Students envision a more user friendly handbook in future

As the time to make changes to the 2013-14 student handbook approaches, students and administrators are reexamining some of the College of William and Mary’s policies.

The Student Assembly Policy Committee wants to make the handbook more user friendly.

“The average student isn’t going to know why a policy is written a certain way,” Secretary of Student Rights Emily Wade ’15 said. “We can’t put the expectation of understanding the politics of the administration or the conduct process on an 18-year-old math major.”

Many students, for example, are unaware of what happens when they violate the Code of Conduct, which includes breaking Residence Life Contracts and alcohol violations.

According to the handbook, students who have committed a violation attend an initial administrative meeting with a staff member from the Division of Student Affairs. Students then decide whether to meet with an administrator or to go to a Student Conduct Council hearing to receive a disciplinary sentence.

“It’s a quick process when you go through an administrator,” Secretary of College Policy Ben Migdol ’13 said. “[But a student] may feel that students are more sympathetic to their situation, or they may feel that the administration is out to get them.”

Once the Student Conduct Council makes a decision, the administration cannot go against it.

“It would actually be a fundamental violation of students’ rights if the College did something outside of that process,” Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Conduct David Gilbert said. “The handbook is a contract with students. In theory, when they decide where they want to go to school, they would also look at the behavioral expectations of that institution, the values of the community, and the processes used to address alleged misconduct.”

According to Gilbert, 90 percent of students never come into the Office of the Dean of Students office fo a conduct violation.

“It would have to be a very severe conduct violation and a repeat offender for someone to get separated from the College,” Migdol said. “It’s more of a learning experience. You get a slap on the wrist and you get a warning and you know not to do it again.”

In addition to making the Code of Conduct more transparent, SA policy members want a clearer arrest disclosure policy.

“That’s something that, as an executive for the Student Assembly, we’ve been working to try to change,” Migdol said. “As a whole, the Student Assembly is pretty committed to not only streamlining the [handbook] to make it easier for students but also changing it in pretty significant ways that will benefit students.”

The Dean of Students office recently submitted new arrest disclosure language to Vice President for Student Affairs Virginia Ambler ’88, Ph.D. ’06, who will present it to President Taylor Reveley for review.

“There will be changes [to the arrest disclosure policy],” Gilbert said. “If it doesn’t happen mid-year, it will be implemented with the next handbook.”


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