UH defends halting student mailing
Letters that outlined privacy rights violated housing solicitation rules, an official says
A University of Hawaii official said yesterday that if students had sent letters outlining student privacy rights through the mail, they would not have been read and stopped.
Students protested the university's blocking of a mass mailing to the student body last month, accusing officials of censorship.
Wayne Iwaoka, vice chancellor for student affairs, said that officials were able to intervene because the letters were dropped off at individual dormitories. The 3,000 letters should have been sent through the school's mailing office, Iwaoka said.
He said a housing policy bans soliciting in campus dormitories, which is why the letters were confiscated.
"Housing does have a right to ask, 'OK, what is in here?'" he said. If they had been sent either through the U.S. Postal Service or dropped off for campus mail, the letters would have been sent without them being read by school officials.
The letters, which have been sitting in the student government's office for two weeks, were intended to inform Manoa students about their privacy rights on campus.
Grant Teichman, president of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii, said the student government wrote the letter following complaints that security guards were abusing their authority by conducting searches of students and "asking for girls' phone numbers."
Teichman said the association has now formed a censorship committee to investigate the issue because they were concerned that the school treated serious mail "like Pizza Hut fliers."
"They cited an obscure anti-soliciting policy, and so we are trying to find out what our options are," Teichman said.
Matt Gerhardt, a student senator who chairs the new committee, said the students had the letters stamped for regular campus mail but chose to hand-deliver them to individual dormitories "to make sure that each building got it."
"It was important," Gerhardt said, noting regular mail can take up to a week to be delivered.
The students still want to mail the letters despite being warned by the administration that they carried several misstatements. Gerhardt said they are talking to lawyers before deciding on what action to take.
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."
Contrary to the students' assertions, interim Housing Director Janice Camara said that guards have the right to enter dormitories for various reasons, including checking room conditions, searching for missing property and making sure students are complying with health and safety regulations. She also wrote that school policy requires students to present identification when asked by a guard.