Getting students acquainted with their legal options was the objective of Thursday’s “Know Your Rights” seminar, put on by members of the Hatchett Pre-Law Society and SGA’s judicial branch as part of Law Week.
The first in a series of dialogues, the Know Your Rights Seminar focused on everything from Florida A&M’s curriculum and class syllabus to traffic ticketing and Florida’s Sunshine Law.
“We want to get students acquainted with their rights and the operation of their campus,’ said Gabrielle Albert, 20, a student in the School of Business and Industry and moderator of the “Know Your Rights” seminar.
One of the issues discussed was the matter of classroom decorum and if a professor had the right to deny a student entry if he or she is tardy to class. The dialogue revealed that an instructor has the right to deny entry of a student into a class if it is deemed to be a disruption to the academic environment.
“It is important to define disruption and what constitutes disruptive behavior,” said Norman Johnson, a professor in the School of Business and Industry and director of Student Development and Services. Johnson, a member of the seminar’s panel, said the key to interpreting rules that deal with class attendance is to discuss them thoroughly on the first day of class.
Asked about his view on a rule that denies a student entry into the classroom, Johnson did not seem to object.
” The only problem with a rule like this is when it is not well defined,” Johnson said.
Another topic of conversation was Florida’s Sunshine Laws and how these rules apply to meetings among FAMU officials who discuss and make policies for the institution.
“Florida has one of the most aggressive sunshine laws in the union,” Johnson said. Johnson added that any time two or more officials meet to discuss policy it constitutes a meeting.
The topic drawing the greatest response from both panelists and audience members dealt with the issues of traffic tickets and parking regulations.
Addressing those concerns was Chief Justice of Student Traffic Court, Rick Hamilton. Among several misconceptions was the fact that an individual cannot be ticketed after a certain hour.
Hamilton said that students are permitted to park virtually anywhere on campus after 6 p.m., with the exception of handicapped and reserved parking spaces but urged them to keep in mind that the campus is under 24-hour surveillance by the FAMU Police Department, and if students violate parking regulations, they may be subject to fines and towing.
Hamilton was also specific in defining Parking services and FAMUPD as separate entities.
Johnson urged students to resolve ticket discrepancies as soon as possible should they receive any during their college careers.
“If you get a ticket, treat it seriously,” Johnson said. “Pay me now or pay me later,” Johnson said in reference to technology in place allowing FAMU to track those who have not paid their traffic tickets.
Walking away from the seminar more informed was 20 year-old secondary education student Johnnie Story. The Miami native said the portion of the seminar discussing class decorum and curriculum were particularly beneficial to him in keeping on track towards graduation.
“A lot of the courses I may be interested in, may not be required or be useful in helping me earn a degree,” Story said. Story now says he will be more aware of his course selection.
Echoing Story’s comments was Maurice Simmons, 19, a freshman MAJOR? student from Upper Marlboro, Md., said the comments of the seminar pertaining to traffic tickets and associated fees were personally useful to him.
” I realize now that all fees catch up to you and at some point, you have to pay them,” Simmons said.
Asked about the usefulness of such a seminar, Robyne) Gordon, 21, a junior English student from Atlanta and Parliamentarian for the Hatchett Pre-Law Society, said that a dialogue of this kind is important in gauging just how much “in the know” students are about their rights.
While this is the second year the “Know Your Rights” seminar has been conducted, other seminars dealing with constitutional rights, voting rights and politics are in the works for the upcoming fall semester.