As a student leader, former Student Association senator and co-chair of the Joint Committee of Faculty and Students, I have always made protecting students’ rights my first priority. This is why I worked with others in the SA, and with certain administrators, in writing the Dummies’ Guide to Rights and Responsibilities. It’s important that the administration recognizes students’ rights, but it is critical that students live up to the expectations given to them as members of the University community. The Codes of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity and the Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities are excellent documents that go to great lengths to protect the rights of all students. They were authored over decades and approved after the input of countless students, faculty and administrators, including a team of lawyers from the General Counsel’s office.
The changes proposed to the Guide to Rights and Responsibilities will not expand and benefit student rights, but in fact will hinder them. Putting in maximum standards for violations denies University Hearing Boards the flexibility to address the severity of the situation. In a rush to pass his “Student Bill of Rights,” Sen. Ben Traverse and his committee are ramrodding quite dangerous amendments that drastically reduce the penalties for hazing, sexual assault and drug violations. Given the severity of these abuses, I think it is important that we debate the consequences of changing the Code at length, rather than rush through changes in just one month.
I find it concerning that members of this Committee are pushing through changes to the Code because their fraternity is on social probation. As a member of the Greek-letter community, I never would have thought to encourage change to benefit my fraternity. I firmly support the Student Code of Conduct for its intolerance of hazing, alcohol and drug violations, sexual assault and discrimination, and hope that the University maintains its policies. Members of the Greek-letter community have the great privilege of wearing letters and the benefits of membership in their orders, but with those opportunities comes great responsibility. Members of those fraternities and sororities must recognize that their conduct reflects upon the rest of the group, not only in reputation, but also in numerous legal ramifications. This is why groups must be charged when cliques within their membership engage in dangerous activities such as hazing, drug and alcohol violations, and sexual assault.
The issue that most concerns me is the proposition that the SA select members of the University Hearing Board. This has to be the biggest assault on student rights I have seen in my career as a GW student. Having been fully involved in student politics, I have learned to deal with the pettiness of student leaders. I am afraid of the consequences that could be inflicted if the SA packs the University Hearing Board with friends, who will likely be lenient for certain individuals and less so for those who are not in favor with the SA president. Another suggestion of grave concern is to prohibit the University from bringing charges within the University judicial system of students who violate District and federal law. Those who are reckless enough to break significant laws should be dealt accordingly within the University judicial system.
Even though the original bill creating his special committee was limited to the Code of Student Conduct, Sen. Traverse and his committee attempted a power grab. They went after changing alcohol and drug policies, the Code of Academic Integrity, and even the nearly 40-year-old Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities. Passing these amendments drastically increases the power of our student government, and with those powers comes the danger that it might well be misused. In addition, this bill denies the administration the ability to advise and assist the student government, especially with its new powers.
I could detail at length the problems with this bill until I am blue in the face, but the simple fact remains that this document does more to hurt students than it could ever help them. As the outgoing co-chair of the Joint Committee of Faculty and Students, I hope my successors review this resolution unfavorably, and encourage the Faculty Senate to reject these amendments.
-The writer, a senior, is co-chair of the Joint Committee of Faculty and Students.