College Council (CC) and BBA Council have adopted the Emory Student Bill of Rights, a resolution authored by CC Chief of Staff Alex Chanen (21B). The resolution was presented to the Emory Student Nurses Association (ESNA) on Sept. 27 and is under review for adoption.
The Emory Student Bill of Rights focuses on issues such as food insecurity, homelessness and campus safety, all fundamental needs that allow a student to focus on being “a student first.” The document states that “every Emory student deserves to have equal opportunity and access during their enrollment at Emory.”
Chanen will present his resolution to the Oxford Student Government Association (SGA) this week. If it receives enough votes to pass at Oxford, he will present the bill to Emory SGA on Oct. 7.
Chanen said his inspiration for the bill came from his time working in politics in Washington, D.C. over the summer.
“For a school as politically engaged as Emory is, I don’t think we are a very politically active place,” Chanen said. “We’re especially not very politically active on campus.”
Chanen’s drive to propose the bill arose from his concern that students weren’t talking about social issues.
“I started talking to people who are also pretty engaged, politically active [and] politically aware … about what some issues [are], and started drafting the document and came up with what it is today,” Chanen said.
Rather than offer concrete policy changes, the Emory Student Bill of Rights presents a set of morals and goals for Emory student governance.
“The passing of this [document] by government or student organizations … does nothing physically,” Chanen said. “All it does is it sends a message saying … student government agrees we should be holding ourselves to these standards.”
Chanen believes that any opportunity available to an Emory student should be easily available and accessible.
“I have felt very strongly since my freshman year that it’s really hard to get involved at Emory,” Chanen states. “Because we don’t have a way to orient people to student activities… Then it becomes this weird thing where people don’t want to get involved”
He noted that social stigmas surrounding food insecurity can stop students from seeking resources.
“[New York University] has a great thing where you can have no questions asked if you are dealing with food insecurity on campus [when you] have money added to your campus dining card,” Chanen said. “That’s not a permanent, perfect solution, but it does provide in the short term … because it removes that barrier.”
The resolution also addresses homelessness: “Every Emory student deserves to go to sleep every night in a bed with a roof over their head,” the resolution states. The resolution also highlights the need for well-funded and established affinity spaces, which Chanen noted would require administrative funding and support.
A closing clause of the bill reiterates the point that every student deserves equal opportunities for academic success in a nondiscriminatory environment. Chanen said he knows people who have spent time working to afford college and as a result, lack enough time to study.
According to Chanen, the second part of the bill reinforces the idea that students should only have to focus on their academic pursuits.
He stated that the goal is to ensure “voices are being heard and people aren’t being shut out of the conversation.”
Chanen hopes University administration will support the bill by commissioning studies and conducting research on how other schools are approaching these issues. He also hopes that the resolution will inspire political activism among students.
“If you are interested in working on something, and you also don’t know how to get involved … don’t hesitate to reach out,” Chanen said. “I would love for people to use this as inspiration to take stances on things they care about. I would love to be a school that is more conducive to having activism on campus, to talking about the issues that are affecting students every day.”