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Friday, December 4, 2020

Western updates Student Rights and Responsibilities Code

Western is going through the process of adapting the existing Student Rights and Responsibilities Code to include sections on amnesty, discrimination and transparency. Revisions occur every five years and are subject to a long process that includes public hearings and internal review.

The proposed revisions to the code include a new section on amnesty, and specific sections on domestic violence and stalking, along with other prohibition and violation revisions.

Amnesty was the newest addition to the code, and has two different sections that are part of the clause. A student who was in a sexual harassment situation and was also under age and intoxicated can now file a complaint without worrying about getting in trouble for drinking illegally.

Michael Sledge, the assistant dean of students, was the conduct officer for the revision committee.

“One of the students suggested that we have an amnesty statement because our procedure in previous years has been not to have someone go through the student conduct code if they were, for instance, intoxicated, and their friend was really intoxicated and they called for help,” Sledge said.

A section on discrimination and discriminatory harassment has been revised in an attempt to be more specific when looking at complaints or people involved in a complaint.

“We wanted to make sure that all of the material was clear to students and consistent with other requirements and rules,” Peggy Watt, a journalism professor and member of the revision committee, said.

An emergency code, which allows for the adoption of the new code, is now in effect during fall quarter while the full review of the updated code continues.

“The code is meant for students, and the last thing that any of us would want is for a student to be reading it and feel alienated because of the language that is being used.”

Caitlin Upshall

“There will be a public hearing, probably in November, to ask for any final feedback that might be out there, and then that moves forward to the Board of Trustees for approval sometime in December or the beginning of next year,”  Sledge said.

The revisions made to the old codes are meant to be more specific and understandable for students. Many of the code improvements have to do with Title IX related issues.

Title IX is a federal law ensuring no person can be subject to discrimination based on sex by any educational institution or federally funded program. The Violence Against Women Act helps to ensure correct prosecution of violent crimes against women, among other goals.

“Students should know that there are resources for them, and that it’s not just because it’s a law,” Watt said. “It’s Western’s intent to be fair to all parties, so when students have a complaint against each other, the policies are set up to try to protect the rights of all students and yet be responsive to students that feel like they have a complaint.”

The Office of Civil Rights gave advice regarding Title IX and the Violence Against Women Act as well as other changes in state and federal law. Staff in the Equal Opportunity Office and the office of the assistant attorney general were a part of changes as well.

The five current and previous students on the revision committee were also major contributors to the code review.

“The students were keeping close tabs to make sure that there was inclusive and gender-neutral language, and they were really diligent about that,” Watt said.

Caitlin Upshall, a 21-year-old student who is double majoring in creative writing and Spanish, was president of the Residence Hall Association last year and was a student representative on the revision committee.

“The code is meant for students, and the last thing that any of us would want is for a student to be reading it and feel alienated because of the language that is being used,” Upshall said.

“I know Western is very liberal, and we’re very open to people no matter how they present themselves, no matter what they identify as or who they identify as,” Upshall said. “We wanted this code to represent the views and the compassion and the inclusivity that we as students hold really important to us.”


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