During the 2012-13 academic year, the University Senate saw the passage of an expanded Good Samaritan policy to cover all drug-related emergencies, an implementation plan for the campuswide smoking ban that went into effect over the summer and an expansion of the university’s conduct code jurisdiction to cover violations that occur off the campus.
While all of those votes came after months or years of intense debate on the senate floor, life in the full university legislature has been different this year.
One of the senate’s most noteworthy legislative items of the semester, a requirement that all university community members undertake some form of education on sexual assault and misconduct, passed overwhelmingly after nearly a full year of review and a special task force’s report and recommendations on dealing with sexual misconduct.
The senate’s final meeting of the semester, set for Dec. 10, was postponed when the university closed due to inclement weather. The body will next meet on Feb. 5.
SEXUAL MISCONDUCT EDUCATION MANDATE PASSED
Lauren Redding, a former Diamondback editor who has advocated extensively for sexual misconduct education and prevention on college campuses, proposed last winter that the university mandate sexual assault education for university students, faculty and staff.
After a nearly yearlong review by a specially designated Sexual Harassment Task Force, the mandate — and a series of other policy recommendations — passed by a 70-1-3 margin on Oct. 10.
The task force’s review also included a new draft of the university’s entire sexual harassment policy, which was written over the summer by an administration legal team and ratified by the senate.
Cynthia Hale, the task force chairwoman, said that during the 16-month-long review, federal actions from the U.S. departments of Education and Justice “overtook” the task force and forced it to change course at times.
In an emotional speech before the final vote, Redding, a rape survivor, told the senate it has a responsibility to prevent others from suffering.
“The University of Maryland will always be so many things to me. It’s the place where my parents met. It’s the place where my parents got married. It’s the place where I met some of the most important people in my life and got an amazing education,” she said. “But more than anything, it will always be the place where I met my rapist.”
REVIEW OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA
Medical marijuana remains strictly outlawed on the campus, even as this state and more than a dozen others have passed laws legalizing it in some form.
But Mikayla Hellwich, a senior horticulture and crop production major, wants that to change. Hellwich proposed a measure to the senate a few weeks ago that would align university marijuana policy with that of the state.
“I think that it’s necessary to be compassionate for people who are sick. I know that this is considered a taboo issue, but really it shouldn’t be,” Hellwich said. “It should be common sense that people who are sick should have access to the medicine they need.”
The state has an affirmative defense law for medical marijuana, which exempts marijuana users from prosecution if they can demonstrate they are taking it for an exclusively medical purpose.
University Senate Chairman Vincent Novara said the body would not consider any changes to the university policy on recreational marijuana, meaning it will stay outlawed.
After the senate’s Campus Affairs Committee reviews Hellwich’s proposal, a vote could come sometime next year.
Office of Student Conduct Director Andrea Goodwin said it could be challenging to make any changes to the marijuana policy.
“On a personal level, I’m not sure I’m against it,” she said. “On a university administrator’s level, I think it could be very difficult to manage.”
LOH’S STATE OF THE CAMPUS
University President Wallace Loh called on Congress to make budgetary compromises to head off future shortfalls in university research funding during his state of the campus address Nov. 13.
“This is an issue of intergenerational equity. Do we invest in the next generation, invest in education, invest in research that will improve the quality of life, or do we invest in my generation, in Medicare, Social Security and other entitlement programs?” Loh said, speaking to a crowd of about 250 in Stamp Student Union. “That is the difficult challenge.”
In his annual address, Loh also laid out his university vision for the year 2020, which included a 90 percent graduation rate — up from the low 80s today — and 90 percent of university students involved in living-learning programs. He said the school is prepared to spend $600 million on construction by that year.
Loh also said dealing with racial inequity on the university’s payroll should become a priority. Among recent faculty hires, he said, 67 percent of whites and 73 percent of Asians were designated tenured or tenure-track, alongside 10 percent of Hispanic and 6 percent of black faculty members.
LONGTIME PARLIAMENTARIAN MOVES ON
Marvin Breslow, a longtime university history professor who has been on the campus since 1962, is stepping down from the position he has held for the last 12 years as the senate’s parliamentarian, the procedural expert and historical reference who offers counsel to senate leaders.
Breslow officially stepped down at the start of this year and was granted “parliamentarian emeritus” status. He has been present at meetings this semester, helping to guide new parliamentarian Ken Holum.
“This was my kind of involvement in the community of the university,” Breslow said. “It’s a community of many things and purposes, and I just have always been involved in that kind of thing. There’s something very special about universities for me, as a way of life.”
Novara praised the breadth of Breslow’s parliamentary know-how and understanding of university shared governance.
“He has tremendous knowledge in his mind of the history of the senate and the University of Maryland. He has been involved with it in so many different capacities that he’s basically seen it all,” Novara said. “There’s nobody here who has the same level of deep knowledge that Marvin has.”