Column: Revise student rights code

It has been a number of decades since substantial changes have been made to the Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities, which includes the Student Code of Conduct and the Code of Academic Integrity. This is the one document that enumerates our rights as students. How much has our campus changed, though, over the last 40 years? The student population, the number of student organizations and Greek life continue to grow at GW, and the document that governs all three has failed to adapt accordingly.

For the past month I have chaired the Student Association committee to review the Student Code of Conduct. However, the committee found that only focusing on the Code would not be enough. An alcohol violation, for example, is defined in the Code – the University alcohol policy – and the residence hall guidelines. It made no sense to recommend changes to one and then to not reflect those changes in the other guidelines. There are those who express reservations about the final report released by my committee, and to them I say thank you for giving this issue some publicity as well as engaging in discussion.

Those who read the report will see that the committee has recommended a number of specific changes. There will be those who may not agree that there should be maximum sanctions set in order to protect individuals. Some will not believe there should be a new section defining more rights for student organizations. Others have a problem with the SA appointing student members to University hearing boards. There was even dissent within the committee on some of these issues, but there needs to at least be a discussion. The report is not meant to be a “this is the way it has to be” document. The point is to start an important discussion on student rights.

The current Guide to Student Rights needs to be taken a step further. A number of Greek-letter organizations have been placed on social probation over the past year, but this term is not even defined within the Guide. If an alcohol violation occurs in a residence hall, one is then faced with three different sanctions defined in three different documents.

Currently, only minimum sanctions are recommended for violations, with expulsion always being the maximum. Of course, the committee recommends this remain for severe cases involving sexual assault or physical abuse, but should one face expulsion for dishonesty? Should a student face expulsion for unauthorized use of the University’s name?

For too long now, the SA has been plagued by talk of wrongdoing. On the contrary, this committee has been championing student advocacy. A discussion on student rights is one that will mean something great for all walks of University life. This is an issue that administrators and students can work on together, and the administration has already expressed to me that the rights discussion is going to move forward.

Lastly, in defense of the committee that released the report, of just the five members, both graduates and undergraduates were represented. Greeks and non-Greeks, underclassmen and upperclassmen, liberals and conservatives all were represented. An enormous amount of time was put into the final product, and the University community should be proud of the work done by its representatives. It may be a long time until we see any results, but I plan on sticking to this issue for as long as it takes, and I ask all of you to join me in this cause.

The writer, a sophomore and SA senator, is chair of the SA Senate Rules Committee.

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