Each year, students have a chance to propose changes to the College of William and Mary’s Student Handbook, as well as to comment on potential revisions to current policies. In an email sent out last week, Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88 M.Ed. ’06 outlined the six proposals up for approval, emphasizing that students are encouraged to submit comments on the possible policy changes.
“Students’ active participation in governance at William & Mary is something we value and encourage, whether that’s through community service, formal student government, residence hall leadership, or individuals’ weighing in on important matters the community is considering,” Ambler said in an email.
1. Permanent resignation
The proposed addition to the Student Conduct Procedure section of the Student Handbook allows students to choose to resign permanently from the College with the Dean of Students’ approval, within 72 hours of being notified of a pending conduct case.
Associate Dean of Students Dave Gilbert said resignation is already an option for students accused of an honor violation. They are given 24 hours to choose whether continue with the investigation or to resign. Gilbert defined resignation as the student’s agreement to end his or her career at the College with the understanding that the resignation will be noted on his or her transcript.
“In reviewing the Code, we believed it would be efficacious in some cases to provide the student with this option if the student wishes to agree to leave the College with the understanding that he/she may not return,” Gilbert said in an email. “Generally these cases would be situations in which the alleged violations would likely lead to permanent dismissal (the equivalent of an expulsion).”
Gilbert said if a student chooses to resign from the College due to a conduct violation, the record would be treated in the same manner as a resignation associated with an honor violation.
The proposed addition states students who choose to resign after being notified of a conduct violation will have a designation on their transcript that reads: “Resigned under suspicion of a serious violation of the Code of Conduct. Ineligible to return.”
2. Record disclosure
If Proposal 2 is passed, prospective students who do not report records of criminal proceedings or disciplinary actions to the College of William and Mary before applying or after their acceptance will violate the Student Code of Conduct.
This proposal to the student handbook creates an addition to the Student Code of Conduct, stating students who do not disclose these records will face serious consequences, including potential suspension or dismissal from the College.
“The expectation that students fully disclose records of arrest or disciplinary action is not new and is contained on the College’s application for admission,” the proposal’s explanation states. “The current Code of Conduct is unclear regarding the serious consequences of the failure to disclose.”
Former Secretary of College Policy Ben Migdol ’13, who led discussions with administrators on the Required Disclosure of Arrest Policy added through last year’s student handbook changes, said this year’s addition is explicitly outlining an ongoing practice.
“From my understanding, it’s the practice that’s going on right now, and they’re just kind of codifying the current practices of how it works,” Migdol said. “They do expect students, after they’re admitted to the College of William and Mary [and] for the duration of their careers, to update any criminal proceedings they have.”
The current application to the College asks potential students if they have been disciplined for academic or behavioral misconduct in high school, as well as if they have been convicted of a crime, felony or misdemeanor. Applicants can answer “no” if the conviction or adjudication has been expunged, annulled, pardoned, erased or ordered to remain confidential. If the applicant answers “yes,” he or she is required to provide an explanation as to what happened and a response including what he or she learned from the situation.
3. Material witness
Proposal 3 to the 2013-14 Student Handbook allows “material witnesses” to receive amnesty from conduct charges in cases of reported sexual misconduct.
The proposed change means students who would otherwise be charged with a conduct violation, such as alcohol consumption, would not be if they were a witness to a case of sexual misconduct.
“It is important for witnesses to feel comfortable coming forward and participating in our process without fear of being charged with a violation for any possible violations of the Code of Conduct,” the rationale for the proposed addition states. “This clause will assist students in participating in the process.”
Gilbert explained that students who report sexual misconduct are already granted amnesty in these cases.
“This policy already exists with respect to the reporting party, and we thought it wise to extend it to witnesses so that they may testify without fear of being charged for any admissions of drug or alcohol use arising from the same incident,” Gilbert said in an email.
The proposal’s rationale also explains providing amnesty to witnesses is consistent with the College of William and Mary’s approach in its Amnesty Policy.
4. Students with disabilities
A proposed addition to the Student Handbook commits to providing specific accommodations to students at the College of William and Mary with documented disabilities.
Gilbert said the Americans with Disabilities Act recommended the proposed change.
“While we would and must offer reasonable accommodations to students with known disabilities now, we thought it advisable to include a specific policy statement informing students of this option,” Gilbert said in an email. “The policy allows for consideration of a student’s unique situation so that the student may address any potential allegations of misconduct in a fair and appropriate manner.”
The proposal’s rationale says the new section will provide increased specificity and outline the College’s responsibilities to students with disabilities and their accommodations.
The proposed addition lists potential accommodations, including administrative assistance, extra time and alternatives to the formal hearing process. It also says students with disabilities are encouraged to meet with the Director of Disability Services.
5. Loss of privileges
Proposal 5 would remove social activities from those prohibited under the Probation with Loss of Privileges sanction if implemented.
The proposal’s rationale states the term was removed after the Dean of Students determined the term “social” activities too broad.
“A student proposed that we review this policy, as she found it was not clear to her whether spending time with friends, for example, would be prohibited under a loss of privileges,” Gilbert said in an email. “We explained that no sanction can prohibit a student from spending time with friends outside of the context of official school activities … and we determined that by making this modification, the intentions of the sanction would be more clear to students and to the councils who administer the code.”
The proposal’s rationale also explains the policy was never intended to restrict students from social relationships.
While the word “social” would be removed, the rest of the probation policy would remain the same, dictating that a student on probation is still enrolled at the College of William and Mary, but is unable to participate in extracurricular activities for a specified period of time.
6. Required Arrest Disclosures
Proposal 6, a proposed Student Handbook revision to the Required Disclosure of Arrests Policy, adds specificity to the current policy, which requires College of William and Mary students to report any felony charges, as well as violence-related offenses within three days of their occurrence.
The proposal specifies the types of offenses, citations for criminal offenses (other than minor traffic incidents or accidents not involving injury to others), and convictions.”
The proposed revision lists examples of charges students must report, including assault, battery, sexual assault, stalking, resisting arrest, driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs and reckless driving resulting in injury.
Migdol said the goal behind the revisions is to better meet students’ needs as it enters its second year.
“Essentially, what [the policy] did when it was put into effect was this wide, sweeping, broad policy that any citation, court summons, arrest, ticket — with an exception of a speeding ticket or parking ticket — has to be reported to the College and we found that [it] … overstepped a little bit,” Migdol said. “The rationale behind the policy is that the College is held accountable for any sort of violent crime, so in a shooting like Virginia Tech or especially in light of everything that’s been happening recently with violent crime, the College needs to know any sort of history of their students in terms of violent crime.”
Migdol said the proposal’s revisions would allow for fewer reports of crimes unrelated to violent crime.
“We didn’t see a link between common arrests for students — which are underage possession of alcohol, drunk in public, anything like that, consuming alcohol underage,” Migdol said. “We felt there was no real link between that and this sort of violent crime or campus safety that the College is trying to protect us from or promote, respectively.”
Students who fail to report arrests included in the policy can be charged with a conduct violation, at which point Migdol said the Dean of Students Office will use its discretion in handling each situation, operating on a case-by-case basis.
He added that he hopes the revised policy will be clearer. The Dean of Students’ website has a Frequently-Asked-Questions section detailing the disclosure process.