Student gov rushes resolution denouncing free speech bill

Six South Dakota State University student senators are protesting a resolution denouncing a bill in the state legislature intended to protect free speech on college campuses.

The senators say they were given less than 10 hours to evaluate the resolution because the student body president wanted to use it to lobby against HB 1073 at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

South Dakota State University’s student senate recently passed a resolution objecting to the state legislature’s efforts to protect free speech on college campuses.

Some senators, however, allege that they were provided with a copy of the resolution just ten hours before voting on its passage.

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“Senators were kept in the Student Union until nearly 11pm, and were repeatedly pushed to bypass rules and vote on the resolution less than 10 hours after it was drafted, and before any students could be consulted,” claims a letter drafted by six student senators that was sent to the sponsors of House Bill 1073—a bill seeking to guarantee free speech on college campuses.

According to a copy of the letter obtained by South Dakota War College, the senators go on to assert that they were only given access to resolution at 11:30 a.m. on the day of the vote, giving them insufficient time to consult with the student body on the contents of the resolution.

“As members of the South Dakota State Students’ Association, we pride ourselves in our leadership abilities and our open and transparent processes,” the letter continues. “Monday, January 29 was a poor demonstration of those values, and the passing of 17-12-R without the consent or knowledge of the students we represent was an unethical action by our body.”

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Baylee Dittman, one of the six student senators who drafted the letter, told Campus Reform that while technical procedures were followed, the resolution was rushed to a vote because the governing body’s president had planned to use it to lobby the state’s House Judiciary Committee.  

“Leadership wanted it to be voted on so they could lobby on it in time for the first committee meeting in Pierre,” Dittman stated. “Some of us wanted to wait longer to get more information and consult students and thought we could wait to make a stand for the second committee meeting, but we were outnumbered in opinion.”

In a statement to Campus Reform, Students’ Association President Taylin Albrecht, who did use the resolution during a February 2 House Judiciary Committee testimony, claimed the authors of the letter should have taken the time to talk with students when House Bill 1073 was first introduced.

“HB1073 was dropped in our state legislature January 12 and we did not take a formal stance until January 29, over two weeks later,” she said. “This should have provided enough time for our senators to reach out to their constituents to better understand the student viewpoint on this issue.”

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The Editorial Board of the SDSU student newspaper, however, expressed anger over the rushed passing of the resolution, stating that the senators had no time to form an opinion on the resolution, much less gather input from fellow students.

“The sponsors of the resolution wanted to pass it quickly to have a chance to lobby against HB1073 at the South Dakota House Judiciary Committee on Friday,” the editorial claimed. “But the resolution was added to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting—before most senators could be educated and form an opinion to debate it properly.”

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