On Feb. 23, Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Bonham ’92 presented a new and revised Student Handbook at a Student Council meeting. The new Handbook had been finalized several months ago by the Office of Student Affairs, after two years of revision and planning.
Whereas the current Handbook has been criticized for its poor formatting and outdated regulations, the revised edition does away with some of the more archaic rules, clarifies the Student Conduct policy and updates the layout to make it more readable.
“I’ve been trying to rewrite our student handbook practically since the day I arrived,” Bonham told the Collegian. “It has not been user-friendly. If I am not clear on a couple of our policies, then I can’t expect students to be clear on those. So what we’re aiming for is clarity, both with respect to the regulations of the College and also to the process when those regulations are violated.”
The revision process has been long and arduous. Dean of Students Robin Hart-Ruthenbeck wrote much of the initial draft in the summer of 2018. Following that, Bonham and Hart-Ruthenbeck put the draft through several rounds of review: They showed it to a committee of students who read over it line by line, as well as a group of attorneys who ensured the draft was consistent with Ohio law. The handbook presented at the Student Council meeting was the final draft, so that any major changes could be discussed before it was made public to the student body.
At the meeting, Bonham explained that much of the revision process involved removing unnecessary items from the Handbook. As a result of the edits, the Handbook has shrunk from 48 pages to 36.
“The Student Handbook became kind of a repository of any policy that any office on campus could imagine,” Bonham told the Collegian. “My favorite example is Residential Life: In the Student Handbook it tells you exactly what wattage your microwave should be. Well, that level of detail is not necessarily helpful in the Student Handbook, but maybe that should be on the Residential Life website instead.”
Other items that have been removed include bicycle policies and Brown Family Environmental Center regulations. The policies that remain have been reorganized into a single section of the Handbook, whereas they were previously scattered throughout. The Handbook now also includes a substantial appendix, which features items such as the Good Samaritan policy, the Alcohol and Drugs policy and parts of the Ohio legal code that students might find relevant.
The revised Handbook also includes an updated version of the student conduct policy, which defines more clearly what constitutes a breach of conduct, as well as what punishments are permissible if the conduct policy is violated. Student conduct cases will now be reviewed by a special board of students and faculty, rather than solely by the Dean of Students, as they previously were. In addition, the College is now labeled as the plaintiff in any case in which a student files a complaint against another student.
“The reason for that is that if a student is the victim of a policy violation, then the onus is not on them to bring that charge,” Bonham explained. “It removes that burden off of the student.”
The revised Handbook will go into effect on July 1, 2020.