The Commentator

Volume 67, Issue 12
May 18, 2003
Iyar 5763
 

 

 

 

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Volume 67, Issue 12

New Student Bill of Rights to Take Effect in Fall
Checks and Balances a Priority
by Alan Goldsmith

Two weeks ago, the Yeshiva Undergraduate Disciplinary Committee finalized two major documents that will have ramifications for Yeshiva students for years to come: the Undergraduate Student Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, and the Student Disciplinary Procedures. The two documents promise to provide Yeshiva students with what they are entitled to and what they are responsible for as undergraduates, and the repercussions thereof.

Throughout the 2001-02 school year, strong complaints were lodged against the Office of Student Services and the Office of Safety and Security with regard to disciplinary protocol and students’ rights. The infamous Purim incident – which resulted in the suspension of students without due process as well as violations of previous guidelines – confirmed that there was no formal procedure that students could appealed to in case they were accused of violating school policy.

Student leaders and Yeshiva officials thus began to take steps to rectify the past errors. The Office of Student Services reshuffled, and Assistant Dean Andrew Leibowitz and University Dean of Students Dr. Efrem Nulman returned. For the past year, student leaders worked alongside the Office of Student Services and Yeshiva legal counsel as part of the newly-formed Disciplinary Committee in order to draft policy regarding student rights. The two documents will officially be released to students at the beginning of the fall 2003 semester.

The Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, after a self-explanatory preamble, lists thirteen different rights that Yeshiva undergraduates are entitled to. Among them figure prominently rights to safety, which makes “intimidating, threatening and hostile” behavior unacceptable and subject to disciplinary action; “a right to be treated with fundamental fairness” when students are made subject to University discipline; rights to academic advisement and “high quality resources”; and the right to “reasonable accommodation” of physical and learning disabilities. Interestingly, the section on the right to privacy only mentions confidentiality when dealing with the maintenance of educational records.

The section afterwards, which enumerates student responsibilities, mandates that students comply with the Code of Academic Integrity. The Code warns undergraduates not to possess “any dangerous, harmful or illegal articles or substances” – the closest the document gets to specifically mentioning drugs, alcohol and weapons – and requires them to know and abide by college policies, rules, and regulations, including these two new ones.

The second document, which outlines student disciplinary procedures, is meant to avoid the confusion and conflicts of interest that have arisen in the past. If a student is accused of violating a regulation, the student has the right to be told of the charges against him or her. The manuscript also mandates that the student be interviewed not by someone from the Office of Safety of Security, which has been accused of intimidation of accused students in past years, but by either the Assistant Dean of Students on the Wilf Campus or the Residence Supervisor on the Midtown Campus. The interviewer will also act as the liaison between the student and the hearing officer, who is the Dean of Students in the Wilf Campus and a joint team of the Dean and Assistant Dean in Midtown.

During the meeting with the liaison, the student can explain the situation, as well as any evidence he or she wishes to provide. The liaison may also conduct an investigation into the matter before presenting the case to the hearing officer with any possible recommendations for appropriate discipline. The student may also choose to waive the intermediary and simply present his case directly to the hearing officer, who will then determine whether to sustain the charges and whether to discipline the student. Potential disciplinary acts range from mere admonishing letters to suspension and expulsion from housing and from the University itself.

After the disciplinary action, the student has a right to appeal within ten days to the University Dean of Students, Dr. Efrem Nulman. As a result, the sanctions can be sustained, changed, or removed entirely. After the appeal, the decision is final.

Commentator sources report that additional changes have been implemented as recently as last week. According to the latest document on student disciplinary procedures, the student may now bring in an observer from among his peers, who will be able to attend the hearing and bear witness to the procedures followed, making sure that they are done according to the new documents. The observer will be selected from a group of such students designated by the president of the Yeshiva Student Union.

The amended document also specifies that incoming Vice President of Undergraduate Life Dr. Hillel Davis will replace Nulman as the administrator to whom students may appeal should they desire to do so. By making the Office of Student Services less responsible for the disciplinary protocol, Nulman will be able to assume a more active role in the investigation of incidents.

Assistant Dean Andrew Leibowitz was pleased with the introduction of the documents. “It should have been done years ago,” said Leibowitz. “It makes clear that students have rights as well as responsibilities, and students should have that documented. Every other college has that, and we should be no different.”

Leibowitz also made clear that asking students to be responsible for knowing the appropriate guidelines was not too much to hope for from a dual-curriculum student body. “A lot of colleges and universities have an entire book of rights and responsibilities, with a lot of jargon,” he emphasized. “We cut it down to four pages … I want to publicize it in a way for students that it is not overwhelming to read. I know that this is a document that students would want to read.”

Students were generally optimistic about the new documentation. “I’m happy to see that student rights have finally been enumerated in a way that every student on campus can reference,” said Yeshiva College junior Zechariah Mehler. “I sincerely hope that this document helps to further the quality of student life, and to help create a method of dealing with problems when they may occur.”

 


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