SA senator seeks to change students’ rights

A Student Association Senate committee is proposing changes to policies governing off-campus behavior. Senators also want GW to consolidate students’ rights and responsibilities into one document.

Even if the proposals gain SA support, their implementation is contingent upon administrators who have expressed skepticism at the ability to alter GW and city regulations.

A Senate committee plans to create a comprehensive Student Bill of Rights after reviewing the Student Guide to Rights and Responsibilities, the Student Code of Conduct and other governing documents. Senate Rules Committee Chairman Ben Traverse (CCAS-U) is heading the five-person panel, which began as an exploratory group last year.

“Last year we opened up the Student Guide to Rights and Responsibilities and saw many documents that needed change,” he said. “The problem is that you can’t just change one document without making substantial changes to the other documents.”

Last year’s exploratory group also recommended in its final report that students be allowed on University judicial hearing boards and the Board of Trustees. They also called for the creation of policies preventing the University prosecution of students for off-campus acts.

Traverse said one of the most important tasks will be outlining minimum and maximum sanctions Student Judicial Services can take against students.

“SJS currently only has minimum sanctions, but no maximum,” he said. “For something like drinking a beer in your room, one student could get a $25 fine in one case, and in another case they could expel a student. That would be another right that we lay out.”

Traverse said another major issue would be the inclusion of student organizations in the Code of Conduct.

“Currently student organizations are treated the same as a student,” Traverse said. “It is not fair for an entire fraternity made up of 150 individuals to be treated the same as one person.”

Traverse said the group’s proposals have so far faced little opposition from the SA or the University.

“In speaking with (Community Living and Learning Center) and (Student Activities Center), both have not necessarily been 100 percent behind the specific recommendations we may make, but are certainly in favor of the idea,” he said.

Dean of Student Linda Donnels declined to comment on specific SA recommendations before their formal proposal. But she released a statement through SJS that questioned the feasibility of changing some University policies.

In the statement, Donnels pointed out that the city holds GW responsible for students’ behavior when they are off campus.

“The SA’s desire to protect students from adjudication by the University for breaking laws off campus would come in conflict with the city’s requirements,” the statement said.

Donnels added that the Code of Conduct, which can be altered, was “completely re-written” in 1996 after a three-year process of drafting and passing proposed changes through various governing boards.

Former SA President Kris Hart passed an initiative last year to create a “Dummies Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities.” Traverse said this year’s committee will expand on that plan and effect change in University policy.

“It was a great initiative to help students navigate through a complicated guide to student’s rights and responsibilities as they stand now,” Traverse said. “Our goal is to make a document that you won’t have to navigate through, that you can open up a packet and know everything you can and cannot do, every right you have as a student.”

The committee, which will send recommendations to the Board of Trustees, will begin holding meetings within the next two weeks. Traverse said the SA plans to submit its proposal for a Student Bill of Rights before the trustees’ spring meeting.

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