The online version of the Student Guide—the Boston College body of policies regarding students’ programmatic, organizational, and individual rights on campus—is more than 20,000 words long.
Produced by the Dean of Students Office (DOS) and revised on an annual basis, the guide has become the subject of a joint effort by both University administrators and members of UGBC to clarify, renew, and better publicize issues surrounding free speech and the right to organize on campus for student groups.
According to Thomas Napoli, UGBC senator, chairman of the institutional policy review committee, and A&S ’16, the policies set forth by the guide are facing increasing scrutiny from unregistered student groups, much of which is derived from campus cultural shifts, he said.
“I think [the revisions] came from a couple cultural changes that you see at BC,” Napoli said. “For example, with the new Quad, there is no place for banners, all tabling has to get approved by the Office of Student Involvement, and then even just this year you start to see BC kind of embracing even more thoroughly this image of perfection.”
Elinor Mitchell, vice chair of the UGBC student organizations board and A&S ’15, reflected that an increased attention toward a series of videos published by the University, including the BC “Happy,” “Shake it Off,” and “October” videos released through the Office of News and Public Affairs, may distract from more serious rights-related student issues on campus.
“Not just kind of this one representation of Boston College as this place where everyone is getting along and the campus looks flawless, but more that it’s a real academic institution that’s interested in discussion, and problems, and understanding each other’s points of view even though even those aren’t always the same,” she said.
“It’s all like this ‘perfect BC,’ and … is this really what we want being represented about BC, or is there a way to embrace our controversy and our conflict in a way that is not negative toward BC, but is just promoting discussion and encouraging students in a positive way to explore all these different thought,” Napoli said.
Mitchell also noted that the length and density of the Student Guide demands a more stringent revision of the document—a reorganizational effort that was initiated by the DOS just this year.
“I think the timing is just aligned with the fact that the administration has a new interest in students’ opinions, and [the student organizations board] will be representing the student body on that [DOS] committee,” she said.
From the student side of the renewal process, revisions to the Student Guide will be organized and proposed by the institutional policy committee and the student organizations board for approval by a committee of DOS administrators. The Office of Student Involvement (OSI) and DOS will work alongside the two UGBC groups until the official proposal date.
Scheduled for completion by the end of the semester, the institutional policy review committee plans to present formalized Student Guide revisions to the DOS by Dec. 5, on the same day that Nanci Fiore-Chettiar, UGBC president and A&S ’15, is slated to discuss the proposed changes with the University Board of Trustees, according to Napoli.
The renewal coincides with a meeting recently hosted by the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) at BC to field concerns from students regarding institutional rights to free speech on campus as members of both University-recognized and non-recognized student organizations.
Gathering to centralize campus activism efforts from student groups across campus, SJC held an interest meeting this past Monday for students and the extended BC community—ranging from members of unregistered student groups to the host of a WZBC radio program—to recount experiences of difficulties on matters involving the right to assemble, host speaking events, or become an RSO.
Founded last fall and currently headed by director Nate Osbourne, A&S ’16, SJC stated that it held the meeting to unite student concerns over Student Guide policies, namely those regarding unregistered student groups such as Climate Justice at Boston College (CJBC).
“We’re meeting on behalf of of [sic] the First Amendment rights we believe the University is unjustly curtailing,” reads a statement posted by SJC on the group’s Facebook page.
The meeting, which was attended by about 30 students, surfaced multiple areas of concern from members of CJBC—an unregistered collective of about 20 students, including graduate students, that focuses on climate change awareness—on official recognition from the University.
Among others, issues voiced at the meeting, Mitchell said, are largely representative of the changes sought by OSI, DOS, and UGBC toward reforming the Student Guide, particularly those policies unclearly defined by the guide.
“[The Student Guide] is almost so broad that you can’t as a student say, ‘I have this right to do this,’ and then [the administration] can enforce it because it’s top-down … but it’s not something that we can use to self-advocate,” she said.
Director of OSI Gus Burkett stated that, although begun by DOS, the revisited evaluation of the Student Guide is a welcome undertaking for OSI administrators, and one that will likely benefit both sides involved.
“This is an opportunity for students and administrators to work together to review current policy and evaluate and make recommendations for improvements to policies within the Student Guide,” Burkett said.
Over the coming weeks, the institutional policy review committee and student organizations board will continue to hold student focus groups, in addition to keeping public weekly UGBC meetings.
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