Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Rights and responsibilities at UTSA

Rights and responsibilities at UTSA

When sophomore marketing major Kayla Wiley started at UTSA last year as a freshman, UTSA outlined student rights and responsibilities to her class; university representatives did not tell her that by living in the dorms she had no right to privacy from university staff.

“During orientation, there was a very long segment on (rights and responsibilities), I got a lot of emails telling me what I can do and what I can’t do.”

Wiley said there was a section about UTSA student and staff expectations. The many emails Wiley received directed her to a myriad of documents that describe student rights and responsibilities.

According to Kevin Price, vice president of student affairs, several documents contain information about student rights and responsibilities, including the undergraduate and graduate catalogs, the Information Bulletin, and the student organization handbook. Price said the university also maintains a compilation of links to information specifically about student rights and responsibilities called the Online Student Handbook.

Violations of the rules and regulations set forth in these documents can result in disciplinary action; however, according to senior lecturer of political science and Texas attorney Javier Oliva, “Everyone has a right to appeal decisions from the different disciplinary bodies.”

Though the handbook organizes the information, the shortest of the documents referenced in the handbook, the Student Organization Handbook, is over 50 pages. The next shortest, the Housing Handbook, is upwards of 60 pages. The information bulletin is 140 pages and the Undergraduate catalog contains over 400 pages of material.

One area of concern for students is their right to privacy. According to Oliva, students’ rights depend on context. Students in the dorms has different rights and responsibilities than as they would in their car.

The same applies to different sources of authority: a student’s rights when faced with university staff are different than student rights when faced with university law enforcement. The handbook offers a small reference section on student privacy rights but does note provide links to material on student privacy rights in the context of dorm living. In fact, university rules and regulations for student housing provide students with little if any right to privacy from university staff.

According to page 36 of the UTSA Housing Handbook the university “maintains the right for University personnel to enter your room at any time in the event of an emergency and for any reasonable purpose including, without limitation: inspection, preventive maintenance, corrective maintenance in response to a work order or investigation of violations of University Regulations.”

Wiley related a series of intrusions she and her roommate have experienced.

“There was maybe one knock, and they just walked in.”

Wiley described the experience as repetitive, saying that for a period of time this semester her room was accessed by university staff multiple times per week for several consecutive weeks. According to Wiley, the unusual intrusions have recently abated.

“A student is literally bombarded with all kinds of rules and regulations and expectations that are contingent with them being a student,” Oliva said.

Ironically, in the dorm setting, where a student might expect a higher standard of privacy, students are offered less protections from invasions to their privacy by university staff than if they are driving a car on campus.

According to Oliva, students driving cars have all the constitutional rights afforded to every other driver in the state of Texas including the right to refuse a search.

Undeclared freshman Zachary Nelson said, even though he does not have anything to hide from the police,

“I don’t want people to see (an officer) searching my car,” as this is a potential source of embarrassment.

In reference to encounters with the police, Oliva said, “a student has every constitutional right to remain silent. A student has every constitutional right to be able to expect due process under the law.

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