Compromises will need to be made as the Student Association moves toward changing GW’s Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities, administrators and SA senators said.
The SA Senate adopted a series of recommended revisions to the guide last week and will pass them along to the Joint Committee of Faculty and Students and the Board of Trustees for approval after re-working the document with administrators. Sen. Ben Traverse (U-CCAS), who led a special committee to look into the document, said he envisions a tough road ahead.
“From what I’ve heard from all the administrators I’ve talked to, the Guide to Student Rights is sort of a sacred document,” Traverse said. “They don’t really like to touch it or open it up for editing.”
Proposed changes include reorganizing the document to eliminate overlaps with other sets of regulations, greater protections for fraternities and sororities, and limits on what punishments the University may impose for certain violations. Administrators said senators will have to provide specific arguments for many of the proposals.
“The University is going to want to know why these are concerns that the Student Association has,” said Peter Konwerski, special assistant to the senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services. “I would want to have some more background on why they’re asking for these changes.”
While they said they had not had the opportunity to thoroughly review the proposed changes, officials said they were hesitant about some of the ideas in the report. One area of contention was a clause that prevents Greek-letter organizations from being punished for the actions of its members outside of group-sponsored events.
“We’d probably have to spend some time talking about that one,” said Mark Levine, senior assistant dean for the Community Living and Learning Center. “Certain organizations sign on to certain agreements to be registered as a student group … It would have to depend on a lot of things.”
Levine also said he was unsure whether a proposal for the guide to specify maximum sanctions for violations of the University’s Code of Conduct would be passed, saying it might deny University Hearing Boards the ability to assess matters on a case-by-case basis.
Currently, only minimum sanctions are stated in the Code of Conduct.
“I think in some cases it’s been helpful for students on the Hearing Boards to not have maximum sanctions because it gives them more flexibility,” he said. “This hasn’t been something that the Hearing Board members themselves – those who are involved in the process – have come forth saying we should have.”
Recommendations by the committee to grant the SA authority to appoint members to the Hearing Boards also drew criticism. Officials said such a move is unprecedented and would give the body too much authority.
“I think it would help to look at what other schools do with that type of procedure,” Levine said. “From how it’s described, that doesn’t sound like it’s the way other universities around the country are doing things.”
Konwerski said the SA already has the ability to make recommendations for hearing board members.
“If the Student Association would like to give recommendations and submit names of people, I’m sure they’d have the opportunity to work closely with the Student Judicial Services office,” Konwerski said. “I don’t think they should ever have full control.”
SA members plan to meet with administrators when the Senate reconvenes next year to talk more about the proposals. Executive Vice President-elect Anyah Dembling said the guide will be on top of the Senate’s agenda.
“It’s a big priority for this senate,” Dembling said.
Senators acknowledged the need to discuss the issue. While she said she was not sure what the final document would look like, Dembling said she was confident something would come from the committee’s work.