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Friday, July 3, 2020

Western hosts final talks before Student Conduct Code is updated

Changes to Western’s Student Conduct Code will go into effect in February, including new regulations on drugs, weapons and prohibited sexual conduct.

Western held a public hearing to review the final stages of the student code in Old Main, Wednesday, Jan. 25.

The code will better define prohibited conduct relating to Title IX, a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Dating violence, domestic violence, stalking and discrimination and discriminatory harassment now have their own categories in the Student Conduct Code.

Sue Guenter-Schlesinger, vice provost for the Equal Opportunity Office and Title IX Coordinator, said these specific aspects of sexual violence are very important.

“The fact that we broke it out in separate sections in the code is going to be very helpful to navigate the information a student needs to find,” Guenter-Schlesinger said. “This is a code for students to help them know what students can do if they feel they’ve been offended or violated in some way.

Another new section will offer amnesty to students. Assistant Dean of Students, Michael Sledge, said this policy will help students dealing with a number of issues.

“I feel much more comfortable that students were engaged throughout and in the front end of this process”

Sara Wilson, code review committee

 

“One important change was to have a specific policy on amnesty,” Sledge said. “So students would know that if they reported an act of violence, sexual violence or an issue of safety related to alcohol or other drugs they wouldn’t get punished.”

This policy is already being practiced at Western, but wasn’t in writing so students may not have known the policy existed, Sledge said.

Gender pronouns have been eliminated and replaced with “their” in place of “his/her” in the Student Conduct Code.

“When it comes to sexual violence, this is not just an offense that happens to individuals with binary gender identities,” Guenter-Schlesinger said. “It affects all people from all gender identities.”

Updates regarding alcohol, drugs, weapons and paraphernalia have been proposed to align with recent changes to state and federal laws. All are still illegal on campus with the exception of personal protection sprays like pepper spray.

No students attended the hearing. Despite the turnout, code review committee member Sara Wilson said students composed one-half of the committee and were involved in designing these changes.The committee held student feedback sessions in May  2016.

“I feel much more comfortable that students were engaged throughout and in the front end of this process,” Wilson said.

The primary motivation of the code is not to punish students, but to hold them accountable in an educational manner and to help them understand their rights, Sledge said.

The new code changes reflect increased accessibility and transparency, as it is important for students to be able to find the specific sections of the code they need if they feel their rights have been violated, Guenter-Schlesinger said.

“We try very hard at writing good policy,” Guenter-Schlesinger said. “But helping students understand it and being able to navigate a large document so they can get the help they need is really important.”

 

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