New policies added to student handbook

To The Point, St. Mary's Student Handbook (Photo by Dave Chase)

New policies have been added to the student handbook, To the Point, detailing new medical amnesty and Good Samaritan, sanction reduction, and missing person policies, as well as changes to older policies regarding the use of evidence in judicial affairs, appeals, and sexual assault.

One highly discussed policy was the medical amnesty policy, which says that students who require medical assistance while violating college drug and alcohol policy can have judicial charges deferred. Tied with this is the Good Samaritan Policy, where a student who is in violation of the campus alcohol or drug policies who seeks medical assistance for another student may be granted amnesty from disciplinary action.

Amnesty is considered based on the student’s previous judicial record and severity of and student disposition towards the incident. According to Clint Neill, Coordinator of Student Activities and Judicial Affairs, if a student has a previous judicial record of violating college policy, it could prevent the student from receiving medical amnesty.

There were many forums and discussions with students, faculty, staff, Public Safety, and local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers regarding this policy in the past several years.

“It was time consuming, but I think it was the best way…in terms of policies like medical amnesty that could potentially affect the whole, entire college community,” Neill said. “It was probably the best process for that policy because we got so much input.”

Dean of Students Laura Bayless said that she was “certain students are excited that the medical amnesty and Good Samaritan policy is in place.”

Junior Aaron French said this policy is “a really good thing that will encourage students to be safer and more responsible.”

Another policy that was added to the student handbook was a sanction reduction policy, which explains that Bayless will accept requests for reduction of long term sanctions at least one year after the policy. In order for the sanctions to be reduced the student must prove that they have learned from their mistakes and must submit a letter explaining this to the sanction reduction panel and a letter of recommendation from someone in the college community.

The third new policy is a missing persons policy that which was mandated by the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act. Students can report a missing person to Residence Life or Public Safety.

Each year To the Point is reviewed and updated by the Judicial Code Review Committee which, this previous year consisted of junior Sarah Shipley as the Student Government Association (SGA) president’s designate, the Faculty Senate president designate Danielle Cass, Clint Neill, and Laura Bayless.

Some of the changes that were made included alterations to the wording of policies regarding evidence in judicial hearings, appeals, and sexual assault. The evidence policy was changed to make it clearer that evidence can be gathered from a variety of sources, including testimony of witnesses, electronic and physical pictures, and reports from a sheriff’s office, public safety, doctors or residence life.

“We just wanted to provide more information for students as to what could be considered,” Neill said. In regard to pictures or other electronic material he said,

“Our practice is that the evidence for those sorts of policies should be supplemental evidence for an incident that is already documented. That doesn’t mean that that’s going to happen all the time.”

According to the Judicial Affairs Web site, changes in the appeals policy made it more clear that the appeals process is to “consider whether or not procedures were properly followed.” Changes in the sexual assault policy were also made to make it clear that sexual assault can occur when a student “take[s] advantage of another student’s physical or mental incapacitation.”

If students are interested in voicing their opinions on policies in the student handbook, they have several options. They can contact the Policy Review Committee in the SGA or Clint Neill or Dean Bayless to propose policy modification or change.

French said, “A lot of [the student handbook policies] seem very positive and seem to be taking into account a lot of student input.”

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