By Kalli Damschen
The Student Court held a hearing Wednesday night to determine the constitutionality of a bill passed by student government limiting its members’ freedom to contact the press. The verdict will be released in a few days
The bill in question, titled SE 62-65, was unanimously passed by the Student Senate. The bill requires members of the student government to go through a public relations chair before contacting the media to express their opinions.
“The bill regulated the students’ ability to contact the media in any way, shape, size or form without first obtaining permission from the PR chair,” said Sunrise, Fla., sophomore Elliott Riches, who represented the plaintiff in the case.
Riches said the bill violated article 10 of the Student Body Constitution, which provides for a student’s freedom of inquiry and freedom of expression.
Spring senior Hassan Dagha, attorney general for Student Government, served as the defendant. Since he pled no contest, he was not at the hearing to provide a defense.
The bill allows the PR chair to “unilaterally suppress the right of a student to express their opinions,” Riches said.
Riches questioned two witnesses from the Student Senate: Port Barre, La., sophomore Lindsey Bacque and Frisco sophomore James Porter. Bacque is the public relations chair for the internal vice president, and Porter is a senator whose request to contact the press several months ago was denied.
The bill was originally intended to prevent senators from discussing impending legislation or disclosing information obtained through the senators’ involvement with student government.
“The intent behind the bill, after speaking with the authors, was to ensure that things discussed in executive sessions were not leaked,” Bacque said. “Senators who had knowledge of bills that were coming before Senate in the future would not prematurely express the Senate’s or the student body’s support of a bill.”
Several months ago, Porter requested permission from Bacque to publish a letter with the Lariat about how Student Government has become more divided in recent years. His request was denied. Through a loophole in the bill allowing senators to speak with the media if they are first contacted, Porter was eventually able to publish his letter after the Lariat reached out to him.
“The overall issue of the editorial was non confrontational. It did not use any specific language or any specific direction towards anything,” Porter said.
Porter said this bill would never have been passed in a real legislative setting.
“I see no reason why, just because we’re students, we need to be silenced,” he said.