Column: Reform the Code of Conduct

Lee Roupas should be commended for finally seeing the light in calling for an audit of the Student Association’s financial books, but his motives and timing seriously need to be called into question. Wasn’t it Roupas who opposed an ethics package this past semester that included a full audit of the SA? As a matter of fact, SA Sens. Asher Corson (U-CCAS) and Ben Traverse (U-CCAS) – both members of “A Clean Slate” – wrote the ethics package that included the proposed SA audit.

While a financial audit of the SA is a desperately needed reform, it is just one of many ideas proposed and subsequently defeated by a majority of the SA. What Roupas and the rest of the SA have failed to recognize is that while an accurate account of student funds is important, a more imperative issue for the majority of our GW community is an accurate account of students’ rights on this campus.

The student code of conduct, adopted in 1992, has yet to be significantly changed to encompass the realities of an ever-growing student population, expanded Greek-letter life on campus and the proliferation of large and powerful student groups. The code of conduct in its current state provides for the broadest level of interpretation so that Student Judicial Services can create policies concerning students’ rights that may shift from case to case.

Recently, many Greek-letter organizations have found themselves under fire from Student Judicial Services witch hunts, stemming from a little-known rule that defines a student organization as “five or more students who have complied with the formal University requirements for registration as a student organization.” In effect, an entire student group can be held accountable for throwing an unregistered party if five members of that group gather at any point. Policies like this are ludicrous, as most GW students associate socially with their friends from student organizations on a regular basis in groups numbering much more than five people.

On a more frightening note, many organizations refuse to use GW e-mail because they fear that SJS has included in its jurisdiction the right to check not only organizational listservs, but also individual student e-mail accounts. Student rights on this campus have been ignored for too long, allowing low-level GW bureaucrats to dismantle the vision of an administration seeking educational excellence.

The bottom line is that the student code of conduct and other policies affecting students’ rights need to be reviewed and specified so that SJS can enforce actual University policies instead of creating its own interpretation of justice that the broad language of the current code allows. GW students should not have to relinquish their rights as a prerequisite for matriculation. The mission of the student code of conduct, SJS and other University policies should include the promotion of students’ rights so that we can all learn, work and prosper together in an environment that promotes liberty and freedom. Unfortunately, these policies currently enforce the GW mantra of “guilty until proven innocent.”

-The writer, a freshman, is a candidate for the Student Association Senate and is a member of the “Clean Slate.”

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