Lenich 1.29.20

John Lenich speaks during open forum in an ASUN meeting in the Nebraska Union on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Emeritus law professor John Lenich and Jake Johnson, assistant vice chancellor for Student Affairs, spoke about the new draft of the Student Code of Conduct during the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska’s open forum at its meeting Wednesday, resulting in almost two hours of discussion.

The meeting followed a feedback session held Tuesday afternoon, where several senators provided suggestions and concerns about the new Code of Conduct draft. The session was a joint effort between ASUN and the Office of Student Affairs, with Johnson presenting the proposed changes. Johnson also appeared at the ASUN meeting to justify the revised code and take suggestions from the senate.

The senate also passed two bills regarding carbon offsets and the age of majority for healthcare decisions in Nebraska.

Lenich presented a slideshow containing changes to the code and making comparisons to the code that had passed through ASUN previously, admitting that he had second thoughts about some of the changes.

“This provision causes me some concern because I’m not sure that the potential reach of this provision has been fully thought through,” Lenich said in regards to the rephrasing of the section addressing students in the presence of alcohol.

The way this offense is described now, it states that any student in the presence of alcohol or other illicit substances is in violation of the Code of Conduct. Lenich argued that this presents many vague circumstances where students could be in breach of the code.

“If the mock trial team goes to a restaurant after a day of competition and that restaurant serves alcohol, they’re in violation of this provision,” he said.

One revision that several students raised objections to at the feedback session and again at the ASUN meeting was the ability of the university to enact punishment on students for their off-campus, non-university affiliated behavior.

“Why does my off-campus behavior affect my on campus treatment?” Shawn Ratcliff, president of the Graduate Student Assembly and a senator for the graduate college, asked Johnson.

Johnson responded to this and similar questions by saying that conduct officers would have to articulate why they were pursuing off-campus conduct.

“It’s so odd that [the Code of Conduct] tends to bias the university because it’s been written by the university without student involvement,” Sen. Spencer Nussrallah said.

Johnson defended the code’s changes, but admitted that he recognized the concerns raised by students and senators. He assured the senate that he would be taking its suggestions back to the drafting table.

Lenich said he is impressed by the work that has gone into this revised draft, but he is concerned that using such broad policy language could not protect the best interests of the students in the future.

“I hope that, based off of the feedback, we get to a place where everyone here feels like it’s your work [in the code],” Johnson said. “More student involvement has been solicited in this version.”

After the open forum, the senate debated and voted on Government Bill 30. The bill passed, which officially states ASUN’s support of LB1036, a bill that would lower the age of majority in Nebraska for healthcare decisions from 19 to 18.

The Nebraska Unicameral Legislature will hold an open hearing on the bill, submitted by Nebraska Sen. Adam Morfeld, on Friday, Jan. 31, at 1:30 p.m. President Emily Johnson said that she, Sen. Lauren McNeal and other interested ASUN members are encouraged to attend the hearing and advocate on behalf of the bill.

Senate Bill 24, which proposes that ASUN purchase carbon offsets from UK company CO2balance to negate its carbon emissions from the recent delegation travel to Indiana for the Association of Big Ten Students annual Winter Conference. The senate voted to pass the bill, which means ASUN will allocate up to $24 to improve safe access to water in Rwanda through CO2balance.

The next ASUN meeting will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 5, in the Platte River Room of the Nebraska Union at 6:30 p.m.