Student Organization Conduct Policy sees further revision

Debrielle Merrill of Alpha Sigma Alpha voices her concerns in the form of a question to the University’s panel members during the Student Organization Conduct Policy Informational Forum held Nov. 28 in the J.W. Jones Student Union. The proposed policy has since been redrafted with updates after the University heard several main points of concern from students regarding the proposed policy.

An updated Student Organization Conduct Policy draft was sent out to student leaders Dec. 3 for review and feedback.

The updated proposed policy was sent in an email from the Vice President of Student Affairs Matt Baker.

The proposed Student Organization Conduct policy outlines the University’s behavioral expectations to all formally recognized student organizations. It also provides a structure for addressing policy violations, binding all organizations to be treated equitably and held to the same rules and policy.

The proposed Student Organization Conduct Policy was first sent out to student leaders Nov. 7, resulting in many students and student leaders voicing concerns and opposition to the proposed policy.

In response to the considerable amount of student reaction, the University hosted several meetings to hear out student concerns over the past three weeks. Based off of these student concerns, the University resolved to update the proposed policy.

Nine major concerns voiced by students are addressed in the updated policy.

The addressed concerns are components of sanctions, student representation on the panel, student representation on the appeal board, double jeopardy, amnesty for organizations, individual accountability within organizations, roles of Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council and Student Senate, representation of National Panhellenic Council and too much power in the process for the vice president of student affairs.

“We’ve wanted this process to be interactive since we started this process back in September,” Baker said. “I regret that students don’t feel like they were heard or included but I think we have gone through a good process to make sure that their voices and their concerns are heard.”

Student Senate President Alyssa Lincoln has been a prominent figure in helping to voice students concerns out about the proposed policy. Lincoln said the large-scale student concerns have either been addressed within the redraft of the proposed policy or with Baker directly.

“I think it is clear that students’ voices have been heard. The first draft of the policy we saw is vastly different from the second draft of the policy we have received,” Lincoln said. “These changes were not made for any other reason other than student input and student concern. Regarding this policy and this movement, it has been the clearest and powerful display of the gravity of students voices that I have seen in my time here.”

Components of sanctions

Baker said in the email to student leaders that the University is still working with Assistant Director of Greek Life Megan DeShon-Runge to update the probation and sanction portion of the proposed policy.

A few edits have been made in the updated proposed policy, but Baker stated the sanctions section is not yet completed. He said some language has been proposed to him and is being taken into consideration.

“We would probably put some exceptions under strict campus conduct probation to allow student organizations to do philanthropic events or service events and may be allowed to go to a conference to help improve their organization,” Baker said.

The updated draft now includes a social probation option and definition.

The updated draft removed two policies under the strict campus conduct probation sanction. One being it does not have language restricting student organizations from recruiting students as members. Baker said this language was removed because it did not allow for organizations to remain sustainable without recruiting.

“Banding recruitment is not considered a best practice in Greek communities,” Baker said. “The idea behind it is you’re really suspending or dismissing the organization through a slow death. If you don’t want them to recruit then you don’t want them as an organization.”

The second policy eliminated said that student organizations will be removed from official lists of recognized student organizations.

“It was just language that doesn’t really fit,” Baker said. “We were trying to go between two things and it just didn’t really make sense. You can either be a student organization or you can’t.”

The sanction defining fines was changed from a maximum fine of $400 per violation to a maximum fine of $100 per violation per member.

“I don’t anticipate we would use the fining structure at all, I don’t think that’s the goal of the Student Organization Conduct Policy,” Baker said. “We like to have the opportunity depending on what it is we need to do. It’s just changed so that we could apply it appropriately across different sized and structured organizations.”

The last change made in sanctions portion of the updated proposed policy is more definition was added around what deactivation of an organization included.

Student representation on the panel

Students voiced concern that representation on the Student Organization Conduct Board Hearings was unequal because it granted a simple majority to faculty on the board.

The original proposed Student Organization Conduct Board Hearing consisted of three University officials and two students - one Greek student and one non-Greek student.

The updated proposed Student Organization Conduct Board Hearings now consist of three University officials, three students and one faculty/staff chairperson to only vote in the case of a tie when the board cannot meet a majority.

“Students said they would be more confident if there was a student voice at all levels and we are very comfortable with that,” Baker said.

Student representation on the appeal board

The proposed policy originally said the Appeals Board, persons authorized by the University President to consider an appeal from a Student Organization Conducts Board’s determination, is comprised of three Northwest Leadership Team members.

The updated proposed policy has been changed for the Appeals Board to be comprised of two Northwest Leadership members and one current student. The updated policy also specifies that the vice president of student affairs cannot be on the Appeals Board.

Double Jeopardy

Baker said that several students are concerned with the possibility of double jeopardy in the proposed policy but have not been able to articulate what the concern is.

“I’ve gotten feedback from some people that there was a lot of misinformation shared about the policy and it feels like that was in that category,” Baker said. “I can’t find any concern that we can address.”

Nothing in the updated proposed policy was changed in regards to double jeopardy.

Amnesty for organizations

Additional language was added to clarify that a student organization's willingness to contact authorities will be seen as a “mitigating factor,” meaning sanctions could be less severe.

“Students have been very receptive to that and said that rewording and making it a little less stark around organizations not getting amnesty. That was very frustrating and off-putting to students,” Baker said. “We’ve gotten positive feedback to soften the language.”

Individual Accountability within Organizations

The updated proposed policy contains language laying out by which organizations can hear Student Organization Conduct cases of its members and set its own bylaws.

“Student organizations can still hold their members accountable,” Baker said. “It’s just articulating to make sure that student organizations knew we weren’t taking that away from them.”

Roles of the judicial boards of Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic and Student Senate

The proposed policy has been updated to clarify the difference between minor violations which will be heard by IFC, Panhellenic or Student Senate, and major violations which will go to the Student Organization Conduct Board.

“The Boards intent and Legal Counsel's intent was to have that in there,” Baker said. “It was really to clarify and make sure we were all on the same page, it wasn’t clarified well at all (in the old proposed policy).”

Representation of the National Pan-Hellenic Council

Student leaders in National Pan-Hellenic Council felt as though their voices were not being heard in the proposed policy. This resulted in adding representatives of NPHC to steps in the process of the Student Organization Conduct Policy.

“As we updated the policy about how student organizations, umbrella organizations, IFC, Panhellenic and Student Senate would hear cases, we wanted to make sure that we recognized, although there is a very small number of individuals in NPHC, we want to offer that same representation to that umbrella group,” Baker said.

Too much power in the process for the vice president of student affairs

Students expressed concern that the vice president of student affairs position title was mentioned 24 times in the old proposed policy and felt as though this granted too much power to one individual.

The updated proposed policy has additional steps to receive feedback from student groups and transferred some responsibilities of the vice president of student affairs to the student conduct coordinator.

“We have the process in where at different cases, we will meet with the appropriate leaders so that student voice is in there so it’s not just unilateral decision,” Baker said. “I feel confident in my ability to be fair and provide an unbiased view but it’s important that students feel like that as well.”

Other policies changed within the updated Student Organization Conduct Policy fell under the conduct - rules and regulations section of the proposed policy.

Possession of fireworks is now allowed if previously approved by the University. Obstructing free flow of traffic on University grounds or University sponsored or supervised events is now allowed if previously approved by the University.

The Northwest Board of Regents to scheduled to vote on the updated Student Organization Conduct Policy Dec. 13.

“I believe that we as Institution are in a pretty good place if the Board Is able to vote support it next week,” Baker said.

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