2005, more is to come. Karen Moranski, an associate professor in the UIS English department and director of the Capital Scholars Program is looking to the future of the program.
A teacher at UIS for 10 years and head of the program since the retirement of the previous Director Jim Stuart in 2004, Moranski is looking at strengthening the curriculum to make it comparable to the honors programs of other schools around the nation. Other closure exercises like a thesis, a major paper or scholarly project may join the presentation as future options. Also, the current structure of core courses being taught only in early phases of the program may change to a more diffuse 4-year plan.
These and other options are under review by the Steering Committee, made up of Capital Scholar faculty, administrators and students. During the twice yearly Programming Board meetings, members decide on the direction and makeup of the program.
In related news, elections for the sophomore, junior and senior student representatives to the steering committee are underway, with the 250+ non-graduating Capital Scholars deciding among the 10 –12 candidates to elect a member of their particular graduating class. Elections for the 2006 freshman class will be held 4-6 weeks into the fall semester, or after “they get to know each other a little bit,” according to Moranski.
The election results for the other ballot voting should be tabulated and been made public by the time of this printing.
Though there is not currently a means for transfer students or other late-joiners to enter the Capital Scholars Honors Program, Moranski is considering changes to that end, allowing more students to benefit from the “interdisciplinary curriculum and diversity education,” as well as the “excellent critical thinking and writing skills training” she lists among its attributes to anyone interested in the program.
By Janee Mitchell - Feature Writer
LRH residents are in an uproar over what they perceive to be unfair housing policies. Students complain that their rights against illegal search and seizures are being violated through housing policies that allow Resident Assistants to enter into their rooms in the LRH, searching their living quarters and refrigerators to seize illegally obtained alcohol.
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees “the right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Many college campuses have their own police station and system of campus law. The concern here is to what measures can campuses go and what exactly gives them the probable cause to enter the living quarters of students. James Brower and Robert Skorczewski are LRH residents on the Healthy Lifestyles wing. Brower and Skorczewski were caught on another floor in a room where there was alcohol present.
Skorczewski said, “The RAs knocked without identifying themselves, we opened the door and they entered. They then searched the fridge without asking either resident of the room and also searched the trash.”
Brower said, “Housing then proceeded to inform me that I would have to move off Healthy Lifestyles immediately. Bob and I then petitioned/appealed the ruling, due to illegal search and seizure of the room that we were in and also that we violated no guideline in the Healthy Lifestyles contract.”
In the Residence Life Executive, April 2005 edition, it was stated that, “there are a variety of reasons that an institution, even a public one can search students' rooms without warrant...Probably the next best thing to having a warrant is having the student's permission to search the room…Campus officials performing routine duties can seize illegal items if they are in plain view.”
Skorczewski said, “RAs should be required to have reasonable cause to enter a room, instead of a questionable claim that they smell alcohol, and must be required to have permission to search any part of a resident's room.”
Director of Housing John Ringle said for purposes of this university, probable cause can be if there is a large gathering of people, a noisy group of people or coming and going with cups even if the alcohol is not specifically seen. Ringle said “that is part of the general health and safety requirements of the job.”
Ringle also said, “in many cases someone will call the police or the front desk and ask the front desk to contact the RA on call to investigate something.” Ringle that in this particular incident involving Skorczewski and Brower, there was a student tip that led the RA to that floor and eventually to that room. Ringle said the RAs, after receiving a tip, narrowed down the source using all of their senses and in this case they smelled alcohol as they approached the room.
Ringle said, “They're not obligated to announce themselves…If they just knock on the door and the person on the other end automatically opens the door the RAs are under no obligation to announce themselves when they knock unless they key in.”
Ringle further stated that upon initial entry into the room it is the RAs duty to look around and if there is anything in their plain view it is subject to their further investigation. Ringle said all it takes is the notice of a cup, something sticking from under a bed or in the trash.
“This is a gray area because there are schools that allow individual RAs to open refrigerators and there are some that do not. Because this is a legal gray area many schools have opted to err on the side,” said Ringle. Ringle said that because LRH is a dry building, by contract the school operates within the legal gray area and the boundaries of the search and seizure laws in their policies.
Brower, now on his second offense, has been involved in a prior incident in the Fall 2004 semester in which he was cited for being in a healthy lifestyles room with liquor. He stated that two “drunks” walked into the room making noise and the RAs were attracted to the room assuming that everyone was drinking.
“I believe some things happen because people are targeted in these situations,” said Brower. Brower also said, “I have been given a second citation, AGAIN for not drinking. But breathalyzers weren't given in any instance, therefore there is no proof that I was in fact drinking alcohol. You cannot base things off of merely suspicion. ‘Innocent until proven guilty' and that illegal search and seizure is against the law.”
Ringle said that his RAs do not have a vendetta to target certain people and that it is their job to investigate situations where there have reason to believe a violation is occurring. He also said the university acts within the boundaries of the search and seizure law. Ringle said students fail to distinguish regular civil and criminal law proceedings from the university's disciplinary proceedings.
Skorczewski said he would like to “know what steps can be taken to reform the housing policies regarding not only search and seizure, but also party policy, which I feel is unfair. I also would like to see a resident's bill of rights be formed as soon as possible and made widely available upon move-in.”
Ringle said there is currently a roommates' bill of rights that are applicable in this situation and that no change is plan for the housing policies because they are correct as stands.
Prior to Brower's first incident, the healthy lifestyles contract did not specifically state that students could not be in another room on the healthy lifestyles floor where there was alcohol. Ringle said the contract was altered to include that statement and now he said the students are trying to exploit yet another loophole.
The healthy lifestyle contract states, “No resident of the healthy lifestyles floor is permitted to drink, smoke or use controlled substances at any time while a resident of the healthy lifestyles floor. No resident of the healthy lifestyles floor is permitted to be under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances while on the floor, nor should guests be brought on to the floor when they are under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances.”
Skorczewski and Brower said they should not have been kicked off the floor for a violation because the Healthy lifestyles contract did not specifically state that they could not be on another floor where there was alcohol.
Ringle said, “I think that its interesting that someone who knows what healthy lifestyles is all about would say that you could pick and choose when you choose to engage in that healthy lifestyle. It contradicts the purpose, to me, if you are willing to engage in a healthy lifestyle agreement and say I'm only going to be healthy lifestyles prone when I'm on the floor, otherwise, if I go somewhere else in the building it's whatever I deem to be fit.”
Ringle said based on the spirit of the contract, the students are still in violation and no alterations will be made to the contract.
Brower said he will be living off campus because he refuses to support unfair housing policies that “rewards those with actual underage alcohol housing violations with high housing staff positions and then terminates those people with minor housing violations who have had excellent working recommendations, that have low housing staff positions. It seems like a hypocrisy and I will not support it.” Ringle said there is no disparity of treatment and that housing disciplinary policies are followed in every case.
Ringle also said that some students in other universities have died from alcohol consumption and its related effects and that housing is acting in the students' best interest in restricting as much alcohol as possible. He also said that if any student wishes to live off campus because of the policies against illegal alcohol use they should reevaluate their purposes for seeking a higher education.
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