Opinions, Editorials

Changes Presented For Student Guide

The Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) recently revealed its proposed revision to the Student Guide in a town hall meeting, addressing rights and responsibilities, conduct reform, and free speech and expression.

The “rights and responsibilities” revisions would allow students to easily review their conduct records. It would provide them the right against self-incrimination in conduct hearings, and also provide that they may appeal sanctions without fear of retaliation. The conduct reforms include reinstating housing probation as an intermediary between disciplinary and university probation, as well as putting the burden of proof on the administration during an appeal, applying a “clear and convincing” standard to hearings rather than the current “more likely than not.” These revisions will provide protection to students in conduct hearings more closely aligned with those of the United State legal system.

The free speech proposal is directly aimed at improving policies regarding how students can share information on campus.

The proposal includes revising the process of bringing speakers to campus. Students currently must seek the approval of the Office of Student Involvement (OSI) 45 days prior to bringing a speaker to campus. OSI can then choose to reject a speaker, with no reason for the speaker’s denial. UGBC proposes a system in which OSI can still reject the speaker, but must report the reasons why to the student group and a Committee for Free Expression, which would be formed under the proposed revisions. This committee would be composed of the Vice President of Student Affairs, four tenured professors, one graduate student, and four undergraduate students.

The reforms also address the current inability of anyone but Registered Student Organizations (RSO) to hang fliers around campus. The new proposal would allow both RSO’s and groups of at least five people to hang fliers on campus, and strip OSI of its right to reject a flier on grounds of content. This particular revision begs some consideration of potential abuses of a completely open system. A Walsh eight-man could conceivably post crass fliers around campus under such a policy, crowding out space that could otherwise be used to relay important information on events and social causes.

UGBC’s proposal could be strengthened by giving the Committee for Free Expression the same type of oversight for fliers as it would have for speakers—allowing for the University to reject fliers with no clear intent, but also holding it accountable in written form for censoring the messages of certain groups.

The proposed changes to the Student Guide would allow students to hold demonstrations in predetermined locations around campus with minimal restrictions and often no approval process. If students are simply protesting local or national events, the University would not need to be notified. If students want to protest University or student events, they would need to notify the Office of the Dean of Students (DOS) 48 hours before the event, so DOS could make necessary arrangements. The creation of spaces for students to openly express beliefs would be a welcome reform. UGBC should make some allowance, however, for reasonable restrictions regarding the blocking of paths and entrances to buildings, as well as noise levels during class hours.

UGBC’s proposed reforms to the Student Guide could open BC up as a university, creating an atmosphere more conducive to the expression of ideas. An attentiveness to detail, however, and understanding of the nuance of University policy will be necessary in ensuring these changes can be smoothly implemented.

Featured Image by Alex Gaynor / Heights Senior Staff

December 8, 2014