UH blocks student group's mailing effort
The missives were to inform students of their rights on campus
UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII student leaders say school officials violated their rights by blocking thousands of letters they mailed to students in dormitories.
The letters were supposed to inform some 3,000 Manoa campus residents about their rights following complaints that security guards were abusing their authority by conducting searches of students and "asking for girls' phone numbers," said Grant Teichman, president of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii, on Wednesday.
Calls made to the school's interim housing director, Janice Chu Camara, and the interim vice chancellor for students, Wayne Iwaoka, were not immediately returned.
But in a letter to the student government, Camara said the documents being mailed contained several "incorrect or misleading" statements.
The student government letter told students they have a constitutional right to refuse searches of their bags and possessions and can prohibit authorities from entering their rooms without a warrant. The letter includes an "incident report" of any "judicial infraction" that students could fill out and turn in to student leaders.
It also says students should not tolerate "harassment, sexual harassment or physical handling by housing staff or campus security."
The letter suggests that it be posted on students' doors "to let authorities know you are aware of your rights and won't stand for mistreatment."
Contrary to the letter's assertions, Camara's letter said that guards have the right to enter dormitories for many reasons, including to check room conditions, search for missing property and make sure students are complying with health and safety regulations. Camara also wrote that school policy requires students to present identification when asked by a guard.
"This is greatly concerning as it is critical that all residents be in receipt of correct information to ensure their health and safety," Camara wrote.
But Teichman said even if that was the case, the university should not be allowed to confiscate letters.
"This sets a really dangerous precedent for student government. If we speak out against the administration, are they going to censor us every time if they don't like what we have to say?" he asked.
Teichman said he knew of at least three cases in which school guards asked for girls' phone numbers and several in which guards searched grocery bags and coolers, pushed students around and entered rooms without warning.
Teichman said the mailing of the letters together with a cover sheet he wrote were approved by the school's 40-member student government. The student government has nearly $500,000 in its budget, and mailing letters is a common procedure that has never been subject to school oversight, he said.
The envelopes were given to the school's mailing office on Tuesday, said Matt Gerhardt, a student senator. He said the school treats campus deliveries like regular mail, "but in this case they chose not to."
Teichman said student senators were contacting lawyers and that they would meet on Dec. 6 to decide what to do next.